Blackpool 1 Fulham 2
Kiss-me-quick hats were in short supply last night as Fulham made hard work of squeezing into round 4 of the FA Cup.
Blackpool in mid-January, with the temperature dipping below freezing, is a grim place. The charm the seaside town might have in the summer months lost in the gale that blows in off the Irish Sea and hidden behind rows of boarded up shops and shutters hiding the tacky seaside goods we all love to purchase.
Bloomfield Road, on the other hand, has a new charm about it. Refurbished, it betrays the desolate surroundings outside and is off a size that could create a healthy atmosphere, although last night`s attendance kind of betrayed the magic the FA Cup holds.
Entering the arena, on the back of Jol`s mantra about wanting to progress in this competition, the pitch and the icy-weather didn`t make for an entertaining game. Sure there were chances, mostly coming our way, most notably when Gilkes did well to foil Rodallega in the first half but it wasn`t of the quality those watching had hoped.
But, as can often be the case in bland games that look to be drifting into an abyss, this game sprung to life with seven minutes left. A mistake from Mark Schwarzer enabled Nathan Delfouneso to stab the ball home to give Blackpool the lead and the chance of pulling off an unlikely cup shock.
With seven minutes left, Fulham were staring the barrel of a early FA Cup exit, for the second year running, suddenly the sands of time were falling through the hour glass with increasing speed but this game that had stuttered along for so long was to produce another moment many would never forget.
They say that last minute goals linger long in the mind and when Kieran Richardson unleashed a thirty-yard drive that beat Gilkes all ends-up with just thirty seconds left, the travelling support of some 300 forgot all about the cold and danced with delight.
With extra time beckoning, the prospect of a late getaway from the seaside town was soon forgotten. We`d come back from a goal behind and we wanted that place in the 4th round.
With the temperature dropping by the minute, it was to be Fulham that were to grab that elusive winner when a corner from Damien Duff was met by Hangeland and his header, taking a deflection, looped into the far corner. Cue a quick jig of delight, one last look around the fast emptying stadium and we were back in the car with a desolate looking Blackpool sea-front disappearing in the rear view mirror.
Next up, Manchester United or West Ham, away, in round four!