Willock sees off toxic Tangerines
Unai Emery’s fi rst taste of the FA Cup began with a disgruntled Blackpool fan sitting on top of the Arsenal team coach but ended with a comfortable journey into round four. The teenage midfi elder Joe Willock scored twice as Arsenal made light of Blackpool protests off the pitch and their determination on it .
Willock, the 19- year- old England under- 20 international, gave Emery’s side a comfortable interval lead before Alex Iwobi provided the cushion of a third late on. Terry McPhillips’ team were by no means overawed but an upset never appeared likely.
The toxic ownership of Owen Oyston sullied what should have been a showpiece occasion for the League One club. Only two sides of Bloomfi eld Road were occupied by outnumbered home supporters, and swathes of empty orange seats coloured those as the Blackpool fans’ boycott of home games held fi rm.
The late arrival of the Arsenal team bus due to the fan protest had no impact on their performance, and neither did the late withdrawal from the starting lineup of Laurent Koscielny. Emery’s changed team were quickly in control and could have been two goals ahead before taking the lead in the 11th minute. The teenage striker Eddie Nketiah had two clear openings in the early exchanges but dragged a poor fi nish wide when sent clear by Ainsley Maitland- Niles and was also off- target when connecting at full stretch with a low cross from Carl Jenkinson, Koscielny’s replacement .
Despite their clear superiority Arsenal were vulnerable defensively throughout the fi rst half and Petr Cech saved well from Armand Gnanduillet when the powerful forward burst through a crowded penalty area.
Arsenal deserved ly took the lead after Nketiah, a quick and dangerous presence, was fouled yards outside the Blackpool area. Aaron Ramsey’s resulting free- kick struck the inside of Mark Howard’s post via a slight defl ection off the Blackpool wall and Willock was on hand to head the rebound in to the unguarded goal from close range. It was the midfi elder’s second goal in three senior appearances for Arsenal this season and he made it three from three before the interval.
Jenkinson broke down the right wing and exchanged passes with Alex Iwobi, who appeared to handle in the build up. Nketiah met his low cross at the near post but was unable to convert. His shot squirmed across goal for Willock who, arriving unmarked at the back post, managed to squeeze his fi nish past the despairing lunges of Michael Nottingham and Howard. It should have been three before halftime but the Blackpool goalkeeper produced a fi ne save to deny Nketiah from close range in first- half stoppage- time.
The young striker may have lacked a clinical touch but his tireless effort and intelligent movement earned him strong backing from the 5,218 travelling supporters. The Arsenal contingent had some anxious moments in the second half as Blackpool delivered a far more threatening display that should have reduced the defi cit.
McPhillips’ side squandered an excellent chance when their captain and former Liverpool midfi elder Jay Spearing released Marc Bola down the left. His low cross evaded everyone inside the penalty area but fell perfectly for his fellow full- back Nottingham who, unmarked and with time to pick his spot, side- footed high over Cech’s crossbar. Gnanduillet almost capitalised on a slip by the Arsenal keeper, Liam Feeney produced an air- shot when shaping to volley home and Paudie O’Connor headed well wide from a corner.
Blackpool were made to pay for their profligacy. Willock had been denied a memorable fi rst hat- trick by an offside decision against Sead Kolasinac when the defender teed him up for another close- range fi nish. Seconds later Iwobi sealed victory with a tap- in when substitute goalkeeper Christoffer Mafoumbi, on for the injured Howard, saved well from Ramsey’s angled drive only for the rebound to spill into the path of the winger.
Blackpool 4- 2- 3- 1
Arsenal 4- 3- 2- 1 Gary Rowett’s triple substitution paid off as Peter Crouch’s equaliser kept Stoke in the FA Cup. Crouch was introduced from the bench along with Tyrese Campbell and Mame Diouf as Stoke left it late to cancel out Ollie Norburn’s penalty that had given the League One side the lead on the stroke of half- time.
Crouch forced a replay 12 minutes from the end when Diouf helped on a left- wing cross from Campbell and the former England striker fi nished off at the far post.
Rowett said: “We knew we had some different options on the bench, a bit more physicality. I think Tyrese knows he’s quick and powerful, and he just uses that rather than tries to be clever.
“Crouchy and Mam are going to get in the box like they did for the goal. Mam gets across the front, Crouchy round the back in a position where he’s been so often and scored so many goals over his career .”
Shrewsbury edged ahead in fi rsthalf stoppage time as Norburn confi dently converted a penalty after Aaron Amadi- Holloway was brought down by Tom Edwards . AmadiHolloway then headed a chance over the bar early in the second half as Shrewsbury chased victory against their Championship opponents.
“It was a diffi cult game,” Rowett said. “I felt it was always going to be diffi cult because of the last three games for us and, of course, the negativity surrounding our recent run of form. ”
Shrewsbury must now prepare for a replay at the Bet365 Stadium . Their manager, Sam Ricketts, said: “It’s something to look forward to, something to relish and we’ll be ready when we get there. We’ll be ready to give it our all and see what happens.”
Encouraged by his side’s display, Ricketts added: “I’m really pleased with the standard of the performance. We’re setting standards that I want to maintain and we need to hit. We can’t hit them every game but I want to hit them more games than not and we did it again today.
“The last little piece missing off that was to get through to the next round and we were so close. I think we had the better chances. We had a really good chance to go 2- 0 up . Our goalkeeper’s had one save to make all game.”