Memory Match: Blackpool 1-1 Manchester United, 1971

Jimmy Armfield is applauded on to the pitch by team-mates ahead of his 627th  and final  game as a Blackpool player
Jimmy Armfield is applauded on to the pitch by team-mates ahead of his 627th and final game as a Blackpool player
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Matt Scrafton trawls through the archives to look back at Jimmy Armfield's last game for Blackpool; a 1-1 draw against Manchester United on May 1, 1971.

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Blackpool bid an emotional farewell to record appearance holder Jimmy Armfield in fine style with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Manchester United.

It was an occasion tinged with sadness as Armfield made his 627th and final appearance as a Blackpool player in front of a crowd of just under 30,000 at Bloomfield Road, in what was also their final game in the First Division having already been relegated.

It was also a lively, entertaining game marred by one flare-up in the 62nd minute when John Craven, named Blackpool’s player of the year a fortnight before, and Pat Crerand, of United, were both sent off after an incident when punches were thrown.

Blackpool were particularly well served by Tony Green, Dennis Wann and Tommy Hutchison with Armfield making a good last appearance for the club he had served for 19 years.

Armfield was applauded on to the field by the Blackpool team, who lined up outside the tunnel to mark his last appearance as a Blackpool player.

Meanwhile each member of the Manchester United side shook hands with Armfield, who again wore the captain’s armband with pride.

Hutchison showed his pace straight from the start when he intercepted a clearance from Tony Dunne and ran half the length of the pitch, forcing Steve James to stop him at the expense of a corner kick.

Blackpool were soon back with a second thrust down the left wing which brought another corner kick, but again this was cleared.

United, clad in all white, began to settle down and in their first massed attack a clever flick from the bearded George Best producing an opening for Bobby Charlton to get in his famous shot from just outside the box.

But the tightly covering Blackpool defence had thrown up a wall and the ball cannoned back off a defender.

In the sixth minute, however, United took the lead through that experienced and dangerous goal-poacher Denis Law.

Crerand got around Dave Hatton out on the right, but the Blackpool full-back recovered well to push the ball behind to prevent Crerand from getting a cross over.

Best took the corner kick, but Blackpool’s young goalkeeper John Burridge pulled it out of the air in a crowded goalmouth, but dropped it as he was challenged by Alan Gowling and the ball broke loose to Law, who had an easy job to plant it in the net from four yards.

The big crowd have a terrific atmosphere to sunny Bloomfield Road – anything but an end-of-season atmosphere.

Many young United supporters ignored the previous loudspeaker warning by invading the pitch when their heroes took the lead.

But Blackpool were soon back on the attack and play was held up when United goalkeeper Alex Stepney received a head injury and had to have attention from the trainer.

The police were massed in strength in front of the Spion Kop on the lookout for potential trouble spots. There was no lack of action both on and off the field.

Before kick off several fainting cases had been wheeled away from the Kop and after 20 minutes’ play, two youths were escorted from the ground after a fracas behind the goal.

United, with Crerand spraying the ball about accurately in midfield, looked the sharper side and Burridge saved well when he dived to hold a hard 20-yard drive from Brian Kidd after Charlton had squared a short free kick to the tall United youngster.

United looked dangerous again minutes later when a mix-up between Armfield and Green midway inside the Blackpool half gave Crerand possession.

Blackpool were exposed on the left flank as Crerand swept a speedy ball out to Kidd, but Wann, hurrying back, saved the day by getting a leg in the way of Kidd’s 15-yard drive to deflect the ball out for yet another corner.

Then, after a period on the receiving end, Blackpool levelled the scores with an opportunist equaliser from Green.

Charlton squared a pass to Crerand midway inside the United half. But Crerand, who had been caught in possession a couple of times earlier on, was caught napping again.

Green moved in speedily to whip the ball off his toes, before heading to goal and as Stepney came out, whipped the ball low past the keeper into the net.

It was Green’s first goal since his brace against West Ham United in the FA Cup four months earlier.

And it meant that Blackpool, who also drew 1-1 at Old Trafford earlier that season, again found themselves on level terms.

In the 31st minute, United were lucky not to find themselves behind for the first time in the game when Sadler, challenged by Craven, failed to clear a dangerous centre from Wann properly.

The ball trundled to Green at the edge of the box and the Scot’s first time drive scraped the paintwork on the top of the bar.

Armfield mopped up a tricky situation at the start of the second half when he took the ball off Charlton’s toes to clear after James and Alcock had both missed a low cross from the right from Crerand.

A scuffle between both sets of players soon broke out, with Crerand appearing to have thrown a couple of punches as players jostled together. Craven also raised his fists, almost out of necessity for self defence.

When order was finally restored, Crerand and Craven were both ordered to the dressing room.

The incident had married a good game but the pace continued unabated.

United almost regained the lead when Best dribbled around the advancing Burridge but Alcock recovered to cover and managed to shake the ball momentarily away from Best, allowing Burridge time to recover.

Soon after this, Gowling shot wide from a good position on front of goal in another United attack.

Until the sending off incident the focus had been on attacking football by both sides, which had it a very pleasant afternoon for the big crowd – Blackpool’s second highest of the season.

Near the end, two youths went on to the field during a lull in play and were finally pursued into the East Paddock and finally escorted from the ground.

TEAMS


Blackpool: Burridge, Arnfield, Hatton, Johnston, James, Alcock, Burns, Green, Craven, Wann, Hutchison, Bentley


Man Utd: Stepney, Dunne, Burns, Crerand, James, Sadler, Law, Gowling, Charlton, Kidd, Best, Sartori


Attendance: 29,857