Neil Critchley admitted the pressure was building on Blackpool and saluted match-winner Josh Bowler for easing it after the Seasiders stunned high-flyers Fulham 1-0 to pick up a first Sky Bet Championship win of the season at the sixth time of asking.
Two draws and three defeats from their opening five league games, combined with the previously unbeaten table-toppers coming to town, did not seem like a recipe for success for Blackpool.
But in front of a rocking Bloomfield Road crowd, Bowler collected Kevin Stewart’s 49th-minute pass, raced clear down the right and slotted home from an acute angle to give the Tangerines a lead they could grimly hold on to for the remaining 40 minutes.
And after inflicting a first defeat of the campaign on the Cottagers, the relief was flowing for boss Critchley.
He said: “It’s a really good feeling for everyone, but I’m particularly delighted with the performance.
“The longer you go without getting a victory the pressure does build, but I knew a win wasn’t far away.
“This group of players surprise me sometimes but I know exactly what they’re capable of. For us to get the win and a clean sheet against a really strong Fulham team has been an outstanding effort.
“We played some really good football over the course of the 90 minutes, it was a fantastic effort from the lads. Defensively we looked pretty solid too. Overall we were just outstanding.
“I don’t want to single out any player out there, but I was pleased for Josh Bowler because he’s worked so hard and he’s deserved that.”
A back-and-forth encounter saw both teams have chances to break the deadlock before Bowler’s strike and also add to the scoresheet afterwards.
But with a vociferous home crowd backing them, Blackpool did enough to claim the points.
“I’m really happy for the fans,” added Critchley. “Their support is immense and there’s no better atmosphere than here when they get going.
“It was unbelievable. They get behind the team for the full 90 minutes, incessantly. It’s relentless.”
Suffering a narrow defeat and slipping off the summit of the table with only six games played hardly classifies as a disaster for Fulham but there was frustration as Ivan Cavaleiro missed a couple of first-half chances, Dennis Odoi was denied by a brilliant Chris Maxwell save and Josh Onomah dragged a fizzing strike wide.
However, manager Marco Silva was in no mood to make excuses for his promotion-chasers.
He said: “Congratulations to Blackpool. They played their game well while we were just not good enough.
“The chances overall probably balanced out the game, but we didn’t create enough. We’ll go away and analyse why these things happened – we have to play the game faster and with much more intensity.
“We were full of confidence going into the game, but it’s just not happened for us. We’ve had the international break of course, but that’s not going to be an excuse.
“Some of the players weren’t coming back until earlier or in the middle of the week, but that is just part of the game we compete in. We had more than enough out on the field to go out and get the win.
“It was our fault in that moment with the goal. We just have to react better in those situations.
“We have to put this result right as soon as possible.”
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