The Imps slipped to a narrow defeat at the hands of Blackpool at Bloomfield Road this evening in what was a terrific game.
Two early goals from the hosts were to ultimately pave the way for victory in what were Simon Grayson's side's only shots on goal in an opening 45 minutes, Armand Gnanduillet and Jordan Thompson were the Blackpool scorers as they went into a two goal lead before Jack Payne pulled a goal back midway through a pulsating first half.
The visitors threw caution to the wind as they looked to level and went close through Walker and Payne in an enthralling second half and arguably deserved to level but it wasn't to be.
City went into the game unchanged as Michael Appleton took charge of his first game as The Imps’ First team manager, with over 1,200 City fans in the stadium for kick off not being put off by the horrendous windy and wet conditions on the way to Lancashire for Friday night football.
Blackpool: Alnwick, Heneghan, Spearing, Feeney, Scannell, Thompson, Tilt, Virtue, Turton, Gnanduillet, Husband
Substitutes: Mafoumbi, Bushiri, Edwards, Hardie, Guy, Macdonald, Shaw
The game got underway with the skies clear but there was a blustery wind whipping round the Bloomfield Road pitch, but the atmosphere was more than enough to keep both sets of supporters warm as they were in fine voice. City looked composed in possession, confident and patient as they built the first attack from the back, Jason Shackell and Joe Morrell involved, then Harry Anderson before Tyler Walker took over, lashing a shot across goal which went just wide with the aid of a deflection.
However, the home side struck against the run of play with their first attack, Armand Gnanduillet raced out wide on the right before pulling back the ball into the box, there was Sean SCANNELL around 15 yards out to hit the ball as sweetly as he could first time and it arrowed high into the corner of the net. Straight after the goal though the game returned to what had been predominantly all about The Imps and Jack Payne went close to levelling within 120 seconds, smashing a hard and low effort on target which Jak Alnwick had to be very alert to palm away.
After another spell of possession for the visiting side, Gnanduillet was the main thorn in the City side as he rose highest to meet a left wing corner for the hosts, his header went wide of the mark in what was a rare opportunity for Simon Grayson’s side. Jordan THOMPSON though was to double the home side’s lead, taking a touch to create room for the shot inside the box on the right around 12 yards out, before curling a precise left footed effort beyond the dive of Josh Vickers.
However, the two-goal lead was short-lived as City pulled one back within three minutes and it was no more than the visitors deserved. Bruno Andrade on the left, shimmied before crossing low into the danger area and PAYNE was there to sweep home with aplomb from almost on the penalty spot. The goal lifted the atmosphere yet again as the Lancashire air was echoing to the tune of the City supporters.
Blackpool went close to dampening the rising spirits of the visiting fans when Scannell squirmed free on the right to cross to the back post, James Husband who got forward from left back met the ball but couldn’t keep his effort underneath the crossbar. The game was quite open and you could almost sense there should be more goals to come, and City were closest to netting the fourth goal of a pulsating first half. Payne was first denied by Alnwick at the near post, only to then get a second bite of the cherry but unselfishly The Imps’ number ten looked up and squared to Andrade, his shot cannoned off a Pool defender but it went across the face of goal at pace and Walker stretched out a leg and got a touch on the ball only to see it go just wide.
Chances slowly started to dry up in comparison to what had been witnessed earlier in the half it didn’t though make the game any less of a spectacle. The Imps pressed for the leveller right up to the final whistle with Andrade close to finding Callum Connolly deep inside the Pool’s box but he was just held off by his marker and the ball was cleared.
Blackpool 2 The Imps 1
Blackpool went close early in the second half and it was Gnanduilet who fired a shot on goal, but the ball was met by a good block from Shackell throwing himself in front of the shot to divert it the wrong side of the post from a home perspective.
City were forced into a change within five minutes as Anderson couldn’t continue and Jorge Grant came on and almost had an impact, the sub played a dangerous set piece into the box and Shackell got there but his header went just wide.
Both sides were as committed as ever, and the fans too in the stands were keeping up their excellent support as the game continued to grip everyone in the ground. City were close to levelling when Grant found Andrade with a wonderful slide rule ball from right to left, The Imps’ winger danced left and right forcing Ollie Turton to backpedal before the City man poked the ball towards the back post but it was just cleared.
As the hosts began to have probably their best spell in the game, Grayson made a double switch to try and force a third goal and one of the players introduced to the pitch, Callum Guy, tried to set Liam Feeney on his way down the City left only to see Shackell read the flight of the pass perfectly to intercept.
Next up to deny Blackpool was Vickers, and in some fashion, a ball from Feeney to the back post was nodded down by Gnanduillet to Thompson 10 yards out who thumped on target but the City ‘keeper made a fantastic point-blank block and keep The Imps in the hunt. If the pattern of the game to this point was anything to go by a chance would be coming the way of the visitors and when it did it was almost to bear fruit. A wonderful touch and ball from Walker played in front of Andrade to set the number 11 on his way down the left and a low centre was met by Payne, rushing in at the near post but he just couldn’t turn it on target and it hit the side netting. City were once again puffing out their chests full of confidence and went close when Payne and Walker combined with the latter sidefooting just wide with Alnwick completely rooted to the spot.
Neal Eardley whipped in a dangerous cross which Ben Henegan did well to meet with Walker lurking, then following a foul on the City full back Grant had the chance to hoist another set piece into the mix. Gnanduillet was back helping his defence as The Imps threw men forward pinning back the Tangerines deep into their own half. Fireworks could be heard over in the nearby town as the game went into four minutes of stoppage time but there was no to spectacular finish to proceedings at Bloomfield Road for The Imps as Walker smashed just over the top in the last chance of the game at the end of stoppage time.
Blackpool 2 The Imps 1
23 Jak ALNWICK
6 Ben HENEGHAN
8 Jay SPEARING
11 Liam FEENEY
14 Sean SCANNELL
15 Jordan THOMPSON
16 Curtis TILT
17 Matty VIRTUE
20 Ollie TURTON
21 Armand GNANDUILLET
26 James HUSBAND
37 Christoffer MAFOUMBI
4 Rocky BUSHIRI
5 Ryan EDWARDS
9 Ryan HARDIE
25 Callum GUY (62’ for Virtue)
29 Calum MACDONALD (62’ for Scannell)
34 Nathan SHAW
GOAL: Scannell 11’, Thompson 21’
Booked: Heneghan 44’, Turton 65’, Tilt 79’, Spearing 81’, Macdonald 83’
1 Josh VICKERS
3 Harry TOFFOLO
5 Jason SHACKELL
6 Cian BOLGER
10 Jack PAYNE
11 Bruno ANDRADE
17 Tyler WALKER
19 Joe MORRELL
20 Callum CONNOLLY
23 Neal EARDLEY
26 Harry ANDERSON
21 Grant SMITH
4 Michael O’CONNOR
12 Ellis CHAPMAN
18 Jorge GRANT (49’ for Anderson)
22 Aaron LEWIS
24 Max MELBOURNE
29 John AKINDE
GOAL: Payne 24’
Booked: Connolly 88’
Referee: Ollie Yates
Assistants: Thomas Harty & Steven Rushton
4th Official: Matthew Parry
Attendance: 9,203, (1,296 Imps’ supporters)