Saturday 24 March 2018

Blackpool denied by Etuhu leveller

Blackpool 2 Fulham 2

Will Swanson

EARLY December 1967 was the last time these two clubs clashed at Bloomfield Road in the top flight of English football.

The Cottagers ran out 1-0 winners that day but in 2010 it was honours even, Dickson Etuhu hitting a late equaliser to destroy what was nearly a fairytale home start for Blackpool.

The home fans were delirious on an emotional day for the town. Tangerine dripped from every pore of a packed Bloomfield Road and if games could be won on pure heart, Fulham stood no chance. The joy which greeted the players only served to emphasise the measure of their and manager Ian Holloway's achievement.

Fulham arrived with a dismal away record, failing to win any of their last 19 Premier League away visits. It offered Holloway's men hope.

But the Londoners, with a new manager in Mark Hughes at the helm and buoyed by their comeback against Manchester United last week, were in no mood to be suffocated by the occasion.

Blackpool's class of 2010 would have to earn their points but, for all their laudable endeavour, they could not build on the pre-match headiness.

Midfielder Charlie Adam prompted and probed, but they rarely troubled the Fulham defence.

The visitors played the more controlled football without making headway until the 34th minute, when Moussa Dembele muscled Irishman Ian Evatt off the ball and crossed for Bobby Zamora to head home.

Fulham looked in control after the break but the game turned in the 69th minute. Stephen Kelly missed an excellent chance to put daylight between the teams, but he chose to square instead of shoot and the chance went begging.

Almost immediately, the ball was swept to Blackpool's Luke Varney on the right and his low shot was turned agonisingly into his own net by John Pantsil. Five minutes later and Bloomfield Road was in dreamland when Varney raced on to a through ball and calmly swept a low shot home.

The home side were now first to every ball, the crowd urging them forward.

But four minutes from time, Etuhu powered into the box and struck high into the net.

The Blackpool faithful would have taken that at the start as Holloway seeks to secure Premier League football next season. But yesterday was not about whether Blackpool could survive.

It was all about celebrating the club's rise from the depths of obscurity, cherishing the prospect of the heavyweight clashes yet to come. The rousing second-half display proved it will be a season to remember.


Sunday Independent

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