Blackpool suffered their fourth successive defeat to Burnley on Good Friday as tempers boiled on and off the pitch – and worse followed on Saturday evening when they were dumped into the relegation zone by Millwall, whose remarkable upturn in form continued with a highly impressive win at Middlesbrough.
Those 90 minutes at Bloomfield Road on Friday provided an ominous snapshot of the current poisonous atmosphere at Blackpool. With a largely toothless performance on the field ensuing, fans turned their anger on owner Karl Oyston, some hurling tennis balls onto the pitch that forced a halt in proceedings while players were forced to remove them. A somewhat bizarre scuffle between assistant manager Bob Malcolm and substitute Stephen Dobbie as Dobbie prepared to enter the field demonstrated that life amongst the management team isn’t exactly rosy either.
“The fans have got every right to demonstrate if they don’t like the chairman or the board. I would just rather they do it before the game or after the game,” said an understandably frustrated player-manager Barry Ferguson, although he also praised the faithful for their continued support for the team during the club’s awful run.
Admittedly at this stage of the season, when results have a tendency to take a twist for the bizarre, it’s difficult to make bold predictions, and on the plus side only one point separates Blackpool and the four clubs immediately above them. Nevertheless, on paper at least the Tangerines have a nightmare run-in, with a trip to play-off chasing Brighton on Easter Monday followed by another to Wigan next Saturday. Should results go to form, Ferguson’s side face a potential dogfight with Charlton on the final day of the season.
Below Blackpool, Barnsley missed the chance to draw level with their rivals after a defeat to Leeds, and Yeovil remain five points adrift of safety despite picking up a point at Blackburn.
At the top end of the table, other than Leicester’s clinching of promotion a fortnight ago other matters are yet to be fully resolved. Burnley’s win edged the Clarets another agonising step closer to the Premier League but celebrations were put on hold after Derby made sure the mathematics stayed intact by beating Doncaster later in the evening. Sean Dyche’s side will finally be able to uncork the champagne with a win over Wigan on Monday, although even a defeat wouldn’t matter should Derby fail to beat Barnsley.
Glancing upwards, Burnley’s win kept the club within mathematical reach of Leicester, although the Foxes, who beat QPR on Saturday, will secure the title if they beat Bolton on Tuesday.
With Derby having already secured a play-off spot and QPR and Wigan all but there, the race for the final spot took an ever more intriguing twist on Friday and Saturday thanks to a woeful showing all round, meaning the gap between sixth and 10th remains at just three points. Brighton’s point at Huddersfield was enough to sneak the Seagulls into the top six but Reading, Ipswich and Bournemouth were all defeated. Indeed, the biggest beneficiaries were Nottingham Forest, who ended their 12-match winless run with victory over Birmingham, enough to lift them back up to ninth.
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