Blackpool 3-1 Fleetwood Town: Seasiders take Fylde coast bragging rights in heated fixture as tensions threaten to boil over
Blackpool took the Fylde coast bragging rights as they claimed the three points against Fleetwood Town in a heated fixture that threatened to boil over.
The game had to be temporarily halted during the second half after Armand Gnanduillet had headed in Blackpool’s third goal of the game.
That came after Simon Grayson’s men had raced ahead thanks to efforts from Liam Feeney and Sullay Kaikai.
Fleetwood, whose manager Joey Barton had claimed his side have “better players” and play “much better football” in the lead up to the game, grabbed a consolation 10 minutes from time courtesy of Conor McAleny.
But they were unable to produce an unlikely comeback and their long wait for a win at Bloomfield Road goes on.
The victory takes Pool up to fourth in the league table, three points ahead of the Cod Army who drop down to ninth - although they do have two games in hand.
Blackpool will hope their victory won’t be overshadowed by the ugly scenes that met their third goal of the game.
A Pool supporter surged onto the pitch to celebrate the goal, running over to confront the Fleetwood supporters housed in the East Stand.
A Town fan followed suit, escaping the attention of a number of stewards as he spent at least a minute on the Bloomfield Road surface.
Fighting then broke out in the South-East corner of the stadium between the opposing sets of supporters.
Joey Barton brought out the mind games prior to kick-off by attempting to predict Blackpool’s line-up, but his attempted guess turned out to be incorrect.
Grayson opted to make two changes from the FA Cup win against Maidstone United, with Armand Gnanduillet returning from injury to replace Joe Nuttall.
Elsewhere, Pool reverted to a back four as Ollie Turton came back into the side for the first time since Burton Albion in place of Calum Macdonald, who dropped to the bench.
Fleetwood, meanwhile, made one change from their FA Cup win against Crawley Town by replacing Ched Evans with Paddy Madden in attack.
It was a slow and edgy start to the game on the field, but off it the atmosphere was electric, with Pool fans serenading Barton while the Fleetwood contingent set off a flare in the away section.
The first opening of sorts came the way of the Seasiders as Jak Alnwick set them off on a quick attack with some quick distribution.
It saw Sullay Kaikai whip a dangerous ball into the Fleetwood box which almost ricocheted to Matty Virtue, but Harry Souttar was there to make the last-ditch clearance.
Five minutes later Bloomfield Road was sent into raptures as the Seasiders took advantage of some hesitant defending from the visitors.
Assist king Liam Feeney turned goalscorer for his first goal in tangerine colours in his 66th appearance for the club, slamming home a low shot into the bottom corner from just inside the Fleetwood box.
It came after Barton’s side had failed to deal with Kaikai’s first-time ball into the box, allowing Feeney the time and space to slam home beyond Billy Crellin.
The early goal made for a boisterous atmosphere from the sold-out North Stand and the remainder of the packed home sections.
The Seasiders remained discipline in defence, keeping to their shape as they allowed Fleetwood to enjoy the lion’s share of possession without doing a whole lot with it.
The two sides exchanged good openings in the space of 60 seconds midway through the opening half.
At one end, Ryan Edwards got a vital touch to a deep cross just as Madden was ready to pounce behind him, before Feeney blazed a volley over the bar as he looked for his and his side’s second.
Fleetwood slowly but surely began to take the initiative, finding those dangerous gaps in and around the Blackpool box.
The visitors ought to have equalised just after the half-hour mark when Wes Burns slipped in Madden only for the striker to drill his shot across the face of goal and wide of target.
Pool were perhaps guilty of sitting too deep and inviting pressure upon themselves, but they rectified that before the break as they were in search of a second.
They almost got one too on 39 minutes, when Virtue arrived late in the box to stab Feeney’s cross narrowly over at the near post.
A second goal is what Pool needed to settle their nerves and that’s exactly what they got at the start of the second period.
It came in bizarre circumstances, too, as Kaikai found the back of the net for the sixth time this season with a direct free-kick from in between the 18-yard box and the touchline.
Crellin was caught by surprise by the swerving delivery, which beat him all ends up, flying into the top corner of the Fleetwood net.
Barton reacted swiftly, replacing Burns with Ched Evans as the visitors went with two up front.
Pool, meanwhile, kept their foot on the pedal in search of a third goal to put the game to bed - as James Husband and Kaikai both had shots blocked in quick succession just before the hour mark.
Kaikai wasted a golden chance to add a third on the break, as Kaikai blazed over the bar with an effort on his weaker left foot after being played in by Virtue.
Fortunately the Seadiders weren’t made to rue that miss as, just two minutes later, they notched a third.
It came from the head of Gnanduillet, who towered above his man for his 13th goal of the season after meeting Feeney’s hanging cross.
Farcical scenes followed, as a Blackpool fan ran onto the field of play to confront the away fans.
A Fleetwood supporter then followed suit, with the game being temporarily halted as the stewards chased him around the pitch.
More trouble ensued in the South-East corner of the stadium between the opposing sets of supporters as tempers threatened to boil over.
After the game finally got back underway, Kaikai went close to adding a fourth as he was denied by the legs of Crellin after combining well with Gnanduillet.
Fleetwood threatened an unlikely comeback when they reduced the arrears to 3-1 with 10 minutes remaining, as substitute Conor McAleny beat Alnwick with a curling effort.
The forward picked out the bottom corner with a pinpoint effort from the edge of the box, giving Alnwick no chance.
Pool did well to halt any threat of a comeback, although Josh Morris did see a cross deflect onto the roof of the net as Alnwick was back-pedalling.
Fleetwood still had plenty of time to get back in the game as the fourth official indicated for nine minutes of stoppage time.
Pool were given a let-off when Madden sent a header against the woodwork in the fourth of those nine minutes.
But that proved to be the best Fleetwood could muster as they travelled the seven miles back home empty-handed.
Blackpool: Alnwick, Turton, Edwards, Heneghan, Husband, Spearing, Virtue, Feeney, Kaikai (Thompson), Delfouneso (Tilt), Gnanduillet (Nuttall)
Subs not used: Sims, Macdonald, Scannell, Hardie
Fleetwood: Crellin, Coyle, Eastham, Souttar, Andrew, Sowerby (McAleny), Dempsey, Coutts, Morris, Burns (Evans), Madden
Subs not used: Cairns, Clarke, Biggins, Southam-Hales, Garner
Referee: Anthony Coggins
Attendance: x10,355 (1,375 Fleetwood)