Blackpool hold on after Albion lose their heads but not heart

Blackpool 2 West Bromwich Albion 1
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The Independent Football

If this was a match between two of the Premier League's more attractive sides then heaven help those clubs deemed to be physical bruisers. The Sky cameras were in town to catch a match that was supposed to be an exhibition of riotous, attacking football between clubs that might be short on Premier League ambition but full of adventurous intent.

It one regard it certainly was riotous, but not quite in the way intended, as West Bromwich Albion were reduced to nine men within the first half in a contest where tackling came first and questions came later.

One decision looked harsh, one looked to be more than spot on in an opening that oozed excitement and danger. This was the Premier League right on the edge.

When Pablo Ibanez trundled into DJ Campbell after 10 minutes, a penalty seemed to be both the correct and only punishment required but the referee, Michael Oliver, thought differently, sending Ibanez off before Charlie Adam converted.

As it happened, Oliver's decision turned out to be a dress rehearsal for the eminently more justifiable dismissal of Gonzalo Jara just before the half-hour mark. Jara's pathetic lunge on Luke Varney left most of Bloomfield Road wondering exactly how Varney's legs were still in a position that nature intended as Jara took off from two metres away and launched a two footed tackle that deserves further sanction from the Football Association.

"I thought the first incident probably was a penalty but not a sending off but the second one the referee called it right," Di Matteo said. "[Jara's effort] was a tackle that let us down. Our player lost a bit of head and made a terrible tackle so he made a mistake that cost us. But the players have been magnificent. We were down to nine men and they fought hard and battled, but it's been a night to forget. We'll have to take it and start again."

When Jara went, the common opinion was that West Bromwich's chances of salvaging something went with him but to their credit they shrugged it off and finished the first half as the sparkier and more energetic side.

Graham Dorrans and Jerome Thomas refused to be daunted by the unbalanced numbers and pushed and probed Ian Evatt and Stephen Crainey for an opening and although a goal could not be mustered up, Di Matteo's men at least proved they would not capitulate.

After the interval Thomas and Dorrans remained the two biggest threats on the field but, predictably and eventually, Blackpool found a hole that West Bromwich just could not close.

David Vaughan comfortably found Eliot Grandin down the right wing and he comfortably picked out Varney who could not miss from four yards out.

Although the goal deflated the visiting fans, the same could not be said of West Bromwich's depleted workforce who maintained their tempo and when Yousouf Mulumbu curled home a fine individual effort from 12 yards out with just six minutes remaining, Blackpool realised they once again had a game on their hands.

They managed to frantically hold on despite DJ Campbell missing two glorious chances and West Bromwich must have gone home last night contemplating exactly what they could have achieved if they had remained fully staffed and more level-headed, something Ian Holloway agreed would have been better for the game as a whole.

"I'm delighted the monkey is off our back, we've won at home, and we've got 13 points," he said. "I'd like to say to the people who said we'd only get 10 this season – you're wrong again."

Blackpool (4-3-3): Gilks; Eardley (Phillips, 57), Cathcart (Carney, 57), Evatt, Crainey; Grandin, Adam, Vaughan; Taylor-Fletcher; Campbell, Varney (Keinan, 71). Substitutes not used Kingson (gk), Southern, Harewood, Sylvestre.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Carson; Jara, Pablo, Tamas, Shorey; Brunt, Mulumbu, Scharner, Thomas (Branes, 71); Fortuné (Dorrans, 35), Cox (Reid, 15). Substitutes not used Myhill (gk), Cech, Tchoyi, Bednar.

Referee M Oliver (Northumberland).