With Blackpool preparing to travel to London at the end of this month to take on Arsenal, The Gazette takes a look back at the last time the Seasiders took on the Gunners in the League Cup on October 5, 1976.
Blackpool’s love affair with the League Cup ended in the third round second replay at Arsenal.
But the Seasiders pushed Arsenal all the way and had chances to equalise Frank Stapleton’s 48th-minute headed goal before David O’Leary hit the killer with Blackpool committed to attack, seven minutes from time.
Blackpool won warm praise from Arsenal observers for their tremendous organisation and it is true to say that, if they had attacked Arsenal in the first half as they did when they went a goal down, the fourth round home tie with Chelsea could have been theirs.
They almost covered themselves in glory with a stirring second-half rally which highlighted their outstanding potential.
And throughout the match they played their way out of defence and into attack with constructive, thoughtful soccer.
With Blackpool less committed to defence, Arsenal created more clear chances in the first half than they did a week ago in the original tie, with nothing like the sort of pressure.
But after a couple of incredible misses by Malcolm Macdonald, Blackpool hit back with two chances for teenage debutant Brian Wilson.
Although Wilson found it hard getting into a match of these proportions, he was not afraid to put his weight around and when Bob Hatton crossed after 14 minutes, Wilson – sliding in – sliced his shot wide.
Wilson almost scored with a crisp left footer after a great run round the back by Walsh and fine low centre into the box. But Jimmy Rimmer blocked the shot, after 35 minutes.
Hatton was another shirt’s width away from nudging home Paul Hart’s head down under pressure from Pat Rice, but George Wood had to make a couple of fine saves, and the half was marked by the near misses of Macdonald and Stapleton.
Blackpool did not seem at all flustered and the goal was unfortunate, Wood decided not to come for a cross he might have got, but Stapleton soared above two defenders to head home.
Blackpool, roared forward with Billy Ronson, also had Hart who was brilliant in defence and started a stream of attacks by surging through to midfield, with some deft touches, and Ronson, Stapleton and George Armstrong vied for man of the match.
Blackpool sliced the Arsenal defence several times without any sort of luck with the run of the ball.
Walsh, who had taken Arsenal wide but but been started of the ball many times, powered through the middle but smacked a shot wide.
Ronson’s surge down a similar path but was halted by Alan Ball and Alan Ainscow, whose authority as an attacking midfielder and influence on the game was increasingly dominant after early lapses.
Ainscow then sent a brilliant chip over the advancing Rimmer but just wide.
A superb Blackpool move started by Walsh’s defence-splitting pass and Ainscow’s great touch on almost gave Hatton a goal but he could not adjust his stride running onto it and the ball hit his right foot and went agonisingly an inch or two past the post with Rimmer going the other way.
The infusion of the dropped Alan Suddick for Wilson after 75 minutes sparked some brilliant play by the midfield star and Blackpool in general.
He brought the save of the match from Rimmer with a magnificent volley which few players could even have controlled.
His class in knocking the ball about and moving it around rejuvenated Blackpool from a useful to a highly dangerous outfit.
Steve Harrison, who had a good game at left-back, shot just over the bar and Suddick and Bill Bentley worked a fine move for Ainscow to shoot at Rimmer.
Arsenal, notably Macdonald, missed a few chances before O’Leary rifled home from Armstrong’s corner to allow the home fans to finally relax.
But Blackpool had the last word with efforts from Walsh and Hatton blocked by Rimmer and Rice.
Blackpool will not complain about the result because of the clear chances Arsenal missed, but their second half rally could so easily have won them the game.