Ian Holloway had one of those days yesterday when nothing goes as planned. The Blackpool manager began his trip to Fulham waiting around for the unveiling of a bizarre statue to Michael Jackson, but decided he couldn't hang about any longer and had marched off by the time Mohamed Al Fayed whipped the cover off his personal tribute to the King of Pop. Holloway then had to watch as a resurgent Bobby Zamora scored twice in his first League start since breaking his leg in September to leave the Tangerines facing a desperate fight to avoid relegation in the final seven games of the season.
Worst of all, for Holloway, was the sight of his team losing heart for the first time this season. The Blackpool manager said: "Their body language was horrible. I have not seen that this season. We've got to get out of that. I shall be cracking the whip when I get home. They have got to realise how well they have done and keep their energy levels up."
Blackpool's form could hardly be worse going into the defining moment of the season. They have one win from their last 11 games, and although they competed for long spells against Fulham, they defended poorly for all three goals, and posed little threat at the other end of the pitch.
The match was played against the strangest of backgrounds. Two hours before kick off Al Fayed appeared to unveil his statue to Jackson, and danced and mimed to Jacko songs as the tacky likeness was unveiled.
It stands 7ft 6in tall, is believed to have cost £100,000, stands on top of a huge granite plinth containing musical engravings, and stares out over the chilly waters of the Thames. Situated in a part of the ground only open on match days, the only creatures likely to pay homage to the pop legend will be pigeons and seagulls.
Reaction to the statue was almost entirely negative, and while some supporters just shrugged their shoulders in relief that no one will actually be able to see it – one supporter said: "He could put up a statue to President Gaddafi for all I care" – others were more opiniated.
Al Fayed's press spokesman Michael Cole had to justify the statue to one season-ticket holder who was uncomfortable that Fulham should be honouring someone who was an alleged paedophile.
Al Fayed was not prepared to listen to supporters' complaints. "If some stupid fans don't understand and appreciate such a gift they can go to hell," he said. "I don't want them to be fans. If they don't understand and don't believe in things I believe in they can go to Chelsea, they can go to anywhere else."
Thankfully the match did not disappoint after such a lively and surreal prelude. Blackpool's desire to keep playing football ensured an open, entertaining spectacle, but the return to fitness and form of Zamora made the difference. Moussa Dembélé went close early in the game, when Blackpool's goalkeeper Richard Kingson palmed his shot against a post.
Zamora however made certain, after receiving a gift from James Beattie on the halfway line. The England striker ran unchallenged into the Blackpool penalty area and delivered a fierce shot that thumped into the roof of the net.
Zamora added his second five minutes later when he rose above Craig Cathcart to head in from Damien Duff's free kick. Dickson Etuhu got on the scoresheet in the second half, finishing from close range after Clint Dempsey's header had hit the post, and Fulham were home and dry, up to 10th. Manager Mark Hughes said: "We've been talking about being a top ten side all season and have never wavered from that view."
Blackpool were much improved in the second half, in which Beattie clipped the outside of the post, but it was too little, too late.
The final word goes to Holloway – who is a huge Michael Jackson fan – and that statue. "I was expecting something in bronze, not covered in paint," he said.
"But I have to say what a fantastic musician. On the pitch, he was magnificent. I am not so sure about off the pitch."
Substitutes: Fulham A Johnson 6 (Zamora, 62), Sidwell (Murphy, 77), Davies (Duff, 81). Blackpool Puncheon 7 (Grandin, 68), Varney 6 (Ormerod, 68), Kornilenko 5 (Beattie, 68).
Booked: Fulham Murphy, Hangeland. Blackpool Adam.
Man of the match Zamora. Match rating 8/10.
Possession Fulham 46% Blackpool 54%.
Attempts on target Fulham 11 Blackpool 7.
Referee S Attwell (Warwickshire)