12 Jan Blackpool 4-3 AFC Bournemouth Att: 4583

Last updated : 17 January 2002 By Richie Barker
This saw Maher and Tindall at the centre of a back four which featured the novelty of a left footed left back. Birmingham is no Paul Morrell, but it certainly seems to help the balance of the side when he plays, and Purches is far more effective on his natural side.

Blackpool have two new stands in place (cue a chorus of "We’ve got three stands you ain’t" from the travelling Cherries), but unfortunately neither is yet in use, so it was the same old obstructed side-on view for the away fans, which is my excuse for any wild inaccuracies in this report (as opposed to the Kimberley Best consumed before the game).

Once again Sean opted to use Feeney in a solitary role up front, which placed the onus on the Irishman to run his socks off (which he did) and on the midfielders to get forward and support him as much as possible (which some of them did). The tactic paid off well enough in the eighth minute when Hayter drifted unmarked into the box and was picked out by Elliott, scoring with a well directed glancing header.

Even before we scored the new back four had not been looking entirely secure, and it could not be said to be against the run of play when Blackpool equalised in the 27th minute. Walker received the ball in the penalty area with his back to goal, and, showing the confidence that comes with having scored a hat-trick in your previous game, turned and directed his shot wide of Stewart and inside the far post.

Four minutes later Blackpool were in the lead. Carl Fletcher, possibly knocked off balance as he jumped, opted to use his hand rather than his head to clear a corner, and Hills drove the penalty wide of Stewart’s left hand.

Ten minutes later Feeney missed a great chance to equalise. Clean through with the keeper off his line and the ball sitting up invitingly for the lob he failed to get the necessary elevation and played the ball gently to the keeper at chest height. This signaled the start of one of our better spells in the game, and once under pressure the Blackpool defence looked far from convincing. A couple of scrambles resulted in shots being blocked and cleared, but in stoppage time at the end of the half one such clearance ran invitingly to Carl Fletcher just outside the penalty area, and he made up for his earlier aberration by taking a touch and smashing it into the top corner.

For a while in the second half we continued in this vein, with Feeney making a good chance for himself after cutting in from the left but dragging his shot wide. Unfortunately with twenty minutes to go it all went pear shaped very quickly. Having just survived one close shave thanks to an excellent block by Maher, a cross shot was parried by Stewart but struck the chest of Walker at the far post, and Hayter’s desperate attempt to hook the ball clear before it crossed the line only succeeded in putting it in off the post.

Eribenne was brought on for Birmingham with ten minutes remaining in an attempt to retrieve the situation, but this only left the defence more exposed, and in the 82nd minute Tindall fluffed a clearance which resuted in the ball reaching Fenton with time and space just inside the box, and he gave Stewart no chance with a delicate first-time chip. A minute later the ball was crashed against the Bournemouth bar as our undermanned defence struggled to cope with the now rampant Tangerines.

That should have been that, but it in typical Bournemouth style hopes were raised at the end by a late Carl Fletcher goal, after a neat piece of contol and sharp turn in the six yard box following a corner, and then dashed as Blackpool somehow managed to get bodies in the way during a frantic scramble after another corner in stoppage time. A point would have been more than we deserved. Fletcher, Feeney and Hayter all warrant praise for the sheer effort they put in, but too many of the other regulars were below par on a day when we needed them to step up to compensate for those who were missing.

Carl Fletcher, leading by example in his first game as captain.

AFCB: Stewart, Birmingham, Tindall, Maher, Stock, Melligan, Purches, Elliott, C Fletcher, Feeney, Hayter
Subs: Menetrier, Eribenne (on for Brmingham, 80), O'Connor, Smith, Broadhurst

Richie Barker, Leyton