Tuesday night saw Blackpool narrowly defeat our beloved Bolton Wanderers in the most painful of circumstances under the lights at Bloomfield Road.
After four straight defeats and 15 away losses from our last 16 outings, its undeniable that Wanderers weren’t exactly favourites going into the first of the two games against local rivals this week, particularly away from home, though Blackpool hadn’t been in particularly spectacular form themselves having recently sacked Simon Grayson who’d been replaced in the dugout by former Blackburn Rovers midfielder David Dunn, yet to pick up the baton with any real momentum.
The scene was set for was inevitably going to be an open game between two teams fighting to find some form before its too late, more so ourselves than the hosts but still...
Wanderers fans were immediately vacated of any real hope and expectation via the team news. Five at the back, providing an opportunity for Kean Bryan to return from injury, Ali Crawford was risked once more following his return to action at weekend and a lone Chris O’Grady up top were the most noticeable inclusions in the lineup. A surprisingly, extremely defensive set up for a game from which we had very little to lose to say at the least.
Former Whites Liam Feeney and Gary Madine were in from the off for the hosts whilst ex-skipper Jay Spearing started the evening on the bench for the Tangerines.
Kick off upon us and Wanderers were backed by near enough 1,500 faithful travelling supporters who drowned out the home fans from start to finish and were right behind the lads from the whistle. Despite their efforts to gee up the lads in the opening stages of the game, there was no doubt that the home side started the brighter.
Early on, Toto Nsiala noticeably had a battle on his hands to contain ex-Wanderer Gary Madine who was proving a handful in the danger areas and was persistent in his attempts to grab a goal against us, luckily, this wasn’t to be the case.
Another former Wanderer Liam Feeney was also looking tricky down the flanks against Joe Bunney who’s only just finding his feet in a White shirt and Jason Lowe, filling in as a makeshift right back for the out of form Josh Emmanuel, though the pair managed to keep him at bay for the time being.
It seemed like Bolton were immediately on the back foot and looked vulnerable to any real attacking threat made by Blackpool going forward, a less than encouraging start in which you felt they had a goal coming and soon enough, they had it.
A flukey Connor Ronan wonder strike from range beat Remi Matthews all ends up. The wind heavily caught hold of the strike, sending the Wanderers keeper one way and the ball the other at the last second, subsequently flying into the roof of the net.
A goal down yet Bolton refuse to let their heads drop and toiled away in search of an equaliser. Unfortunately though, they were unable to make any of this attacking intent count before the break despite having the ball in the net courtesy of Ethan Hamilton, much to the amusement of the away fans, but Dennis Politic was adjudged to have committed a foul in the buildup.
Blackpool were also showing no signs of slowing up and it was therefore a cautious approach for both sides from there on in. Half time came and it was just a one goal deficit at the break.
Ahead of the second half, Keith Hill introduced striker Daryl Murphy in place of the ineffective Chris O’Grady.
Once again, spurred on by the travelling fans, Wanderers looked up for it and this time, it seemed to have some impact as we made the second half our own with the hosts offering very little in the way of an attacking threat and appeared content with sitting on their lead which soon proved to be a mistake.
Like with Blackpool in the earlier stages of the game, you could feel a goal coming for the Whites. It very nearly did when a loose ball fell to an unmarked Daryl Murphy, just a few yards out from goal who looked certain to score but his almost cushioned header was agonisingly straight at the ‘Pool keeper who caught the attempt with ease.
For the first time in the game, the travelling fans felt as if they deserved to be level and the groans set in, almost convinced that our chance had gone begging and that was that.
However, the game was far from over. Joe Dodoo replaced full back Joe Bunney as Wanderers upped the anti and once again went in search of an equaliser.
The visitors were left frustrated soon after Dodoo’s introduction when there was an opportunity to break but brought to an abrupt halt thanks to some questionable refereeing as the game was stopped so that physios could attend to a seemingly injured Gary Madine yet not in a manner which rules the game is paused.
Madine had simply stayed down for long enough to provoke a reaction and sure enough it did. As you can imagine, the travelling fans nor the players were particularly impressed by how easily the ref had been influenced by Madine’s dramatics which, despite an initially mixed reaction upon his entry to the field, lead to resounding boo’s from the away end upon his exit.
Entering the dying stages of the game and with Blackpool prevailing, Keith Hill rolled the dice again, this time in the form of Jacob Mellis who replaced the tiring Ali Crawford.
Jay Spearing was introduced for the hosts in a similar period of the game who, unlike Madine, received a warm reception from the fans of his former employees.
With just a minute of regular time to go, despite Wanderers’ best efforts, the game looked to be beyond doubt. Until out of nothing, Joe Dodoo made good progress down the right before swinging in a cross which was met by the onrushing Kean Bryan at the back post who smashed home on the volley at the near post sending Bolton fans in to utter delirium.
The incredible scenes however, were short lived as almost straight from kick off, Blackpool won a corner which wasn’t dealt with at the back post by Ethan Hamilton, allowing the ball to drop nicely for Dewsbury-Hall who rifled the ball into the roof of the net from close range in stoppage time, exactly 100 seconds on from Bryan stabbing home at the other end.
From ecstasy to despair in a matter of two minutes, Wanderers were beaten and everyone knew it. Hope’s of breaking the away form curse with a point were dashed despite a last ditch kitchen sink-esque attempt from Wanderers which was easily cleared and the full time whistle followed.
Six straight away defeats for Wanderers, making it 16 losses out of our last 17 away trips. Inevitable relegation to the fourth tier of English football beckons and edges ever closer, it’s now mathematically, only a handful of games away if results don’t pick up. What a mess.
Is there any way back for Wanderers? It doesn’t look like it. Bolton host Accrington Stanley at the UNIBOL on Saturday afternoon, let’s hope weekend brings us something other than a loss. I’m not sure how many more I can take.