Football: Some joy for suffering Stoke

Blackpool 0 Stoke City 1
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The Independent Online
THEY MADE a major investment in the future at Blackpool last week; pounds 4.95 for 500 polystyrene cups. Unfortunately there was nothing in the petty cash to pay for them, so they had to go back to the Cash and Carry.

It's a pathetic little parable that sums up the state of the club at present - and one reason why they found common cause with their visitors from Stoke on Saturday.

Hard-core supporters of the two sides decided that they shared more than Stanley Matthews, and organised a joint protest against the different manifestations of mismanagement that they perceive in their boardrooms.

All that it managed to prove on this showing was that the two of them could not put together a decent demonstration any more than they could a promotion-winning Second Division side.

The protest was as lethargic and ineffective as most of the play. Some black balloons rolled pointlessly around the pitch and both sets of fans chanted for their respective boards to depart.

It was as half-hearted as the football; a far more poignant moment was when a brave, if not foolhardy, Bloomfield Road DJ made an inspired choice of pre-match anthem - "We've got to get out of this place."

That sums up why the natives are restless in Blackpool. They were promised a new stadium and a bright future by a sometime chairman, the now incarcerated Owen Oyston.

Seven years ago he described Bloomfield Road as "a time-bomb", yet they find themselves still marooned in a crumbling ground supporting a football team more likely to be sucked into relegation trouble than to make the Second Division play-offs.

Stoke have got the ground, but it has drained their resources to the point where the investment they needed to consolidate on their good start to the season has been snatched out of their reach.

Their manager, Brian Little, cried off the after-match questioning with a headache. The long-term cause of it is not difficult to diagnose; it must all look to him, as it looks to the supporters, like a scandalously missed opportunity. For all that, his side came away from Bloomfield Road with a result that puts them back within one place of the play-off positions, courtesy of Kyle Lightbourne's 33rd-minute goal.

It was not, though, a performance that had promotion written across it, even in the most discrete typeface. Stoke defended solidly enough, but hardly managed another serious assault on goal.

"But they've pinched one today," said Blackpool's manager, Nigel Worthington, who had seen his side dominate possession without ever suggesting that they could turn that into goals.

"They've just got to put a bit of a run together and they're right back in it," he said.

The best Blackpool can hope for is to stay afloat in mid-table. As they could tell their equally disillusioned counterparts from the Potteries, it is really a question of whether your cup is half empty or half full.

Goals: Lightbourne (33) 0-1

Blackpool (4-4-2): Banks; Bryan, Carlisle, Butler, Hills; Couzens (Aldridge, 82), Hughes, Clarkson, Barnes (Bent, 59); Nowland, Ormerod. Substitutes not used: Garvey.

Stoke (4-4-2): Ward; Petty (Small, 65), Sigurdsson, Mohan, Woods; Short, Oldfield, Forsyth, Keen; Lightbourne, Crowe (Wallace, 75). Substitutes not used: O'Connor.

Referee: M.Dean (Wirral).

Bookings: Blackpool: Clarkson, Hughes. Stoke: Mohan.

Man of the Match: Sigurdsson.

Attendance: 5,504.