Memory Match: Danny Shittu nets debut goal as Blackpool see off Lincoln City, 2001
Matt Scrafton trawls through the archives to take a look back at the last time Blackpool faced Lincoln City, 18 years ago...
Blackpool 2-0 Lincoln City, February 17, 2001
Blackpool Tower poked its head out above the fog right on cue as for the first time in six months the Seasiders reached the dizzy heights of the top seven.
Fittingly it was a new Seasiders structure, as solid and impressive as the famous seaside landmark, which helped put them there.
Even Danny Shittu himself couldn’t have hoped to make a bigger impact on his first senior appearance in English football.
As well as scoring what until the 90th minute was the only goal to separate the sides, the Nigerian-born defender was rightly voted man of the match. Already a cult hero after just one game, Shittu has the power and presence to push Pool even further towards automatic promotion.
Off the pitch he’s a gently-spoken giant with a beaming smile which says he’s just grateful to have been given his first team chance. On it he’s a man mountain with the raw enthusiasm, pace, power and skill to make him a handful for any opponent.
Shittu said afterwards he started the game not even knowing his team-mates names. By the end there’d been so many changes he was thoroughly confused!
But one thing was certain. His was the name which was being chanted from the terraces. There’ll even be kids rushing to have his name printed on the back of their shirts!
It was six minutes before the break when Shittu made a name for himself by scoring his dream debut goal.
And it came just moments after his first half defensive partner Ian Hughes had gone within a whisker of putting Pool in front.
A foul on Danny Coid by former Seasiders striker Lee Thorpe set up the situation. And when Hughes headed Paul Simpson’s free-kick goalwards Lincoln’s John Schofield did well to clear off the line.
But with Shittu around, the danger wasn’t over. Simpson swung in the corner from the right, John Murphy headed it back across from the far post and Shittu rose by the right hand post to head home.
To be honest Pool’s opener came against the run of play in what was never a vintage Seasiders show. But it says something if you can make it five straight clean sheet wins at home - scoring 15 goals in the process - without hitting the heights.
Pool had started well, with Shittu and his main man of the match rival Richard Wellens making an early impression.
But immediately prior to Shittu scoring, Lincoln had themselves threatened to turn their equal share of possession into a goal. Jon O’Connor, right-back in the first half before replacing the injured Hughes in central defence after the break, had to be in quickly to clear from Thorpe.
And in quick succession, Hughes cut out Paul Smith’s dangerous cross after Mike Milligan had been robbed by Thorpe midway inside the Pool half. And Barnes collected a mis-hit Holmes shot on the line.
Although Lincoln still haven’t won away for almost a year, since a 2-1 win at Shrewsbury on April 1 last year, there was enough to suggest they might emulate the Shrews and steal the points here.
Like the fog which came and went all afternoon, Lincoln’s resilience prevented Pool playing in anything more than patches.
On 15 minutes there was one passage of play in which the three strikers, Murphy, Brett Ormerod and Richard Walker combined to good effect. Barnes pumped it long, Murphy got up for a good flick, Walker’s deft first time touch put Ormerod through on the right but he could only drag his 20-yard shot wide left.
But apart from two early attacks where first Ormerod and then Coid got in dangerous byline crosses - both just eluding Murphy in the middle - Pool weren’t really getting in round the back.
Instead with the Seasiders largely restricted to diagonal balls into the box, Lincoln, who had won one and drawn one of their previous cup and league meetings with Pool this season, stood firm.
And if the second biggest home support of the season - 4,315 home fans in the crowd, 11 fewer than Boxing Day - thought Shittu’s goal would prompt a second half onslaught in front of the south paddock they were to be disappointed.
Ormerod did have a wonderful chance to put Pool out of reach on the hour, but arriving on the right of the six yard box on the end of Murphy’s excellent cross he could only balloon his shot over.
Just like the first half, the longer the second period went on the stronger Lincoln got, and the more any Pool chances were restricted to shots from outside the area with Milligan having the most.
Meanwhile at the other end a half time reshuffle, with Hughes having to exit with a hip injury, made the Seasiders slender lead even more vulnerable. Steve Bushell, playing his first match since the Boxing Day defeat to Halifax - the last time Pool conceded a goal at Bloomfield Road - had to fill in at right back .
This allowed O’Connor to move in next to Shittu in central defence with Coid, who has spent much of the season at right back, now on the opposite side! Sensing that this was their chance to capitalise, especially as they threw caution to the wind with their formation late on, the Sincil Bank side again started to exert some sustained pressure.
And with eight minutes left came the game’s defining moment. It’s still hard to know today how the ball stayed out of Pool’s net. Barnes, who was just starting to wobble after another solid game, came to punch a cross from the right but his less than clean connection only sent the ball towards the edge of the box.
Lincoln’s new signing Ben Sedgemore, who came on as a second half substitute, hooked the ball back over Barnes’ head. And even when it came back down off the bar, with Thorpe waiting to pounce it was almost a dead cert there could be no great escape.
But incredibly from almost on the line Thorpe spared his old club by heading over the bar when it looked easier to score.
There was another heart in mouth moment when, with just five minutes left, Barnes needed a second attempt to gather a John Finnigan cross.
But then, better late than never, came the Seasiders sealing second. Fittingly the outstanding Wellens created it with an intelligent ball from midfield which sent Ormerod clean through. Not for the first time this season Ormerod took the ball around the keeper but ended up being forced wide and couldn’t finish it himself.
But he had the tenacity and presence of mind to do the next best thing, pulling the ball back for striker partner Murphy to slam his 18th goal of the season low into the net.
On the face of it and with 90 minutes already gone Murphy’s strike might have seemed secondary compared to Shittu’s debutant scoring antics.
But it’s importance was emphasised by the match officials’ incompetence. Because without Murphy’s goal Pool would have been in for an agonising elongated injury time.
When the fourth official finally put up the time added on board we’d already had two and a half minutes of the four he displayed.
Yet York referee Matt Messias, demoted from the Premier League earlier this season, went on to play eight extra minutes! No wonder when he finally did blow that man of the moment Shittu caught the ball, booted it high into the foggy sky and broke into a giant grin.
Blackpool: Barnes, O’Connor, Shittu, Coid, Hughes (Bushell), Milligan (Collins), Simpson, Wellens, Murphy, Ormerod, Walker (Clarkson)
Lincoln: Day, Barnett (Peacock), Holmes, Welsh, Mayo, Schofield (Sedgemore), Smith, Finnigan, Walker, Grant (Battersby), Thorpe