Blackpool's Championship memories: In-form Seasiders down Doncaster Rovers
With Blackpool back in the Championship, we’re recalling the Seasiders’ previous stint in the second tier from 2011-15.
This week, it’s a 3-1 win at Doncaster Rovers in February 2012 prior to an FA Cup tie at Everton as reported by STEVE CANAVAN...
Doncaster might not be one of the leading lights in the football world, but they do have a few boasts.
They set the record for most games won in a season (33) when they won the Third Division North title in the 40s.
Harry Gregg became the most expensive keeper in the world when he was sold by Rovers to Manchester United in 1957 for £23,500.
Billy Bremner, that snarling legend of the game, was Doncaster boss in 1991 – his last job in footie.
Best of all, in 1946, Doncaster were involved in the longest ever football match, a cup tie with Stockport which was 2-2 at the end of extra time.
No penalties in those days, so the ref decided to carry on until one team scored.
After 203 minutes, with darkness closing in, and with stories of supporters nipping home for tea then coming back to watch more, the match was called off.
Last night, Doncaster had been hoping to add another boast to their list – ending Blackpool’s unbeaten start to 2012.
No chance. The Seasiders are just too good at the moment.
Mind you, the result was perhaps never in doubt given Pool’s record in these parts this season.
Three times they’ve been to Yorkshire since August, and three times they’ve emerged triumphant.
Not bad going, perhaps pent-up frustration at having to endure what might possibly be the longest set of roadworks ever on a British motorway – about 25 miles’ worth en route to Leeds on the M62.
They’ve been there for months. I’m not even sure they’re doing any work.
Maybe the Highways Agency ordered 15,000 cones by mistake and needed somewhere to stick them.
That won’t be of concern to Ian Holloway or his players who, after this terrific fifth away victory of what is turning out to be a rather splendid campaign, continue to perch in the top six.
This was something of a routine victory, a phrase we are beginning to use with regularity of late.
The only worrying period came in the 20 minutes after half time, when Doncaster – fired up by the rather dubious award of a spot-kick just before the break – roared forward and, with El Hadji Diouf a particular nuisance, threatened to grab a leveller.
A third goal, however, converted from close range by Nouha Dicko, his first ever in English football, ended it as a contest.
Holloway again made another bundle of changes, bringing in six new faces from the weekend draw with Portsmouth.
The familiar figures of Ian Evatt, Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Ludovic Sylvestre and Neal Eardley were back in the starting line-up, with loan boys John Fleck and Dicko joining them.
Nights off for Craig Cathcart, Danny Wilson and Chris Basham – left out of the squad – and for hamstring victim Matty Phillips.
The strength of Pool’s squad is such that even that pretty decent quartet weren’t particularly missed.
Doncaster’s PA man did his best before kick-off to get his team in the mood, delivering a speech more Churchillian than Winston himself: “19 games to go, we can do this, we can stay up, with you, the supporters, every heartbeat, every kick, we can do it”.
If he’d been Prime Minister when the Second World War was on, it would have been done and dusted by 1941.
Alas, the Rovers players must have had cotton wool in their ears because they made a nervy start to say the least.
It was no surprise when Pool went ahead, 20 minutes in – their 50th goal of the season.
Eardley was the architect, delivering a peach of a pass over the Doncaster defence, into the path of Taylor-Fletcher.
The ever-reliable frontman is probably the one person – barring perhaps Kevin Phillips – you’d want in that position.
Charging through on goal, 10 yards out, he didn’t panic or try to blast it, rolling the ball calmly past keeper David Button.
Pool had their tails up now and increased their advantage on 33 minutes – Taylor-Fletcher on target again, but this was even better.
Receiving the ball in the wide right position, he displayed terrific skill to drift past four defenders, before almost casually sidefooting the ball into the bottom corner.
It was almost cruise control at this point, Doncaster looking like beaten men and Pool apparently on course to complete their first double of the season.
Then referee Gary Sutton intervened. He adjudged Evatt to have fouled Diouf inside the area just before the break.
It looked ultra-harsh, Evatt appearing to win the ball.
Despite the protests from everyone in a Blackpool shirt, a spot-kick it was and Diouf picked himself up to chip it cheekily past Gilks.
He and Gilks then had an entertaining dust-up as they fought over the ball
It was a dispute that carried on into the tunnel at half time. Not quite Manchester United-Liverpool standards, but lively nonetheless.
It fired up Doncaster more than it did the Seasiders, for the home side made a storming start to the second period and would have equalised had Gilks not produced what might well be his best save yet.
Diving low to his right, the keeper somehow got enough on Martin Woods’ shot to spoon it over the crossbar.
I’ve seen a replay of it and still don’t know how he did it.
Pool under the cosh then, but Holloway – once again – made a couple of clever substitutions, particularly the decision to bring on Angel Martinez for John Fleck.
Fleck had done nothing wrong, but Pool were under pressure and struggling to get hold of the ball.
Reverting to a flat three-man midfield, with Martinez alongside Sylvestre and Barry Ferguson, allowed them to do that, as well as making them look a damn sight more solid.
It worked. The Seasiders started to climb back on top, and killed the game 18 minutes from the end when Kevin Phillips played in Alex Baptiste on the right side of the area.
Baptiste, superb all night alongside Evatt in the centre of defence, showed he knows how to get forward too, blasting in a shot that was too hot for Button to handle. Dicko duly turned in the rebound.
Game over, as the Seasiders, composure regained, passed the ball around as if in an exhibition match.
Another terrific win, some more delightful goals, vital players rested.
If I was David Moyes, I probably wouldn’t sleep too easily this week. Roll on Saturday.
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