Bloomfield Road, Blackpool
28th April 2007, 3pm
There was a sombre atmosphere prior to kickoff as more than 9000 fans gathered in the stands to pay their respects to Alan Ball who passed away on Wednesday.
PA Announcer Tony Parr read out a very well-written tribute to the former Blackpool player and manager which was followed up by a minute of applause as a wreath was laid behind the goal in front of the Kop and a giant Blackpool shirt was paraded around the pitch with 'Ball 8' written across it.
When everyone had paid their respects to the great man, the game kicked off with the Seasiders kicking towards the car park end - formerly known as the South Stand.
Blackpool got off to a strong start and put the League One leaders under pressure from the off and after just 8 minutes, that pressure paid off. Claus Jorgensen brought the ball down on the edge of the area, played a pass to Wes Hoolahan who, somehow, got the ball from under his feet and played a delightful ball back into the path of Jorgensen who blasted the ball past Joe Murphy into the far corner.
On 26 minutes, Keigan Parker did what he's been trying to do all season when he beat the offside trap - although those fans in the 53 Club have since stated that he was a good couple of yards offside. He sprinted clear of the defence, rounded the 'Keeper and, with two covering defenders inside the 6 yard box, he lofted the ball home into the far corner to send the Blackpool fans onto cloud nine as the side were once again on course to beat one of the top teams in the division.
Fans hopes may have dwindled somewhat on 38 minutes when Chris Brandon kicked out at Jermain Beckford when running off the ball - prompting a very theatrical response from Beckford which didn't help Brandon's cause. However the referee was in no doubt about what punishment to hand out as he showed Brandon a straight red to send him on his way - which means he will now miss the playoff semi finals and final (should Blackpool get there or even need them!).
Following the sending off, Scunthorpe enjoyed a spell of prolonged pressure as Blackpool tried to adjust their shape to cope with the 11 men of United. Only two minutes after the sending-off, chief antagoniser Billy Sharp - who had been squaring up to Ian Evatt all afternoon - popped up with a well taken volley from a left-wing cross. Even though he had already been booked for persistently arguing with officials, he proceeded to run towards the goal in front of the Kop, pick up the ball and put his finger to his lips to shut the crowd up - an act that, had the referee seen it, could have and probably should have resulted in a second yellow and a sending off.
The half time whistle blew and it was greeted with a chorus of boos for the referee and his assistant from the West Stand - who disallowed a goal in the first half for offside when the ball reached Claus Jorgensen off a deflection from a Scunthorpe defender.
Some of the boos were of course reserved for Billy Sharp who, on the whistle, walked over to the referee and started an in-depth conversation with the official and on his way back to the tunnel decided to renew his argument with Ian Evatt as the two squared up once again and Sharp had to be restrained by a member of the Scunthorpe backroom staff.
The second half started with Blackpool reverting to a 4-4-1 formation with Keigan Parker playing as the lone striker and Andy Morrell occupying the right wing position.
Although Blackpool were the side that kicked off, Scunthorpe had the first chance of the half with Beckford flashing a shot just wide of the far post from the left hand side of the area.
Shaun Barker saw a header flash agonisingly wide of the back post from a corner but that didn't matter as he made up for that miss on 56 minutes when his towering header at the back post crashed into the back of the net and sent the Seasiders fans into hysterics as their side once again were beating the Champions 3-1.
From thereon in, Scunny never really threatened the Seasiders goal and so the game finished 3-1 to the 'Pool as they continued their fantastic run of form to keep them in the running for a slim chance of automatic promotion.
The players and staff came out after the game and soaked up the applause - particularly Ian Evatt and of course Simon Grayson - as they signed off officially for the season at home. The playoffs will be the next time Blackpool play at home, that's if they need them of course!
All in all it was a fantastic game to end the season - despite the hostility towards the officials and Billy Sharp who, I'm sure, would love to come back to Bloomfield Road next season in the Championship.
A fitting send-off for Alan Ball who, along with other fallen Seasiders such as Syd Bevers, Jock Dodds and Gunner Lee Thornton amongst others, would have been looking down with massive smiles on their faces as Blackpool continue their quest to reach the upper echelons of the Football Leagues for the first time in 30 years.
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