Blackpool's Championship memories: Angel's divine intervention sees off Leeds United

With Blackpool back in the Championship, we’re recalling the Seasiders’ previous stint in the second tier from 2011-15.

Friday, 24th December 2021, 3:00 pm

This week, it’s April 2012 when, after draws with Barnsley and Nottingham Forest, they defeated Leeds United 1-0 at Bloomfield Road as watched by STEVE CANAVAN…

Last time Blackpool beat Leeds in a league game at home, a 5ft 6in ginger-haired lad scored the winner.

As it turned out, Alan Ball went on to have a reasonably good year. It was 1966 – we need say no more.

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Alas Ball is no longer with us, which in itself shows what a mighty long time it has been since the Seasiders last got one over on their Yorkshire rivals.

Thankfully they can now add another victory to the list and boy do these three points make things easier.

Pool can now secure a play-off place by beating Burnley. Simples.

Well, not really, especially given the Clarets are in a good run of form and will be well and truly up for a Lancashire derby.

It does represent a great opportunity to get things done and dusted early, and Ian Holloway will be ecstatic if his team are heading to Millwall on the final day under no pressure to get the points.

Against a stubborn and occasionally threatening Leeds side, Pool ground out victory.

It looked for a long while – thanks to some super goalkeeping from Andy Lonergan and some wasteful finishing – as though it would end goalless.

An inspired substitution – Nouha Dicko finally truly arriving in a Blackpool shirt, making the difference after getting his chance with 20 minutes to go – and a goal from a Spaniard who last scored two years ago, ensured three very vital points ended up in Pool’s pockets.

Holloway made two changes from the side which drew in slightly lacklustre fashion at Nottingham Forest last time out.

Stephen Crainey replaced Bob Harris, while Lomana LuaLua – who had probably his best night in a Blackpool shirt at Elland Road earlier in the campaign – came in for Stephen Dobbie.

Apparently Dobbie woke up yesterday morning with a back problem so painful he could barely get out of bed. Fingers crossed he recovers quickly.

The first half was a curious affair. It threatened to be terrific, yet never quite was.

Leeds had the first big chance, when Leigh Bromby crossed from the left and Darren O’Dea had the simple task of heading in from close range.

O’Dea, on a season-long loan from Celtic, put it over. His evening didn’t get much better, but more on that later.

A lovely touch in the 10th minute. A big picture of Billy Ayre, Pool manager at the start of the 1990s and a hugely popular figure, appeared on the scoreboard. The home fans around the ground burst into a chorus of ‘Billy Ayre’s Tangerine Army’.

Maybe it inspired the players because, almost immediately, Matt Phillips darted in between two defenders on the edge of the box, cut into the area, then messed up the easy bit – slamming his shot into the side netting.

Same again on 13 minutes, this time Tom Ince striding goalwards and getting a clear sight of the target but firing wildly over.

Ince, as usual, seemed to have the beating of the defenders all night.

He had an even better opportunity on the half-hour, wriggling past his markers and bearing down on Lonergan, but unable to beat the keeper with his shot.

This was a recurring theme and perhaps a bit of karma.

Lonergan, a former Preston North End employee, got some almighty stick from the Blackpool contingent before kick off – always likely, therefore, that he was going to have a blinder.

Pool looked like they should have had a penalty 21 minutes in when Lomana LuaLua was poleaxed by a combination of Robert Snodgrass and Adam Clayton.

Ref Tony Bates waved play on, much to the anger of the Pool support, though not to the surprise of me.

I’ve seen Bates on many an occasion and he loves to let the game flow and the crunching tackles fly.

If nothing else, he is consistent, failing to give Leeds a penalty later in the half when Stephen Crainey and Ross McCormack clashed at the opposite end.

Lonergan made his best save of the half just before the break, showing the kind of suppleness an Olympic gymnast would be proud of to arch his back and throw himself in the way of a LuaLua free-kick bound for the top corner.

LuaLua and Lonergan continued their duel after the break when, taking Ince’s pass in his stride, the Seasiders frontman beat Paul Robinson and fired in a powerful shot. It was again destined for the top corner, again Lonergan saved the day.

The Leeds fans then came up with a nice chant, chiming ‘you’re just a small town in Fleetwood’. Makes a nice change from Preston.

Back on the pitch, Matt Gilks had to be alert to make a sprawling stop from McCormack’s long-range free kick, but in truth the contest seemed to be heading for a stalemate.

Then Holloway, like all good managers, made a substitution which changed the game.

Take a bow Dicko. Not seen too often since his loan move from Wigan, the pacy striker replaced LuaLua and immediately caused Leeds problems.

He almost scored on 78 minutes, cutting into the area and firing a thunderous shot which Lonergan again saved in spectacular style.

Lonergan was determined to spoil Pool’s night. Fortunately from a tangerine perspective, his one-man mission to be a party-pooper went up in smoke 60 seconds later.

Dicko was involved again, latching onto Alex Baptiste’s intervention in the middle of the pitch and helping the ball onto Ince, who in turn prodded it into Angel Martinez’s path.

The man who joined from Espanyol last summer, and has only broken into the side in the last few weeks, made no mistake from close range, sliding the ball home.

Joyous celebrations amongst players and fans and, with Pool playing out time well, it was enough for victory.

Leeds’ night went from bad to worse four minutes from the end when O’Dea got his marching orders

Already booked for clattering Gary Taylor-Fletcher earlier, the defender hauled down Dicko on the flank.

Definite yellow card, definite sending off. The lad can’t have any complaints.

As for Pool, huge three points, huge step towards the play-offs, huge … actually I’ve run out of huge things now.

Roll on Burnley. One more win and the Seasiders are there.

The Premier League dream remains alive and kicking.

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