Varney's Van Basten moment rocks Wolves

Blackpool 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1: Prince William treated to regal goal from striker as Blackpool eye Euro berth
Click to follow

As the Blackpool dream continues – and in the presence of newly engaged royalty with Prince William dropping by yesterday – the nightmare goes on for Mick McCarthy, whose attempts to use fear as a carrot for his failing team produced exactly what he didn't want.

Wolverhampton have lost nine of their last 11 Premier League matches, including the last four. By all accounts, they have often played well without luck, but that is scant consolation. After 14 games McCarthy's team are five points below the safety line. Blackpool, on the other hand, are four points short of the Champions' League places.

HRH was in town not, as the on-line wags suggested, as part of a fact-finding mission for his stag do. The president of the Football Association was apparently joining friends after the match at the Pleasure Beach theme park which was being kept open for his party's pleasure.

Blackpool clearly wanted to put on a show of their own and Luke Varney duly provided a party-piece goal after only three minutes. It was a blow from which Wolves would never recover, for all that they were the better attacking force.

McCarthy's mistake, perhaps, was to point out ahead of the game that his team had to start winning if they were not to spend the rest of the season in a relegation battle. Given the League table, that was not an unreasonable statement – but it appeared only to fill his players with fear, at least for the first half.

The conviction with which they beat Manchester City and tested Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal gave way to hesitancy, trepidation even, as if McCarthy's assessment was too stark for them.

By the time the manager had the chance to refocus a few minds in the dressing room at half-time they were already two goals down and, more worryingly, had not looked like replying even against the most porous defence in the Premier League.

In mitigation, it should be pointed out that the opening goal was something special, at least from Blackpool's point of view. Varney, on the left flank, cushioned Ian Evatt's long ball on his chest, let it bounce once, then delivered a perfect dipping volley over the stretching Marcus Hahnemann.

"I haven't seen a better goal in a long time," Ian Holloway, the Blackpool manager, said. "I saw Marco van Basten hit one like it once and when it dropped to Varney I thought 'Oh no, Reg... Oh, well done, Reg'."

Then, slipping naturally into humble-subject mode, Holloway added: "I never thought I'd be watched by royalty. I had the privilege of shaking William's hand and I told him what I thought about his mum and how she would be proud of him. It was quite a surreal day."

Blackpool had not beaten Wolves in a home league fixture since 1962 and this was their quickest goal of the season. Given the importance to their cause, too, of beating weaker opponents, it was an ideal opening.

Wolves looked nervous. McCarthy swapped his holding midfielder, Michael Mancienne, with his right- back, Kevin Foley, then took Foley off altogether. But Blackpool scored on half-time, the impressive Varney knocking down a David Vaughan corner before Marlon Harewood stabbed the ball over the line, despite Matt Jarvis's attempts to keep it out.

Wolves made more of their possession in the second half, although their finishing was below-par until a Nenad Milijas shot hit the post and a Kevin Doyle header four minutes from time gave them hope. But the home side, with the promoted goalkeeper Richard Kingson outstanding, defended resolutely.

Holloway continued the humble theme. "I thought Wolves were a bit hard done by," he said. McCarthy's summing-up was more brutal: "We weren't good enough in either box."

Attendance: 15,922

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Man of the match: Varney

Match rating: 7/10