Memory Match: Blackpool boost survival hopes with win in seven-goal thriller against Walsall

David Eyres was among the goals for Blackpool
David Eyres was among the goals for Blackpool
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Matt Scrafton trawls through the archives to take a look back at Blackpool's thrilling 4-3 win against Walsall on March 3, 1990.

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There won’t be many more thrilling matches at Bloomfield Road than this seven-goal encounter – or many more important results either.

Failure to get better of the only team below them in the Third Division table would have been unthinkable for Blackpool and would almost certainly have pointed the way to the fourth tier.

But with the clash in its final minute, Paul Groves stabbed home the goal which must go down as the most vital of the term so far for the Seasiders.

After being two down midway through the first half and then 3-2 behind on the hour mark following a fightback to draw level, the feeling at the end for Pool was one more of relief than celebration.

Despite the fact that maximum points were clinched in the end for only the fifth time in 14 outings at home this season, the overriding question has to be just how did Jimmy Mullen’s men allow themselves to get into such a perilous situation in the first place.

Defeat on Saturday would have left them rock bottom of the division, whereas now, although still second bottom, they are in touch with the safety zone.

But just a matter of days after they had matched First Division QPR all the way in an epic FA Cup tie, Pool’s defence allowed Walsall’s first two sniffs at the target to be converted into goals.

Despite a promising start, when Alan Wright and Andy Garner both went close with headers, Pool found themselves behind after 14 minutes when Stuart Rimmer’s pace saw him outstretch Ian Gore to reach a pass from Mark Goodwin and slot the ball past Steve McIlhargey.

Then nine minutes later, it was 2-0 to the visitors and the heroics against QPR looked a dim and distant memory as Rimmer struck his 18th of the season after veteran Keith Bertschin had set him up following a free kick by Graham Forbes.

At that stage it looked as though there was no way Pool could hope for the three points they needed so much.

Mullen’s decision to stick with the man-for-man marking system which had proved so effective against QPR looked to have backfired and it seemed the best the Seasiders could hope for was a point.

But after blazing a couple of good openings over the bar, Mark Bradshaw hammered home a right-foot volley from pool’s fifth corner of the game nine minutes before the interval to offer some semblance of hope.

And just three minutes into the second half, Pool were level after David Eyres took full advantage of a wayward back pass by Peter Skipper to slot the ball past Walsall keeper Fred Barber.

In the 10 minutes or so following that equaliser, with Pool deserving every credit for cancelling out Walsall’s lead and continuing to pressurise, it looked as though there would only be one winner.

The Seasiders enjoyed their best spell of the match and Garner went desperately close to completing the comeback when he shot narrowly over the bar after the ball had been neatly chested down by Eyres.

But totally against the run of play and from a position of little apparent danger, it was Walsall who regained the advantage.

Rimmer set Adrian Thorpe free on the left and from his innocuous-looking cross-shot, the ball deflected off Steve Morgan’s outstretched boot past the committed McIlhargey.

Four minutes later, Pool could have been dead and buried as a header from Rimmer came back off a post following a cross from the right by substitute Andy Saville.

But with Gary Brook and Mike Davies on for Morgan and Russell Coughlin, the Seasiders found a new lease of life.

It was their turn to hit the woodwork on 77 minutes when a thunderbolt shot from Garner came back off the bar and two minutes later it was 3-3.

Davies floated over a corner from the left and Colin Methven rose higher than anyone else on the six-yard line to head the ball home.

The excitement reached fever pitch in the final 10 minutes as Pool pressed for a winner.

Barber needed two attempts to hold a low shot from Groves and a header from the busy Davies clipped the top of the bar on the way out. But time was running out fast as the Seasiders won a free-kick 20 yards out.

Eyres ran over the ball and Davies floated it into the box but it looked as though it was going out for a goal kick.

Methven, however, popped up on the byline to head the ball back into the area where Groves stabbed it into the roof of the net.

The delight – and relief – were immeasurable as the final whistle sounded no more than 30 seconds later.

But, after Pool had three or four worthy penalty appeals turned down by the referee, you couldn’t help feeling justice had been done.But boy, did Pool cut it fine, and it is difficult to escape the feeling that against sides of a higher calibre they might have found it rather more difficult to come back from two goals down.

TEAMS

Blackpool: McIlhargey, Wright, Morgan, Coughlin, Methven, Bradshaw, Gore, Groves, Eyres, Garner, Richards

Walsall: Barber, Dornan, Whitehouse, Taylor, Forbes, Skipper, Thorpe, Rimmer, Bertschin, Baldwin, Littlejohn

Attendance: 3,174