3rd April 1999
Warrington Town 3 - 2 Blackpool Mechanics
A bright sunny afternoon in Warrington saw Town, coming off the back of an 8-0 thrashing of Castleton Gabriels midweek, line up against second-bottom-of-the-league Blackpool Mechanics. On paper it looked like a formality.
Cantilever Park's average-sized crowd was stunned into near silence with a double whammy inside the first ten minutes or so. Nobody knew whether it was the delayed kick off due to corner flag deficiency, or perhaps Town had their minds on the upcoming local derby on Monday. Maybe it was the thought of the Division Two Trophy final on Thursday, or that Town were just complacent, but Mechanics were allowed the luxury of a 2-0 lead for a sizeable portion of the first half. Some lax defending and a scramble lead to the first goal on 7 minutes, and a simple set-piece play created the second goal, firmly headed into the bottom corner.
There were glints of opportunities for Warrington from the early stages, the Blackpool goalkeeper Martin Brandon left himself open to accusations of "dodginess" after misjudging a bounce early on. This could have been put down to the bobbly dry surface of the pitch; later on in the second half however, the pitch helped him out when he fumbled a catch. The ball hit a bobble on the goal line before rebounding into his grasp. "It wasn't that close was it?" he jokingly asked the Town fans behind him. We assured him that it was.
Town's strike force of Damien Whitehead and Neil Holden (replacing the injured Kevin Tyrell), together with the midfield mastery of Berry, Nestor and Anderton were grafting some openings and the crowd could sense that a goal would come before half time, as Holden placed a great header just wide after a free kick was swung in. Damo was celebrating the first goal after 18 minutes, tapping in a pull-back from Holden but the ref ruled it had gone out of play before Holden got to it. Damo was unlucky with an acrobatic volley and new boy David Tickle hit the post after a storming run.
The breakthrough finally came on the half-hour and it was no surprise to see the man Whitehead's name on the scoresheet. Heading the ball down into his path on the edge of the box, he stuck a toe on the bouncing ball and stabbed it over the advancing keeper.
Some confindent attacking play from Holden and Berry created further problems for the visitors' defence but no further goals, Holden coming closest with a vicious shot into the side-netting.
The start of the second half saw Town attacking immediately, and only seconds after the kick off, Terry Nestor broke clear of his marker and fired home a tremendous left-footer from the edge of the box. The goalie had no chance. Terry was on fire - just minutes later his header off a corner flew narrowly wide and a spectacular flying volley after another great cross also came close.
Damo was also threateneing and surely would have put Town ahead if he had made contact with a good ball from Paul Berry. A lack of communication meant that Neil Holden got in just before Damo to knock the ball into the arms of Brandon in the Blackpool goal. Damo's powerful volley came within inches of the goal after another great ball by Nestor just a few minutes later. Town were certainly piling on the pressure. However, Blackpool had the next good opportunity as a corner fell onto a well-directed free header, but Steriopolus in the Town goal got down well to smother the threat.
Town didn't let it get to them, and increased pressure saw some desperate defending from Mechanics - a defensive header back to the 'keeper could have gone anywhere, Brandon lucky that it came straight at him. But that was as much as they could take. Damo finally put Town ahead with his 44th goal of the season. He slid the ball low into the bottom left corner past Brandon after a great passing move on the hour. Ando also came close before being replaced by Joe Fenton (who nearly scored with his first touch) and the ball nearly bounced in off Tickle's knee when Terry Nestor crossed ten minutes later. Gavin McDonald came on to replace Holden and Town's passing around the Mechanics' box continued, but nothing more came from it before the final whistle blew.
Alan Hansen says: Och, if a didnae knae beeter a woulda said Toon give Blackpool a heedstart jes so as thee'd havetae play a good 'un. Great match, pleanty of guts there. Shoakin' defendin' for the too Mechanics goals, though. A simple clearance missed (if in doot, launch it) and a simple set play. Coomon boys, wha' dae ye think ye's doin'?
Warrington Guardian report:
TOWN'S SUICIDAL START
Warrington Town 3 Blackpool Mechanics 2
By PHIL HOWARTH
WARRINGTON kept their promotion push on course despite giving away two soft goals in the first 10 minutes against Blackpool on Saturday.
The game started like a replay of the club's previous meeting when the lowly Mechanics beat an overconfident Town side 2-1. With a 'derby' game against Tetley Walker and the Second Division Trophy final with Fleetwood Freeport coming up, Town's young team seemed to have other things on their minds in the opening stages.
It took seven minutes for Blackpool to find the back of the net when Gary Robinson headed in from a corner. Their second goal came two minutes later when appalling defending left Keith Bason unmarked in the box to head past the stranded Town goalkeeper Christian Steriopolus.
The home side finally stirred themselves and the only predictable aspect of this performance was the central role played by Damien Whitehead in bringing Town back into the game. The teenager grabbed a brace to take his tally to 44 as the team reached 100 goals for the season. Ian Callaghan and Terry Nestor went close before Whitehead got Town back in the game after 28 minutes. A Paul Berry cross found him in the box and a deft touch from Whitehead lobbed the ball over the 'keeper and into the net.
The pressure continued from Town but it took until a minute after the break until they drew level through a fine volley by Nestor from the edge of the box after good work from Neil Holden. Whitehead secured three vital points for Town after 63 minutes when Nestor put him through and the 19-year-old calmly steered the ball past the diving 'keeper.
Paul Anderton had a shot cleared off the line as Town totally dominated the closing stages.
Town: Steriopolus, Tague, Cartledge, Tickle, Blair, Berry, Nestor, Callaghan, Holden, Whitehead, Anderton. Subs: Fenton, McDonald, Tyrell.