Shrewsbury Town 1, Blackpool 3, January 1, 1997
Pool tamed the Shrews to bag their first league away win since August, their first back-to-back league wins since August and their first three-goal haul away from home all season.
Not a bad day’s work on a snow-bound surface which provided the unlikeliest of setting for Pool to halt their away-day slide.
Should the game have been played? For the first five minutes, there were mutterings in the press box.
Farce and pantomime spring to mind, especially on the arrival of a replacement ‘glow-in-the-dark’ tangerine ball!
But eight minutes gone, Andy Preece silenced all that. A good one-two with Tony Ellis on the edge of the Shrewsbury box, Preece steadied himself and fired left-footed across Paul Edwards into the right-hand corner of the net. The gloves, metaphorically speaking at least, were off.
Four minutes later, Preece found himself in a winter wonderland, alone in the type of space strikers dream of.
Andy Barlow and Lee Philpott had set him free with a well-worked one-two down the left. But with Ellis and Micky Mellon arriving in the middle, Preece’s final ball was cut out.
Pool were setting the standard; incisive passing all over the pitch with a positive attitude. Shrewsbury didn’t look like they wanted to know.
Pool came again. Preece and Philpott combined down the left. Philpott provided a floated cross to James Quinn who, eight yards out, headed straight at the keeper.
On 28 minutes, the move of the match saw Philpott break up a Shrewsbury attack near the edge of his own box allowing Barlow to play a long ball forward.
Ellis kept his feet, while defender Neilsen didn’t. And when Ellis cut the ball back, Preece was there to sidefoot it into the far corner to double Pool’s lead.
Shrewsbury did what they could to bring about a change in fortunes – booting the old orange ball over the stand and into the freezing river.
Soon after, it was 3-0 Pool thanks to Mellon, who despatched a shot into the far-right hand corner of the net.
It was a glorious move by Pool, started and finished by Mellon. From inside his own half he played a one-two with Ellis before spraying an inch-perfect pass wide left to Preece.
The two-goal hero picked out Quinn inside the box and he turned the Shrewsbury defence and laid the ball back for Mellon to sidefoot home.
Suddenly, to the small army of Seasiders supporters braving the seasonal snow behind the Shrewsbury goal, all the world seemed tangerine and white.
There was a chance for caution at the break. Remember the last time Blackpool were 3-0 up after 45 minutes? Wrexham at home, when again Preece had scored two, Mellon one.
But that was 1996 and this was a New Year, a time for optimism.
And only two minutes into the second half, it looked like Ellis had made it four. A gem of a curler, which somehow drifted wide of the right-hand post.
It was party time for Pool with Mellon even having a chance to throw some snowballs at the Blackpool bench.
Ten minutes into the second period, another lovely sweeping move by the Seasiders saw Butler play the ball up towards Mark Bonner. He touched it to Preece, who played a one-two with Ellis before whipping in a superb left-wing cross, Bonner running on to get in where it hurts at the near post - the ball just squirming wide.
At this point Shrewsbury were showing signs of recovery. They’d finally found their feet when it came to playing long balls over the Blackpool defence.
And on 62 minutes, the home side’s best chance came when substitute Nick Ward, left unmarked six yards out, headed straight at Steve Banks.
The Blackpool goalkeeper, who had been in danger of catching frostbite in the first half he had so little to do, was increasingly being brought into action.
In front, the Seasiders’ seemingly rock-solid defence started to dither. Failing to a clear a 62nd-minute ball into the box, allowing Brown to shoot straight at Banks.
Megson decided to ring the changes, bringing on Dave Brightwell to swell the backline to five while Gary Brabin returned from suspension to stop Shrewsbury in their tracks in midfield.
Philpott and Ellis were the men to make way.
But it didn’t stop the jitters. Banks had to be at his most commanding to come and take some searching crosses and corners.
But, with 13 minutes to go, Shrewsbury broke through. Paul Evans found Word who planted the ball beyond Banks’ dive. Wrexham re-visited? Surely not.
Blackpool tightened up from this point onwards. They even had their chances to make the result safe at the other end.
Preece was denied a hat-trick by a 30 yarder which hit the top of the bar. Brabin pushed a clear chance wide of the post.
Quinn then did well to get in between Walton and the keeper, only to chip his shot just over the bar.
But it would be churlish to pick holes in a superb all-round Seasiders display, which even prompted a return of the ‘when we win promotion’ chant.
Let’s not shout about it just yet. Two wins on the trot still doesn’t constitute an avalanche. But at least Pool are going in the right direction.
Blackpool: Banks, Bryan, Barlow, Butler, Linighan, Philpott, Bonner, Mellon, Quinn, Ellis, Preece