Fittingly for a game between these two old Lancashire stalwarts, it was a winger who produced the decisive moment. Fixtures between these clubs will always have to live up to the thrilling 1953 FA Cup final edged 4-3 by the men in tangerine thanks to the majesty of Sir Stanley Matthews. This will not go down in the annals but it was, nevertheless, a pulsating modern-day Premier League affair, which was shared thanks to substitute Martin Petrov's intervention, which began a late fightback.
Two goals behind with time running out, the Bulgarian wide man cushioned Mark Davies's lay-off with his right foot and caressed a volley in off the crossbar with his left to halve the deficit, 14 minutes from the end. It broke Blackpool's resistance and offered Bolton hope of preserving fifth place, an act completed a minute from the end when half-a-dozen linked passes across the turf concluded with Davies steering home.
Even then, both teams went for a winner in breathless fashion – perhaps no surprise given that they entered the contest as those to have had most goals in their games. It really was jumpers for goalposts stuff.
"We made substitutions and, not being smart after the event, I was prepared to lose three or four-nil in order to win it," confessed Bolton manager Owen Coyle. "We finished with six attack-minded players on the pitch and if truth be told we could possibly have snatched it. But I use the word snatched because Blackpool were magnificent."
Ian Holloway's newly promoted team are yet to lose their legs, on the eve of December, although being denied in such circumstances will be a jolt. Having come agonisingly close to sealing back-to-back Premier League wins, they face a week of uncertainty – how to prepare in the wintery conditions – ahead of hosting Manchester United. "The whole of the country is going to face a problem," said Holloway. "But if it snows I won't get out because my house is on a one-in-three hill."
Thankfully for the neutral, Blackpool thrive in uphill struggles and they doused Bolton's recent fire – nine goals had been rattled in by the hosts in the previous two matches at the Reebok – with two set-piece goals. First, Ian Evatt glanced in Elliot Grandin's 28th-minute corner as the visitors gained a foothold in the contest. Then, a dozen minutes into the second period, a carbon-copy delivery from the Frenchman Grandin was directed goalward by the in-form Luke Varney, and the ducking Gary Taylor-Fletcher proved enough of a distraction to allow the ball to fox the Bolton defenders.
Blackpool's gameplan for the road was working perfectly at that stage but when, twice in quick succession, DJ Campbell squandered one-on-ones it allowed the hosts to develop their scintillating ending.
THE FANS' PLAYER RATINGS AND VERDICT AARON HALEY, Observer reader We were very lucky. They wanted it more than us. We were second to everything and Blackpool were really up for it. We were missing Holden in midfield where we lost most of the battles, but that's no excuse because we're not a one-man team. We didn't get much change out of their centre-backs so Kevin Davies was nullified. Once we got the first goal, though it was an onslaught. Our second goal was fantastic; a really good team goal. It was like watching, well, Bolton. Petrov was the catalyst when he came on; he looked class. Cahill was as solid as ever but a few let themselves down.
The fan's player ratings Jaaskelainen 5; Ricketts 3, Cahill 7,Knight 6, Robinson 6; Lee 5 (Moreno 60 2), Muamba 6 (Klasnic 70 6), M Davies 6, Taylor 5 (Petrov 60 7); K Davies 6, Elmander 5
JOHN WOODMAN, AVFTT.co.uk For the first 10-15 minutes they were the stronger, but we started to win the midfield, got a goal which shocked them and should have been three or four up by the time they scored, after which they threw everything at us. You'd have taken a point beforehand but it feels like a two points dropped. Campbell missed a one-on-one with the keeper that would have won it but that's the way his luck's going. He's done everything right, but just can't seem to put them away. And that's the story of our season – not putting chances away. Our centre-backs kept Elmander and Kevin Davies quiet, which is no mean feat.
The fan's player ratings Kingson 7; Eardley 8, Cathcart 8, Evatt 8, Crainey 7; Vaughan 9, Adam 8, Grandin 7 (Carney 88 n/a); Taylor-Fletcher 7 (Ormerod 84 n/a), Campbell 8, Varney 8 (Southern 86 n/a)
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