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Blackpool 2 Newcastle 1 - full match report

THERE are some who look wistfully back at the old days and claim everything was better.

I beg to differ. The previous time Blackpool played Newcastle in a league match, in April 1971, Clive Dunn's Grandad was riding high in the charts and Nana Mouskouri had a new album out.

Need I say more? The combined musical nous of those two make the Cheeky Girls look like Lennon and McCartney.

In fairness, 1971 was an exciting year. Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden; Jim Morrison (lead singer of the Doors) was found dead in his bathtub; Evil Knieval set a new world record by jumping 19 cars (on a bike rather than on foot); and – hold onto your hats for this one – Britain began fresh negotiations for EEC membership in Luxembourg.

Perhaps of more significance to those on the Fylde coast, it was also the last time Blackpool appeared in the top flight of English football.

The decades since have been mostly rather dismal, brightened by the likes of Tony Green and Mickey Walsh in the 70s, but followed by a tour of grotty lower league grounds ranging from Rochdale to Rushden, Chesterfield to Cheltenham.

Yet last night, and though it wasn't quite the top flight, it felt like the good times were back.

We were watching Newcastle run out in front of a sell-out crowd at Bloomfield Road in a league match.

As if that wasn't special enough, 90 thrilling minutes later we were giving those in Tangerine a standing ovation after watching a brilliant performance result in a 2-1 victory which will live long in the memory.

It really was something special.

Forget the stats: toppling the league leaders, ending Newcastle's unbeaten start in Championship and – when Brett Ormerod slotted in at the end of the opening period – becoming the first club to score against the Magpies in 541 minutes of football.

Yes, that's great. But the occasion was the most significant thing.

It felt like the start of something, and although this is the Seasiders' third season in the Championship, to me last night felt like the moment they truly arrived.

The new south stand glistening impressively to one side (Jimmy Armfield proudly surveying it as he commentated in the press box), a roar from the sold-out terraces to the other.

There is no getting around it. This was a very special evening.

The club did its bit by leaving tangerine or white cards (depending on where you sat) on every seat, complete with the memorable instruction: "Put above head".

The fans did as they were told, and although the end result didn't quite match the scenes before the Champions League matches one sees on TV, it looked pretty good nonetheless and certainly helped fire the Blackpool players up.

The performance they produced was magnificent and – if it is possible to use the word revenge for a result that happened the best part of 40 years ago – made up for that last league meeting between the sides when, on April 3, 1971, Newcastle left Bloomfield Road with a 1-0 win.

Ian Holloway has consistently bristled at anyone who labels Blackpool a small club.

It is now easy to see why. With the addition of players like Hameur Bouazza and Charlie Adam (crucially, both signed, not borrowed), the Seasiders are no longer punching above their weight in the Championship.

They now have a very decent line-up, and while it would be wildly optimistic to suggest the division had better watch out, it is certainly reasonable to say Blackpool should be aiming for a mid-table finish.

That has not been the case for the last two seasons, when anything outside the bottom three has been the sole target.

As for Newcastle, they are probably still shell-shocked th

is morning.

The team remains Premier League class in terms of personnel and yet only in brief moments did they rise above the ordinary.

That was due to the energy levels and determination displayed by the home team – they didn't give their opponents any space to play.

It's wrong to suggest that was the reason for victory, though. Pool played some delightful stuff, football that Nolan, Barton and co would have been proud of.

Bouazza was a revelation, adding pace and skill in the wide areas and testing keeper Steve Harper on countless occasions. He will surely become a key man in the side.

Charlie Adam oozed class again, while Ian Evatt was what you might call 'in the zone' – if he'd gone in for a 50-50 challenge with an elephant he'd have come out with the ball and left the animal in a heap on the floor.

Best of all, though, was the more diminutive figure of David Vaughan.

Magnificent in the middle, he makes the game look simple and if anyone has access to the Opta index stats, can they let me know how many misplaced passes he hit? My guess would be none.

Vaughan was one of three changes from Leicester. He came in for Jay Thomas (who paid the price for taking a driving test in London the day before the game. Hope he passed – it's a hell of a taxi fare back), while Alex Baptiste and Bouazza replaced Rob Edwards and the injured Ben Burgess.

Straight from the off, cheered on by superb support, Pool ruled.

Keeper Steve Harper was Newcastle's best player by some distance, particularly in the first half when he had to stop nine shots on target.

Adam twice tried his luck, Ormerod stung Harper's hands with a close-range drive, Bouazza had a goal disallowed and Keith Southern saw the keeper somehow divert a piledriver over the bar.

Vaughan (who has presumably been on some kind of long-range shooting course) had four sighters, while Bouazza – consistently causing the Magpies defence problems with his movement and pace – tested Harper time and time again. All this was helped by a ref who let the game flow – indeed Jonathan Moss didn't blow for a foul until the 21st minute. Hope the FA weren't watching, they'd probably sack him for such an alarming display of commonsense.

Back to the action, though, and just like at Leicester, the Seasiders paid the price for not scoring when on top.

Moments after Newcastle almost scored from their first real attack – 36 minutes in, when Andy Carroll's close-range shot appeared to be kept out by Alex Baptiste's excellent diving save (thankfully Mr Moss didn't see it – told you he was a good 'un) – the visitors made the breakthrough.

Completely against the run of play, Danny Guthrie whipped in a right-wing cross and Carroll rose to head the ball past an unguarded Paul Rachubka.

The frenzied support of the home faithful stalled. But only for a brief moment. The chanting soon started again and both they and the team were rewarded with an equaliser in first-half stoppage time.

Adam's long-range effort was only parried by Harper and Ormerod scored a proper poacher's goal, instinctively prodding the rebound in.

The game continued to be fast-flowing and wide open, although the second half was closer – Newcastle playing better and not allowing the Seasiders to dominate as much.

But this was a night when destiny seemed to be calling and the decisive goal arrived on 63 minutes from a Bouazza corner.

Ian Evatt made a good run to the near post and glanced a header goalward.

Harper blocked but Jason Euell, at the second attempt, thrashed the loose ball into the roof of the net.

Bouazza and Adam departed to standing ovations towards the end.

One of the replacements, Thomas, should have made the points safe but took too long shooting when well-placed.

Undoubtedly a good player, the Arsenal lad still needs to adapt to the hectic manner of the Championship.

It almost cost Pool as Newcastle sub Nile Ranger's last ditch header beat Rachubka.

But, like Superman saving that skinny lad at Niagara Falls, Stephen Crainey appeared in the nick of time to hoof the ball off the line and rescue the day.

Celebrations all round at the end and quite right too – this was an occasion to remember.

 
 
 

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