Blackpool’s play-off hopes took another hit as Jonson Clarke-Harris’ hat-trick condemned the Seasiders to an embarrassing defeat against lowly Bristol Rovers.
The striker was a constant thorn in Blackpool’s defence who, normally so reliable and solid this season, endured a disastrous afternoon at the Memorial Stadium.
Clarke-Harris bagged his first as soon as the sixth minute, capitalising on Curtis Tilt’s poor clearance to slam home the opener.
A second followed before the break as he sprung the offside trap before rounding off the hat-trick midway through the second half with another simple finish.
The result means the Gas, who started the day inside the bottom four, have now completed the double over Terry McPhillips’ side, scoring SEVEN in the process with Pool unable to muster a single goal.
McPhillips made two changes to his side from last weekend’s disappointment against Oxford United.
Jordan Thompson returned to take the place of Antony Evans, who dropped down to the bench. Nathan Delfouneso, meanwhile, replaced Chris Long who was missing from the squad altogether.
Neither Nya Kirby and Elias Sorensen featured in the 18 either, although Matty Virtue was fit enough to return to the bench having recovered from the injury he picked up in the draw at Sunderland last month.
Pool came close just three minutes in, Nathan Delfouneso picking out Harry Pritchard with a deep cross but the midfielder could only find the side-netting with his header.
But just three minutes later the home side took the lead as they capitalised on a mistake from Curtis Tilt.
The defender’s botched clearance fell kindly for Jonson Clarke-Harris, who had the simple task of tapping home from a few yards out.
Pool almost fell two behind straight away, but they were thankful to Mark Howard making a fine reaction stop to deny Liam Sercombe’s first-time volley.
At the other end, Pool had half-hearted penalty appeals waved away when Nick Anderton’s ball into the box struck the hand of a Bristol Rovers defender.
Jordan Thompson squandered a gilt-edged chance to draw Pool level when the ball fell kindly to the midfielder 10 yards out, but he turned and blazed his effort well over the bar.
Ben Heneghan was almost punished for a weak header away, with his attempted clearance falling straight to Clarke-Harris who curled an effort just wide of the upright.
The Seasiders were punished for their stationary defending with eight minutes left of the first half as Clarke-Harris added his and his side’s second of the game.
After some intricate play in and around the Pool box, Clarke-Harris beat the offside trap to latch onto Ollie Clarke’s ball before firing past Howard with a clinical effort into the far corner.
Blackpool should have reduced the arrears back to a single goal a couple of minutes later but Armand Gnanduillet somehow failed to hit the target with a free header from Jay Spearing’s corner.
Thompson looked to pick out the far corner of the Rovers net with a swerving effort from the edge of the box but Bonham was able to watch on as it flew a few yards wide.
Pool again went close on the stroke of half time, Bonham fumbling Nick Anderton’s low drive only to collect it at the second attempt before it rolled over the line.
The home side almost added a third within 30 seconds of restart, Sercombe testing Howard with a curling effort that the Pool keeper dived across goal to keep out.
Pool, who changed to three at the back at the break, responded with two good chances of their own, Bonham saving from Gnanduillet’s header before palming Thompson’s 30-yard drive away for a corner.
Tilt was caught trying to be too clever on the ball just outside his own area, leading to Tom Nichols being played in down the right only to fire narrowly over the bar.
Blackpool failed to find any sort of rhythm and if another goal was going to be scored, it was going to come from Bristol Rovers.
That’s exactly as it proved on 68 minutes, as Clarke-Harris completed his hat-trick to make it three.
It came after Howard had made an outstanding save to deny Ollie Clarke at the back post, only for the ball to fall kindly for Clarke-Harris who had another simple tap-in to compound Pool’s misery.
Substitute Joe Dodoo had a chance to restore some credibility when the ball fell kindly to him eight yards out, but a Bristol Rovers defender recovered to make a last-ditch challenge.
A similar close-range opportunity came the way of fellow sub Chris Taylor, but his effort deflected just wide of goal.
The hosts had further opportunities to extend their lead on the break and they finally took one in the final minute of normal time, Sercombe being found in acres of space before calmly slotting past Howard.
Bristol Rovers: Bonham, Partington, Lockyer, Craig, Holmes-Dennis, O. Clarke (Sinclair), Ogogo, Upson, Sercombe, Clarke-Harris (Jakubiak), Nichols (Reilly)
Subs not used: Smith, J. Clarke, Kelly, Matthews
Blackpool: Howard, Daniels, Heneghan, Tilt, Anderton (Virtue), Turton, Spearing, Thompson (Taylor), Pritchard (Dodoo), Delfouneso, Gnanduillet
Subs not used: Boney, Nottingham, Evans, Feeney
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Attendance: 8,496 (391 Blackpool)