Memory Match: John Murphy bags hat-trick as Blackpool see off Luton Town, 2003

Hat-trick hero John Murphy with the matchball
Hat-trick hero John Murphy with the matchball

Matt Scrafton trawls through the archives to take a look back at Blackpool's 3-1 win away at Luton Town on February 11, 2003.

Danny Clubb got it just about right. “Blackpool outplayed us”, he shrugged. “We thought we were going to win but they played the better football.”

Then Mr Clubb, along with his wife Elsie, clambered back into their car and made the 220-mile return journey to their Palatine Road home.

The couple live in Blackpool but are lifelong Luton supporters who go to every game and clock up around 30,000 miles a season.

They’ll certainly be in for some ribbing from their neighbours after this one.

“We’ll see you again in Cardiff in the play-off final and then we’ll show you,” was Mr Clubb’s cheerful parting shot.

Not on this evidence, you won’t, for the Seasiders are flying.

This was the best away performance of the season yet, narrowly eclipsing the 3-1 victory at Plymouth Argyle in October.

Pool were simply magnificent even without the influence of manager Steve McMahon who missed the game because of a family bereavement.

Every Pool player ran his heart out, chasing lost causes and thundering into tackles as though it was a championship decider.

The omens were good from the start - as the Seasiders squad walked onto the pitch to warm up, the PA system suddenly started playing David Bowie’s “Heroes”. It proved an apt choice.

Though John Murphy was the biggest hero of them all, plundering a fine hat-trick, there was 10 others too.

Mike Flynn, in particular, was near faultless in the centre of defence while Martin Bullock had a hand in all the goals.

Paul Evans – specially released by Wales for the night - had his best game yet in a Pool shirt.

And what an important victory it was. If Luton had won, McMahon’s team would have been a fair distance off the play-offs.

As it is, they have not only leapfrogged Joe Kinnear’s side, but they are now perfectly primed to oust sixth-placed QPR as well.

Pool’s aggregate score over the Hatters this season now stands at 8-3, last night’s result adding to the 5-2 scoreline at Bloomfield Road at the start of the season.

Credit to Luton, though, because they made this game what it was. Both sides went for the win and it made for an open, pulsating and end-to-end match.

McMahon left out Richard Walker and Ben Thornley, bringing in Scott Taylor up front with Danny Coid on the left flank.

And unlike the previous game at Wigan, where a dreadful start left them chasing the match, Pool were confident and compact from the first whistle.

They drew first blood on nine minutes what a beauty it was. Bullock, already on his fourth gallop of the night, cut past two defenders and slid in inch-perfect ball into the path of Murphy.

The big number nine kept his cool to slide a low shot underneath Luton keeper Mark Ovendale.

The Seasiders were on top and, with Bullock terrorising Luton full-back Alan Neilson, they always looked the more likely to score.

It was only one at the break, though, but within two minutes of the restart Luton were level as Tony Thorpe lashed home from Dean Crowe’s low cross.

It was a good finish but slightly fortunate given that less than 60 seconds earlier Taylor’s chip had been bundled off the line at the other end by Emmerson Boyce.

It was now game on and Luton’s crowd roared their team forward. But if they thought Pool were wobbling they were sorely mistaken.

Just three minutes later Bullock glided past two defenders and delivered a hanging, teasing cross into the area which Murphy headed into the top corner to restore Pool’s lead.

Chances came and went at both ends. Matthew Spring and Chris Coyne came close for the hosts while Evans and Keith Southern missed good opportunities for the Seasiders, while Taylor also saw another shot cleared off the line.

The next goal was always going to be crucial and Pool got it. Once again Bullock played a leading role, playing the ball into the path of Taylor who saw his saved shot rebound to Murphy right in front of goal and, with an empty net before him, guided the ball in to score the third hat-trick of his Pool career and his 14th of the season.

And that was about it, as the Seasiders cruised to a vital victory that reignites their play-off hopes.

TEAMS

Luton: Ovendale, Neilson, Coyne, Willmott, Boyce, Brkovic (Hillier), Nicholls, Spring, Crowe, Howard, Thorpe

Blackpool: Barnes, Richardson, Flynn, Hendry (Clarke), Grayson, Bullock, Coid, Evans, Southern, Murphy, Taylor

Attendance: 6,563