Verdict: Bradford City boss David Hopkin optimistic despite agony of late blows at Blackpool

BROCHURES advertising the splendours of the Fylde coast are likely to be lost upon anyone of a claret-and-amber persuasion.

TOUGH TO TAKE: New Bradford City head coach David Hopkin applauds the travelling support.

After an excruciating afternoon seven days earlier, when developments at Fleetwood saw Michael Collins reach the end of the line at Bradford City, his successor David Hopkin, observing events at neighbouring Blackpool, endured an experience that made those famed rollercoaster rides at the town’s Pleasure Beach seem tame in comparison.

Sublime and the ridiculous is the best way to describe the Bantams’ history at the home of the Seasiders.

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From that late Spring play-off night in May 1996 when an infamous matchday programme detailing directions to Wembley for Blackpool supporters provided the motivational fuel for City to reach the hallowed turf for the first time in their history to April’s end-of-the-pier show when the visitors were humiliated in a 5-0 routing, Bloomfield Road has provided bucketloads of drama.

Bradford's Jack Payne takes on Blackpool's Jay Spearing and Curtis Tilt. Pictures: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Saturday’s events were right up there in a final half-hour that was as eventful as the previous 60 minutes were soporific.

Unfortunately the joke was on City by the final whistle with the incessant squawking of the seagulls that gather in their numbers at the stadium resembling mocking laughter following an incredible finale.

Holding a 2-0 lead with six minutes to go, City were seemingly good to go, with the yawning orange expanses in a sparsely-populated stadium getting even more cavernous as the Seasiders diehards decided enough was enough.

And then it happened.

ON THE UP: Bradford's Eoin Doyle celebrates opening the scoring. for Bradford City at Bloomfield Road. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

A successful penalty, a rebound from a second spot-kick and a 90th-minute gift and somehow the Bantams had managed to pluck defeat from the jaws of victory.

Blackpool may hold a special place in the hearts of many Scots, who still trail south in their thousands for breaks at the Lancashire holiday destination, but Greenock-born Hopkin will not be keen to come back in a hurry.

Neither will the 1,804-strong Bantams following who looked to make up over half of the crowd, despite the official attendance being given as 4,393.

In his post-match utterances Hopkin wisely elected not to castigate his new charges, who were prostrate on the floor at the final whistle with their brittle confidence levels having taken another painful blow. Sometimes you cannot really say anything with events speaking for themselves.

Trying to put on a brave face following those scarcely-believable late events, Hopkin – handed a warm ovation from the away support ahead of the game – said: “I asked for a performance from the players and to give me everything and they did. It was just three mistakes in 10 minutes which have undone us.

“We were bringing 19-year-old kids on and Blackpool were bringing on experienced players and they put everything in our box. Three bouncing balls from long balls have cost us.

“I was bitterly disappointed with the result, but the performance did give me encouragement.

“It’s a difficult one to take and the third goal deflated everyone. But we’ll bounce back. Going forward I’ve seen a lot to work with.

“The fans were absolutely magnificent with the backing that they gave the players when they came out and before it. They will be disappointed going back to Bradford thinking, ‘how did we lose that?’.

Overdue a spot of fortune, City were handed some when Curtis Tilt – more of him later – stuck out a leg to trip former Tangerines defender Kelvin Mellor just before the hour mark – and so the madness began.

Eoin Doyle confidently sent Mark Howard the wrong way and the celebrations had barely died down before the visitors were hailing a second goal.

It arrived when substitute David Ball, on for his debut, supplied Jack Payne down the right channel and he smartly drilled the ball low past Howard and a memorable afternoon, for the right reasons, looked to be on the cards.

For most of the game it was Blackpool, offering threats out wide in the shape of the impressive Marc Bola, Liam Feeney and Nathan Delfouneso, who had offered the much more convincing case.

But City’s double whammy looked to have taken care of that.

The hosts stuck with it with Anthony O’Connor clearing Jordan Thompson’s effort off the line before Richard O’Donnell – who had earlier made fine saves to deny Thompson and Harry Pritchard – untidily felled Armand Gnanduillet following a booming goalkick forward.

Jay Spearing’s penalty was crisp and decisive and the ex-Liverpool man was soon handed a second spot-kick as panic spread like wildfire in the City ranks.

This said, the award after Tilt went down following Ryan McGowan’s challenge looked soft, with Spearing managing to convert the rebound after O’Donnell guessed right and blocked his initial effort.

O’Donnell then spilled a routine cross and Tilt tucked away the loose ball. It never rains, but it pours.

Blackpool: Howard; Turton, Tilt, Daniels, Bola; Spearing, Thompson, Pritchard (Gnanduillet 63), Feeney (Nottingham 76), Cullen (McLaughlin 64), Delfouneso. Unused substitutes: Mafoumbi, Heneghan, O’Sullivan, Sinclair-Smith.

Bradford City: O’Donnell; McGowan, O’Connor, Knight-Percival; Mellor, Wright (O’Brien 66), Payne, Colville (Gibson 74), Wood; Doyle, Miller (Ball 62). Unused substitutes: Sykes-Kenworthy, Seedorf, Breunker, Isherwood.

Referee: S Hooper (Wiltshire).