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Blackpool 0
Wycombe Wanderers 1
Saturday 26th November 1994
Football League Division Two

Wanderers’ first ever visit to Bloomfield Road, to play Blackpool, saw victory for Martin O’Neill’s side thanks to later goal from short-term signing Paul Kerr. But O'Neill's side had to play out the last few minutes with ten men after Mickey Bell was red-carded for violent conduct.

4th placed Wycombe got the better of a Pool side positioned 6th in the table and managed by Sam Allardyce. 40 year-old Allardyce had taken his first permanent manager role by moving to Blackpool in the summer of 1994, having previously coached at Preston North End following the end of his playing career in 1992.

Allardyce had seen his team lose their previous three games (all away from home) in the lead up to the meeting with Wanderers but home form of six wins from eight games had kept them in touch with the top of the table. They had not lost at home since the opening day of the 1994/95 season and included in their line-up summer record £165,000 signing Tony Ellis who had played against Wanderers for Preston in the previous May’s Play-Off Final at Wembley.

Meanwhile, team news for Martin O’Neill’s side saw both Simon Garner and Cyrille Regis sidelined with injuries, meaning a rare League start for Tony Hemmings, while Paul Kerr was included on the bench.

Kerr signed had been signed on a month to month contract from Port Vale. The 30 year old arrived at Adams Park a few weeks before the game at Bloomfield Road and had featured for the Wanderers Reserve side. However, O’Neill had worries about his fitness and his appearance as a 63rd minute substitute appeared to be just a cameo until he was there to get a vital touch for the winner.

Reporting for the Bucks Free Press at Bloomfield Road, Claire Nash wrote:

'A goal by debutant Paul Kerr tipped the balance in Wycombe’s favour in a scintillating battle that could have gone either way up to the death at Bloomfield Road. Saturday’s breakneck contest against Blackpool remained at an unbelievable stalemate until Kerr, a former Port Vale midfielder/striker on a month- to-month contract, intervened to break the deadlock on 80 minutes.

Both sides had carved, and spurned, a hatful of chances. But it was Blackpool who were left licking their wounds, Blues inflicted the hosts’ fourth consecutive defeat, their first at home since the first game of the season.

The outcome was impossible to predict as the match entered the last 20 minutes, with the action flowing from end to end. Wycombe had to pull out all the stops, with skipper Terry Evans and Matt Crossley resolutely leading the way at the heart of Wycombe’s defence. Goalkeeper Paul Hyde, who suffered a leg injury late on, chipped in with vital saves to wipe out the horrors of some dodgy moments under duress early on. Steve Thompson, who was switched from midfield to play alongside Tony Hemmings up front, was also on hand to defy -the hosts’ bombardment.

Such a gritty all-round team performance in the face of a considerable second-half onslaught will have helped exorcise the demons of Blues’ 4-i defeat at Wrexham, their last away game. But a major downer came when winger Mickey Bell failed to keep a check on his demons within. The 22- year-old was sent off with one minute remaining after lashing out at Blackpool striker James Quinn. The contretemps flared after Quinn fouled Bell and put in his penny’s worth after the free kick was given against him. Bell retaliated physically, and unsavoury scenes followed as players from both sides rushed in to separate the two.

It was a disappointing footnote to a satisfying win which Blues achieved without their dynamic golden oldie striking duo Cyrille Regis and Simon Garner. Regis is still recovering from a thigh injury, and Garner was ruled out with a cracked pelvis suffered against Cardiff last week. Keith Ryan, who scored two goals in Regis’s absence last week, remained up front and came close to making it five goals in four games before his industry was required more urgently in his usual central midfield position. His strike partner Hemmings was a handful for Blackpool’s defence in a first half where Blues had a more composed edge. He figured largely in Wycombe’s bright opening spell which forced five corners in the first ten minutes. Evans had a shot from Dave Carroll’s fifth-minute corner blocked at the far post. Ryan had a shot on target after 18 minutes, but it was straight into Blackpool keeper Melvin Capleton’s hands. Bell sped off on a good run before cutting in and curling a shot which was not far off the top left hand corner after 30 minutes.

Capleton had looked uncomfortable at times on his debut in the Blackpool goal. But his uncertainty was echoed at the other end by Hyde. Quinn nearly took advantage when Hyde was bamboozled by a high ball which bounced awkwardly. The keeper wasn’t helped when Steve Brown’s backpass was pounced on by Quinn who had only the keeper to beat but fortunately hit the side netting on 37 minutes. Blackpool’s dangerman striker Tony Ellis, signed for a club record from Preston in the summer, broke away on a good run on 42 minutes, but Crossley intervened after Evans had committed himself.

Ryan blasted over after Thompson did well to hold up Carroll’s pass on 44 minutes. Blackpool responded well but wasted a golden chance moments before the break. Neil Mitchell’s pass beat the offside, finding Quinn unmarked on the right. Once again he had just Hyde to beat but he struck his effort straight at the keeper.

Blues were pinned in their own half after the break. Michael Mellon, a new signing from West Brom and a player Martin O’Neill was interested in snapping up last season, was the hosts’ driving force. He sparked a goalmouth scramble on 48-minutes when his run and cross from the right found Ellis in a good position. Hyde rushed out to thwart the striker and cleared, but only as far Mellon who played the ball back in to Quinn. The stringy striker’s first-shot was blocked by Thompson, but he had a second bite. Crossley threw his body into the fray to clear the danger at a timely moment. Blues hit back. Hemmings should have done better after Carroll’s cross found him in the six-yard box, but his 55th-minute shot was straight at the now composed Capleton. The keeper did well to tip over Simon Stapleton’s fierce long-range shot after the midfielder’s surge through the centre on 58 minutes. Hyde did equally as well in diving to his right to thwart Mellon’s meaty effort on 70 minutes.

The match’s tempo increased further. Steve Thompson cleared off the line from Dave Thompson on 77 minutes. Then the midfielder, now playing up front, beat the offside trap with a ball that found Hemmings’ replacement Kerr in the centre of the penalty area, but the latter pulled the ball wide. Two minutes later Kerr made amends with the goal. He had to persevere, though, after losing Thompson’s centre. But he snatched the ball back before sweeping it into the far corner. Blackpool never let up in their search for an equaliser, and Blues had to defend fiercely in the dying moments, Bell broke away after one of Blackpool’s last-gasp attacks. But his route ultimately led to the showers after Quinn stemmed his progress. The Blackpool player was booked, but the Blues winger had to go after retaliating to Quinn’s provocation.'

Wycombe: Hyde, Cousins, Brown, Crossley, Evans, Ryan, Carroll, Bell, Thompson,Hemmings (sub 63 P Kerr), Stapleton - subs not used: Reid, Moussaddik
Scorers: Kerr 80
Bookings: Red Card - Bell 89 (violent conduct)
Blackpool: Capleton, Murphy, Burke, Mellom, Thompson, Horner, Mitchell, Bradshaw (sub 11 Sunderland), Quinn, Ellis, Bonner – subs not used: Griffiths, Sealey
Scorers: none
Bookings: Quinn 89 (foul)
Referee: Attendance: 4,846

Speaking after the game Wycombe Manager Martin O'Neill was delighted to come away with all three points after putting out what he described as a makeshift team. “It was pretty hairy, scary to watch. But, to me, the way we coped epitomised the spirit in the side,” he said.

The meeting with Blackpool was preceded and followed by rumours that O’Neill had been targeted by Leicester City for the position as the new Manager at Filbert Street. An official approach was eventually confirmed and permission given for the Irishman to talk to the struggling Premiership side. With speculation building up, Wanderers would take on Shrewsbury Town in the Auto Windscreen Shield (Football League Trophy) the following Tuesday, while a Second Round FA Cup tie at former Isthmian League rivals Hitchin Town was on the agenda at the weekend.

Next game - Shrewsbury Town v Wycombe - Tuesday 29th November 1994
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