Premier League - Blackpool down Bolton in thriller
As final-day opponents Manchester United sealed the title with a 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers, Ian Holloway’s side go into their last match against the champions on 39 points and almost certain to face a shadow team as Sir Alex Ferguson prepares for the Champions League final against Barcelona.
Adam struck to win the game on 63 minutes, while DJ Campbell scored twice, with Jason Puncheon also on target for Blackpool.
In a five-goal first half that could best be described as deranged, there was great attacking play, comedy defending, poor officiating and an incident that involved an elbow, an attempted strangulation and a mass brawl that somehow only yielded two yellow cards.
Bolton took the lead on six minutes after some terrible defending at a free-kick allowed Davies to thrash home an excellent finish.
Blackpool, who started the game attacking at will with Alex Baptiste missing a sitter, levelled soon afterwards when Campbell netted a super individual effort, heading the ball over Gretar Steinsson before lobbing the onrushing Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Campbell then hit the bar with a header from a corner, the ball bouncing a yard short of the line, but the Seasiders were ahead soon afterwards as the excellent Puncheon vindicated Holloway’s decision to start him, placing a fine left-foot finish from the edge of the box to cap off a lovely move involving Campbell and Gary Taylor-Fletcher.
It was not the first superb passage of passing from Blackpool, but their wonderful attacking intent was matched by some disastrous defending, an example of which allowed Bolton to equalise soon afterwards: Neil Eardley’s woeful clearance landed to Ricardo Gardner, who found Taylor well-placed to drill a slick finish in off the post.
In keeping with their topsy-turvy season, the Tangerines refused to learn from their mistakes as Evatt made exactly the same error as Eardley, Taylor this time playing Sturridge in, the ever-present defender’s blushes spared by a fine save from Matt Gilks.
It was end-to-end, nonstop, a thriller of the highest order as two of the division’s more entertaining teams threw caution to the wind.
For Blackpool, Taylor-Fletcher toe-poked straight at Jaaskelainen when he should have scored before heading too close to the Finn when found unmarked by a pinpoint Puncheon cross, whose wicked low delivery a few minutes later was hacked away from danger by Zat Knight.
For Bolton, Sturridge prodded wide from close range after Taylor’s wicked cross, while Davies almost caught Gilks off his line with an audacious swerving lob with the outside of his right boot that cannoned off the crossbar.
There was also a flashpoint as, after Taylor-Fletcher caught Knight with an elbow, the Bolton defender responded by grabbing his opponent by the throat, sparking a melee that only resulted in bookings for the pair.
The first 45 was not even up and there was still time for a fifth goal, a contentious one as Campbell appeared fractionally offside as he met Adam’s cross.
Blackpool will feel that balanced out a poor offside call earlier, when Puncheon raced clean through from an onside position but was pulled up anyway, but the lead was just about deserved going into the break.
There was no let-up in the second half as Bolton went for the hosts, Baptiste almost netting an own goal as he diverted Chung-Yong Lee’s cross away from Sturridge and Taylor curling a free-kick just over.
And on 53 minutes they deservedly drew level as Lee - as with Campbell appearing a touch offside - raced on to Davies’s pass before getting away from the out-of-position Gilks and landing a cross on to the head of the unmarked Sturridge.
Blackpool needed to bite back but they lacked inspiration in the immediate aftermath, Taylor almost catching Gilks out with a free-kick as Bolton dominated the ensuing exchanges.
But, with a trademark counter-attack, they regained the advantage - and in some style: Campbell and Taylor-Fletcher raced from halfway, with superb movement from the former allowing the latter to find the arriving Adam, who thrashed a fine finish into the roof of the net with his famed left boot.
Including injury time there was still a good half an hour to play, meaning Blackpool had to work against their nature: prevent their opponents scoring.
They managed though, effectively snuffing out the visitors’ attacking threat and going close to additional goals as Taylor-Fletcher and Campbell raced in down the left, both denied by defensive blocks when they opted to cross and not shoot.
And yet more surprisingly the last quarter hour passed without incident as Blackpool closed out the match and negotiated four minutes of stoppage time to hold on to their 10th win of the season - a number that, earlier in the campaign, Holloway predicted would be enough to stay up.
But a win for Wolverhampton Wanderers means that Blackpool are still in the bottom three, and will quite possibly need to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford to secure safety.