MATCH VERDICT: Bolton Wanderers 1 Blackpool 0
BLACKPOOL have tended to bring the best out of Wanderers this season, just as local derbies seem to bring out the best in David Wheater.
Three meetings with our Lancastrian neighbours have seen a thrilling cup victory, a gritty away draw and this middle-of-the-road but no less important home victory that puts Barry Ferguson’s side right into the relegation mixer.
Three points were earned courtesy of a solitary David Wheater goal – his first since his double against Blackburn almost exactly two years ago in the emotional aftermath of Fabrice Muamba’s collapse at White Hart Lane.
It was never that thrilling here and you would suggest a better performance will be necessary to beat Wigan Athletic this weekend.
But Wanderers continue to hold the Indian sign over the Seasiders, who on the evidence of this outing, are in for a very rough ride between now and the end of the campaign.
Referee Mark Clattenburg, in stark contrast to Blackpool, tends to bring out the worst in the Whites. Or at least that’s the diplomatic way of looking at it.
The Tyne and Wear official had presided over 17 games involving the Whites in just over five years, which had yielded just a solitary win.
That too came in a derby, against Blackburn, won by a memorable Stuart Holden strike in December 2010.
Making just one change, Wheater in for the suspended Alex Baptiste, Freedman had called for a fast start, and he got one.
Mason and Jutkiewicz combined well early on but it fell to Wheater to break the deadlock with a towering header on 15 minutes.
Blackpool may well question whether David Perkins needed to concede a corner after being hassled by Medo but when Jay Spearing swung the set piece into the box, Wheater leapt well to power home his first strike since netting twice on that incredible afternoon two years ago.
The big defender thought twice about celebrating and instead chased the ball into the back of the net as if to try to keep Wanderers on their mettle.
But the bright start faded completely from there into half time, with Blackpool stringing together a series of chances to get back into the game.
After another Whites corner Neil Danns lost the ball in midfield and Andy Halliday sliced a shot just wide after being played in by Ricardo Fuller.
Moments later Fuller popped up again on the right to out-wit Wheater, who was indebted to the covering Zat Knight for making an excellent challenge as the Jamaican front man tried to play the ball across goal.
The visitors continued to grow in confidence with Elliott Grandin and Gary MacKenzie firing just wide of Adam Bogdan’s goal, which as the half-time break approached, was leading a charmed life.
It was never more so when Knight – Wanderers’ outstanding player to that point – inexplicably headed Grandin’s cross against his own post. The big defender then shanked a clearance on the edge of his own box to really ramp up the nerves that were spreading quickly around the terraces.
Concern was understandable. Wanderers had been wasteful in possession and, much like on Saturday, had failed to hold on to the ball in midfield or up front for any length of time.
Freedman’s call to sharpen up at the break did not show immediate signs of being heeded as Grandin had a shot deflected just over barely a minute after the restart.
Wanderers were still labouring when Chung-Yong Lee came on after an hour to replace Mark Davies, who moments earlier had taken a knock in a sprawling challenge.
The former Wolves man had improved on his completely anonymous display at Yeovil but again drifted out of the game whenever he moved into one of the wider positions in midfield.
Likewise, Danns and Medo were struggling to have any impact, and had Blackpool had a touch more class going forward it could have proved very costly.
The introduction of Jermaine Beckford for Mason from the bench did add a bit of spice to the proverbial Lancashire dish.
The striker raced on to a lovely through ball from Chung-Yong and stuck out a toe to divert a shot past the onrushing Matt Gilks, only for it to fall the wrong side of the post.
Beckford then hassled a corner out of Robinson, which eventually forced Gilks into his first save of the night – beating away a fierce shot from Danns.
And it was the pacy 30-year-old who again worked the Blackpool keeper with 15 minutes left on the clock, this time with his head as he got on the end of Medo’s cross from the right.
Beckford had got on the scoresheet in the FA Cup win back in January but try as he did, he just could not get it right.
Late on he went clean through on Gilks’ goal only to steer his shot woefully wide.