Fan’s protest fails to stop Wil­lock

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Billy McGuire

AJOURNEY that be­gan with a Black­pool pro­tester sit­ting on top of their bus ended with Arse­nal com­fort­ably book­ing a place in the fourth round.

Joe Wil­lock, one of two teenagers in the Gun­ners’ start­ing line-up, scored twice in the first half and Alex Iwobi added a third in the 82nd minute to se­cure a rou­tine vic­tory.

Most of the drama hap­pened be­fore the match at the Mar­riott Ho­tel, where Arse­nal’s play­ers found they were un­able to set off for Bloom­field Road.

A large num­ber of Black­pool fans have been try­ing to force Owen Oys­ton to sell the club for sev­eral years, to no avail, and their most high­pro­file match of the sea­son of­fered an op­por­tu­nity to draw wider at­ten­tion.

The pro­tester, who came down af­ter 40 min­utes, was ar­rested, but the in­ci­dent did not de­lay the match, with Arse­nal find­ing a re­place­ment ve­hi­cle be­fore be­ing es­corted into the ground via a back en­trance. Those sup­port­ers headed for home when the match be­gan as they con­tinue to boy­cott games at Bloom­field Road, and the trav­el­ling Arse­nal fans made up 5,218 of the 8,995 crowd.

Cur­rently mid-ta­ble in League One, the Seasiders are all-too used to play­ing in front of sparse crowds, but the away fans were soon in good voice as their front four of Ains­ley Mait­land-Niles, Iwobi, Ed­die Nke­tiah and Wil­lock set about the Black­pool de­fence.

Nke­tiah should have scored twice be­fore Wil­lock made the break­through in the 11th minute, but shot wide both times from close range.

Wil­lock’s goal was the re­sult of a fine free-kick from Aaron Ram­sey. The Welsh­man’s 20- yard ef­fort took a de­flec­tion from Jay Spear­ing, be­fore rat­tling against the an­gle of a post and cross­bar and Wil­lock had the task of nod­ding in.

It was a sec­ond se­nior goal for the teenager and 26 min­utes later he grabbed an­other, forc­ing the ball in af­ter Nke­tiah flicked on Carl Jenk­in­son’s cross, with Black­pool’s de­fence found lack­ing.

Hav­ing orig­i­nally made six changes to the team that de­feated Ful­ham in mid­week, Arse­nal boss Unai Emery was forced into a sev­enth in the warm-up, with Jenk­in­son re­plac­ing Lau­rent Ko­scielny.

The Arse­nal de­fence looked vul­ner­a­ble, with Petr Cech sav­ing from Ar­mand Gnan­duil­let in the open­ing 10 min­utes, and the French-born player was us­ing his size well to cause a num­ber of prob­lems.

But, even if the hosts had man­aged to find a goal, Arse­nal would surely have man­aged to break through again, as they nearly did just be­fore half-time, when Mark Howard de­nied Nke­tiah.

Black­pool im­proved af­ter the break and Michael Not­ting­ham prob­a­bly should have capped their good spell with a goal, only to fire wildly over.

The hosts were forced to make a change in goal when Howard picked up an in­jury, Christof­fer Mafoumbi even­tu­ally re­plac­ing him af­ter a lengthy de­lay.

Wil­lock was de­nied a hat­trick by the off­side flag but, mo­ments later, Iwobi tapped in af­ter Ram­sey’s shot was saved.

PIC­TURE: PA Im­ages

DANC­ING FEET: Black­pool’s Liam Feeney takes on Arse­nal’s Carl Jenk­in­son

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