Josh Bowler struck for Blackpool (Martin Rickett/PA)
05 March 2022

Birthday boy Josh Bowler helps Blackpool end wait for away win with late strike

05 March 2022

In-form Josh Bowler marked his birthday with a late winner as Blackpool ended their long wait for an away victory with a 1-0 triumph at Stoke.

The midfielder, who turned 23 on Saturday, took his tally to six goals in eight Sky Bet Championship games when he slotted home four minutes from time as Blackpool claimed victory on their travels for the first time since October.

It also hands them a lifeline in their push for the play-offs, while Stoke were resigned to a sixth outing without a win.

The Tangerines started in the ascendancy with CJ Hamilton threatening to create an early opener. After miscommunication in the Potters’ defence, the lively winger pounced and strolled into the penalty area unchallenged, but his pass to the far post just eluded the arriving Gary Madine.

However, it was the home side who should have taken an undeserved lead inside 17 minutes, with Nick Powell somehow failing to convert Josh Tymon’s enticing cross from point-blank range.

The Potters, who made three changes from their midweek FA Cup defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace, struggled to find their feet in an erratic opening half an hour and were left indebted to goalkeeper Jack Bonham for keeping the scores level.

As the ball fell kindly for Madine, the forward skipped past the challenge of Taylor Harwood-Bellis and looked destined to score, but the onrushing Stoke stopper did well to close the angle and save from close range.

The England Under-21 international was required once more a matter of minutes later, this time thwarting Bowler after he had raced dangerously into the area.

Blackpool’s early warning signs were clearly noted as the home side gradually grew into the fixture, and Powell nearly redirected a Mario Vrancic free-kick goalwards.

After Bonham again denied Madine, it was Stoke who then went closest to breaking the deadlock shortly before the interval.

Josh Maja’s tame effort from outside the box nearly trickled past the despairing Daniel Grimshaw and into the net, but the keeper’s blushes were saved as the ball struck the foot of the post.

Buoyed on by a vocal and frustrated home support, the Potters returned from the restart with the wind in their sails.

However, Neil Critchley’s visitors, who were without a clean sheet in seven games, remained uncharacteristically resolute and restricted Stoke to efforts from range.

Vrancic stung the palms of Grimshaw with a powerful effort from 30 yards, while Maja’s speculative shot sailed harmlessly over the target in what summed up a second half low on quality.

Stoke substitute Tyrese Campbell had a golden opportunity to put his side ahead when the ball span fortuitously into his path, but the forward skewed his first-time strike wide.

Despite the Potters’ best efforts to find a winner, it was the visitors who found the breakthrough against the run of play.

The sprightly Bowler combined well with substitute Jerry Yates before converting to send the 2,184-strong away end into raptures.

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