FOOTBALL’S a cruel old game.
The record books will record a comprehensive Blackpool victory on the Fylde coast’s FA Cup derby day, but sadly not the fact that Fleetwood gave their illustrious visitors a real run for their money for long periods.
Five goals is harsh on Town, though every one of the Seasiders’ haul was thoroughly deserved and indicative of the gulf in quality between the sides. But a 5-1 victory does little to suggest Fleetwood, gave as good as they got. It could all have been so different.
Had Peter Till’s header found the back of the net with the score at 1-0 .
Had Jamie Vardy managed to find a way past Mark Howard and double his tally.
Had the large gentleman in the Parkside Stand kept hold of the ball for the first 15 minutes of the second half – well, things might have been different.
With just one goal between the sides, Fleetwood looked to pose a real danger to the Seasiders.
Till, Andy Mangan and Jamie McGuire carved out good opportunities.
Even skipper Steve McNulty ventured out of his own half and, had he connected in any meaningful manner with Jamie Milligan’s corner, could have proved an unlikely Cod Army cup hero.
It would have been cruel had Fleetwood not scored and Town did grab a consolation through man of the moment Jamie Vardy, who showed great strength and skill cutting in from the left to fire low past Howard in the Blackpool goal.
Vardy looked every bit a man capable of troubling Championship defences week in, week out, and those rumours linking him with a big-money move are unlikely to go away after this performance.
His goal was superbly taken and gave Fleetwood, then three goals down, a glimmer of hope.
A second would have surely put Fleetwood on the front foot going into the closing stages – Howard’s double save minutes later proving a key moment.
But, with both full backs pushing forward Fleetwood were vulnerable on the break and any chances of another late rally were killed off when Matt Phillips struck twice in three four minutes to complete his hat-trick and add a certain imbalance to the score line.
To their credit Fleetwood never gave up trying to play attractive, passing football.
Nor were they in awe of their opponents. It would have been so easy for Micky Mellon to put the shutters up, look to stifle Blackpool and snatch something on the break.
Instead Fleetwood stuck to their guns, resulting in an entertaining, often end to end, game of football for the 5,092 fans crammed into Highbury.
The Cod Army are unlikely to come up against the quality of finishing seen from the Seasiders in the remainder of their Blue Square Bet Premier campaign.
Tom Ince, Matt Phillips and Lomanu Lua Lua exposed Fleetwood’s frailties, particularly at the back.
But, if Town show the same quality, creativity and never-say-die spirit which has typified their FA Cup adventure, there is no doubt they can achieve the ultimate goal of Football League status.