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Match Report: Blackpool 1-2 West Ham

Tuesday 29th May 2012
Blackpool football club face another season in the Championship after failing to complete an instant return to the Premier League.

Prior to facing the Hammers, the Seasiders were in a buoyant and ebullient mood after managing to remain unbeaten in their last ten play off games across all three divisions.

After (only just) seeing off Birmingham in the semi finals, they travelled to the capital to face a West Ham side who finished 3rd and would have been salivating at the prospect of Premier League football next season. Blackpool were rank outsiders for this game, their entire squad costing similar to the £5million their opponents paid for midfield maestro Kevin Nolan.

32,000 Blackpool fans headed south for the occasion illuminating the venue in a sea of tangerine shirts, scarves and wigs. Optimistic, but not over confident knowing that their East London counterparts put eight goals past them during the course of the season.

News filtered through that the industrious and deceptively skillful Gary Taylor Fletcher wouldn't make the game after aggravating his ankle in training, a blow for 'Ollie' and his team selection, the veteran Kevin Phillips (who will finish his career by the seaside next season) was drafted in as a replacement.

The game began slowly with both teams tentative, wary of giving away an early goal and handing the initiative to the opposition. Blackpool struggled to serve up their usual feast of pass and move football which has delighted the purists over the past few campaigns. Mark Noble sitting deep in the West Ham midfield thwarting most forays forward. Matt Phillips did waste a couple of golden opportunities however, placing the ball into Greens hands when clean through and from the same position curling the ball wide of the post moments later.

The breakthrough came on 35 minutes, Matt Taylor being deployed at left back, collected a loose ball from Angel Martinez launched a ball forward with impressive accuracy landing at the feet of Carlton Cole who saw off Ian Evatts challenge to rifle past Matt Gilks to the delight of the fans adorned in claret.

Holloway had to pick up his team during the interval and we can only assume his words were inspirational as Blackpool came out second half a changed side, scoring an oddly similar goal to West Ham shortly after the restart. Tom Ince, the young winger attracting interest from Norwich amongst others coolly slotted past Rob Green to send the Tangerines into raptures.

The next twenty minutes Blackpool were on the front foot, centre back Alex Baptiste even made an uncharacteristic surge forward and almost scored a superb solo effort.  The £5,000 purchase from Mansfield took home player of the season two days later, but he would have loved a Wembley goal to cap off a superb season. Stephen Dobbie (Mr. Play off) continued where Matt Phillips left off misfiring a shot which trickled agonisingly wide whilst the Hammer defence was at sixes and sevens.

Blackpool were profligate and there was an overwhelming sense of nervousness amongst the tangerine faithful that their team would be made to pay...their fears weren't misplaced, with 3 minutes until the tie would run into extra time West Ham strolled into the Blackpool half, Baptiste landed on the floor, as his team mates looked towards Howard Webb, the ball pinged around the six yard box, Carlton Cole guided the ball away from a sprawling Matt Gilks and into the path of Ricardo Vaz Te who couldn't miss as he guided it into the roof of the net.

Blackpool hearts were broken, there was barely time to get forward and the stuffing had evidently been knocked out of the players. As the final whistle blew, West Ham celebrated, Blackpool were crestfallen. According to many neutrals the wrong team won, but that is football.

Blackpool's biggest struggle will be to keep hold of key players and their manager. They also need chairman Karl Oysten to follow his verbal backing with the financial support to add a few key players to the squad. If this happens, Blackpool will be a threat to the Championship in 2012/2013. Shame we have to wait till August.
Jack Critchley
Blackpool fan who enjoys a spot of the football league. I follow Championship through to League Two.

Total articles: 18

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