10 Years Ago - Mansfield T 0 Pool 1
Mansfield Town 0 Blackpool 1, Att 2,328
Tuesday October 17th, 2000
Phil Clarkson making the most of a rare start, and debutant Jon O'Connor keeping a close eye on Wayne Corden
ON a day when Jimmy Armfield enjoys his visit to the Palace, his modern-day counterparts deserve their moment of honour after putting some much-needed pride back into the Pool. Manager Steve McMahon was forced to change the guard, with no fewer than seven Seasiders off duty through injury and suspension. But today the salutes are all for the Seasiders for showing the sort of Dunkirk Spirit so sadly lacking at Plymouth to record a glorious against-all-odds triumph.
Heroes were everywhere you looked. And none more so then central defender Jon 0'-Connor. Signed on a non-contract basis only 24 hours earlier, he was solid as a rock in the middle of three centre-halves. Behind him was a man who shouldn't even have been playing! Tony Caig stepped in at the last minute because new keeper Jon Kennedy hadn't signed in time and went on to help keep the club's first clean sheet in the league for almost seven months. And on Blackpool-born Armfield's honourable day, it was fitting that three of those called to arms should also be Sandgrownuns.
John Hills, making his first appearance of the season after his horror hamstring injury at Southport, led the way with his sheer determination. PassionIt's at times like this, when the club is facing a backs to the wall crisis, that you're mighty glad you've got Hills in your camp. Here's a player who could never be accused of lacking passion or commitment to the Tangerine cause. His bite in the tackle, his energetic runs down the left wing and his never-say-die attitude are just what the Seasiders require to belatedly kick-start their season.
And it was fitting that his nightmare lay-off should end in winning fashion by helping the Seasiders to only their third win of the season. Hills' influence was evident right from the start. Time and again he did just what Black-pool have so clearly failed to do in previous games - getting in behind the opposition's defence. He overcooked one crossing opportunity, but on another occasion floated in the perfect ball which John Murphy headed at Bobby Mimms. But it wasn't just Hills giving Macca's men more movement.
Fellow Fylde Coast product Phil Clarkson's runs also gave Pool a new dimension. Clarkson showed on his late introduction at Home Park that he's been chomping at the bit, desperate to prove he should be in McMahon's favoured 11. And he displayed a similar appetite for the fight here with some excellent forward runs, which could have brought him him two goals just before half-time with more ruthless finishing. At the back the third homegrowner was Phil Thompson, making his first start under McMahon and his first league start for more than 12 months.
Brian Reid shackles former Pool loan star Chris Greenacre
And with Brian Reid looking composed -carrying the ball 30 yards on one occasion —alongside him, there was a solid look about the Seasiders back-line. At right wing-back Danny Coid, perhaps inspired by Hills on the opposite flank, was showing renewed confidence to take on his man and get round the back. There was one lovely bit of skill by Coid by the corner flag. From Richard Wellens' diagonal ball, he didn't just keep it in play but beat his Up front Murphy was winning everything in the air, just like he did in his super Worthington Cup show at Stockport.
And alongside him Paul Simpson, switched to a forward position because of Pool's dearth of strikers, showed the dazzling footwork which has made him such a star signing. If you think we've missed out the engine room, not in the least— holding it all together in the middle. Mike Milligan put in two tack Both times he stopped Mansfield in their. tracks. And by the end of the first half, with Clarkson and Hills chasing down everything, the Stags were on the run.
Lastly, but by no means least, the goal hero himself, Wellens, whose passing had helped open up the Stags in the first half and whose 75th minute stab into the net proved fatal. Simpson, as so often in the game, had provided the initial thrust, his edge of the area free-kick proving too hot for keeper Bobby Mimms to handle.
All-important And closing in for the kill, Wellens was the first to pounce, diving in to force the ball over the line. Afterwards he admitted it was his knee which had made the all-important contact .. but who cares when it's the winner. It was no less than Pool deserved. They were outstanding in the first half and came good again in the closing stages. But in truth, at the time the goal was scored it came against the run of play. The hunted turned hunter for the first 20 minutes of the second half as the Stags threatened to turn the Tangerines' first half dominance on its head. Darrell Clarke had Mansfield's best chances, the most clear-cut when he was clean eight yards. Two minutes later Michael Boulding, who had kicked off last night having scored four league goals in four games, also had a great chance only to send his free header from Wayne Corden's cross over the bar.
At this stage, with Pool looking as if they were going to run out of steam, Mansfield were threatening to overrun the Seasiders in midfield. But Blackpool weathered the storm, and thanks to Simpson's free-kick and Wellens' quick reactions gained the self-belief to hang on to a prize three points. At the other end, apart from Wellens' all-important strike, Blackpool's best chances had come in a sizzling first half display, with Clarkson having two of the best.
Tony Caig In action on his recall at Field Mill
After a super length of the pitch build-up four minutes before the break, Simpson crossed to the near-post where Clarkson headed just wide. And two minutes later, another neat move involving Hills and Murphy put Clarkson through in the middle but he tried to pass his shot into the net and Mimms saved. A Simpson 22-yarder was the other major tester for Mimms, who was grateful to parry and gather at the second attempt as Pool players closed in. But c aside, it was the pace and passion of Pool's perfomance which had already laid to rest the ghost of their dismal show at Plymouth.
Only four Pool players defender Reid, striker Murphy, makeshift forward runner Simpson and wing-back Coid - survived from Saturday. And as well as the change in personnel there was a change-in system, Pool reverting to the three centre halves formation which had served them so well at Kidderminster. It's Steve McMahon's favoured formation, and with O'Connor looking so at home in the heart of it we may be seeing much more of this lineup.
As for Pool's personnel for back to back home games against Macclesfield and Carlisle, when scorer Wellens says Pool need at least four points to keep the momentum going, some difficult decisions of the right kind lie ahead for McMahon.
Tony Caig In action on his recall at Field Mill
Injured skipper Ian Hughes is declaring himself fit for Saturday and midfielder Lee Collins is available after his one-match ban. Keeper Jon Kennedy will also have his belated clearance. But who's to say those who performed so manfully at Mansfield don't deserve to be given a chance to do it all again on home soil.
As Armfield picks up his OBE, the Seasiders are worthy of their ABT - "About Bloody Time!" Now they need to show the previously missing consistency, which would mean they could still be competing for play-off honours come May.
Richard Wellens' second-half strike secured Blackpool a valuable 1-0 win away at Mansfield. Steve McMahon's Seasiders brought an end to Mansfield's unbeaten home League record with no less than seven first-team regulars out and transfer-listed Tony Caig in goal. With chances at a premium, Darrell Clarke was twice denied by Caig in the first-half, with some stout Blackpool defending on show. Clarke was at the centre of the action once more on 63 minutes when he should have handed The Stags the lead, however he failed to find the target from ten yards after latching onto Chris Greenacre's intelligent flick. Mansfield poured forward only to be caught out on 77 minutes. Bobby Mimms could only parry veteran winger Paul Simpson's 25 yard free-kick, and midfielder Richard Wellens was on hand to prod the ball home.
Ex-Premiership star Paul Simpson showed all his old class to end Mansfield's unbeaten home run and clinch only Blackpool's third win of the season. Simpson was a constant threat and when Mansfield keeper Bobby Mimms spilled his swirling 76th minute free kick Richard Wellens bundled in the rebound fron two yards out. Irronically the goal came after Mansfield had squandered four chances in 5 minutes. Darrell Clarke twice went close from 15 yards, Micky Boulding saw his header saved under the bar and Mark Blake curled his drive narrowly over. But apart from that spell the Stags were always second best. Blackpool boss Steve McMahon had rung the changes in an attempt to halt his side's slide down the table, dropping three players and losing four others through injury and suspension. He also gave a debut to new signing Jon O'Connor, a former Sheffield United full-back. The switch paid dividends as the Seasiders dominated the opening half. Simpson linked well with striker's John Murphy and Phil Clarkson to pose numerous problems for the home defence. Murphy's looping header from a John Hills cross was saved by Mimms, who then sprawled full-length to hold Simpson's low drive at the second attempt. Four minutes before half-time Clarkson's deft header from Simpson's cross drifted wide and then his hopeful punt from 20 yards flew straight into the keepers arms. Mansfield's best early chances fell to Chris Greenacre, but first he lobbed over and then saw his header blocked on the line by Tony Caig. Clarke's shot on the turn in first half injury time threatened to give Mansfield an undeserved lead. And it was Clarke again who first threatened at the start of the second half with a stinging 25 yard half-volley. But, as in the first half, Blackpool looked more menacing and Simpson's clever lob from 25 yards out beat thekeeper but landed on the roof of the net. However, the Seasiders were not to be denied and after weathering Mansfield's storm Richard Wellens pinched the winner. In the final ten minutes the impressive Clarkson and Murphy twice went close to adding to the visitors lead. Clarkson's header from a corner flashed passed the woodwork and then Murphy's run from the half-way line was blocked by keeper Mimms outside his area
"I HAVE been waiting for seven months for a good 1-0. I have been saying in the press for a long time that I'd love to see us win 1-0 and through adversity these things happen. We've pulled the players together because we've had to. That's all we had, and If we had gone out with the wrong attitude and the wrong commitment we could have got turned over and things could have been difficult.
I am the first to give them stick, and others do as well and rightly so sometimes. But they deserve a lot of praise and a lot of credit for the way they performed last night. All credit to them -they were fantastic. I did not pull any punches after the performance at Plymouth. I said the players had to stand up and be counted and they've done that. If you dish out the criticism when things go wrong, you've got to praise them when they play like that. They deserve it and I'm pleased for them. Jon O'Connor is a quality player. The three at the back worked for us and Simpson as a type of makeshift striker worked for us as well.
John Hills, with his energy and his sheer, sheer determination, has done well. It's great for him to come back in with a winning start. And to keep a clean sheet -Tony Caig was excellent and he'd be the first to say the defenders in front of him defended properly. Now we've got to add the consistency. I know we can be a good side but we've got to be able to grind out results when we are bad and having an off-day. On days like that we need to say 'okay, so we're not having a good day, but we're going to stop the opposition having a good day as well and turn defeats into draws.' The spirit of the players has not waned.
They have taken what I said on Saturday on board, and they have rolled their sleeves up and gone out and done it, just like Lee Collins said they needed to in last night's paper. Mike Mulligan has set the standard with a couple of crunching tackles. Richard Wellens has done well. I was pleased with Phil Clarkson. Everyone did well. Murphy worked hard all night. He hadn't been up breastfeeding for the last couple of nights. He told me that before the game! I am delighted with the way we played. Now let's hope we can do something about our home hoodoo and get that consistency going.