Our first game against Blackpool was a Division Two fixture played December 19, 1896 – one hundred and twenty two years ago – we won the game 4-2 with a brace apiece for Gavin Crawford and Adam Haywood.
The following is a report of the 2nd replay in the League Cup competition from the 5th October 1976………
Memory Match: Arsenal 2-0 Blackpool, 1976 (From the Blackpool Gazette)
Blackpool’s love affair with the League Cup ended in the third round second replay at Arsenal. But the Seasiders pushed Arsenal all the way and had chances to equalise Frank Stapleton’s 48th-minute headed goal before David O’Leary hit the killer seven minutes from time, with Blackpool committed to attack.
Blackpool won warm praise from Arsenal observers for their tremendous organisation and it is true to say that, if they had attacked Arsenal in the first half as they did when they went a goal down, the fourth round home tie with Chelsea could have been theirs. They almost covered themselves in glory with a stirring second-half rally which highlighted their outstanding potential. And throughout the match they played their way out of defence and into attack with constructive, thoughtful soccer.
With Blackpool less committed to defence, Arsenal created more clear chances in the first half than they did a week ago in the original tie, with nothing like the sort of pressure. But after a couple of incredible misses by Malcolm Macdonald, Blackpool hit back with two chances for teenage debutant Brian Wilson. Although Wilson found it hard getting into a match of these proportions, he was not afraid to put his weight around and when Bob Hatton crossed after 14 minutes, Wilson – sliding in – sliced his shot wide. After 35 minutes Wilson almost scored with a crisp left footer after Walsh’s great run round the back and fine low centre into the box, but Jimmy Rimmer blocked the shot. Hatton was another shirt’s width away from nudging home Paul Hart’s head down under pressure from Pat Rice, but George Wood had to make a couple of fine saves, and the half was marked by the near misses of Macdonald and Stapleton.
Blackpool did not seem at all flustered and the goal was unfortunate. Wood decided not to come for a cross he might have got, but Stapleton soared above two defenders to head home.
Blackpool roared forward with Billy Ronson, and also had Hart who was brilliant in defence and started a stream of attacks by surging through to midfield with some deft touches. Ronson, Stapleton and George Armstrong vied for Man of the Match. Blackpool sliced the Arsenal defence apart several times without any sort of luck with the run of the ball.
Walsh, who had taken Arsenal wide but been starved of the ball many times, powered through the middle but smacked a shot wide. Ronson’s surge down a similar path was halted by Alan Ball. After early lapses, Alan Ainscow’s authority as an attacking midfielder grew and his influence on the game became increasingly prevalent.
Ainscow then sent a brilliant chip over the advancing Rimmer but the ball went just wide. A superb Blackpool move started by Walsh’s defence-splitting pass and Ainscow’s great touch on, almost gave Hatton a goal but he could not adjust his stride running onto it so the ball hit his right foot and went agonisingly an inch or two past the post with Rimmer going the other way.
The infusion of the dropped Alan Suddick for Wilson after 75 minutes saw some brilliant play by the midfield star and sparked the Blackpool team as a whole. He brought the save of the match from Rimmer with a magnificent volley which few players could even have controlled. His class in knocking the ball about and moving it around rejuvenated Blackpool from a useful outfit into a highly dangerous one. Steve Harrison, who had a good game at left-back, shot just over the bar and Suddick and Bill Bentley worked a fine move for Ainscow to shoot at Rimmer.
Arsenal, notably Macdonald, missed a few chances before O’Leary rifled home from Armstrong’s corner, allowing the home fans to finally relax. But Blackpool had the last word with efforts from Walsh and Hatton blocked by Rimmer and Rice. Blackpool will not complain about the result because of the clear chances Arsenal missed, but their second half rally could so easily have won them the game.
Blurry Pathe footage of the game on 20th March 1971 at Highbury. The playing surface doesn’t quite seem up to today’s standards!
So, during our history of playing Blackpool at home in the League or League Cup, we have lost just the two home games, both coming in 1958. These were the days of Stanley Matthews and Jimmy Armfield.
Hopefully our second string can beat the League One outfit this time around in the Caribou Cup.