Blackpool boss prepares players for crowd disturbances

The pitch invasion at Leyton Orient last weekend
The pitch invasion at Leyton Orient last weekend
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Blackpool manager Gary Bowyer revealed he has made his players aware of the possibility that tomorrow’s crunch game against Leyton Orient could be disrupted by fans’ protests.

The Seasiders’ final fixture of the League Two season is against a relegated Orient side who were forced to finish last Saturday’s match against Colchester United behind closed doors after a pitch invasion.

An estimated 750 Orient fans took to the pitch at Brisbane Road to protest against the club’s owner, Francesco Becchetti, with the game eventually finishing two hours late.

Orient fans are expected to join their Blackpool counterparts on a huge protest march from the Pleasure Beach to Bloomfield Road ahead of the 5.30pm kick-off, and there are concerns their frustrations could boil over during the match – a scenario Bowyer says he is ready for.

The Pool boss said: “We’ve spoken about it because it happened last week, so we’ve discussed it with the players. We’ve made them aware of it and told them what we’d do if it happened.

“But hopefully it doesn’t happen and we’ll end the day talking about the football.”

When asked if it was frustrating the protests could overshadow a game his side must win to ensure they remain in the play-offs, Bowyer said: “On the very first day I came here the press asked me about it and I answered the same as I will answer now. I can’t control any of that but I understand people’s’ frustration and their side of it.

“All I can do is concentrate on the football and make sure we’re focused on that. That’s my job.”

Blackpool are among seven clubs vying for the final two play-off places but Bowyer’s side have by far the best goal difference. That means a win will guarantee sixth or seventh place, a position Bowyer admits he would have taken at the start of the season.

He added: “When I came into a club that had been relegated in the last two seasons, with all the news surrounding it and the work that needed to be done, if you had said we would go into the last game having a chance of getting into the play-offs, then I think I would have snapped your hand off.

“That’s a credit to the players and the staff here. They have bought into what we want to achieve and how we want to go about it. We’ve got to deliver one more time in the league now.”

Bowyer revealed he has a near fully fit squad to choose from tomorrow, although Sanmi Odelusi missed training yesterday due to illness.

Jamille Matt and Jim McAlister are the only other absentees.

Anyone still intending to buy tickets for tomorrow’s match must do so today as none will be available on match-day.