RARELY can a standing ovation have been so richly deserved.

Town fans in every section roared their appreciation for a magnificent effort from one of the youngest sides ever fielded by the club.

Not only did they keep a clean sheet after Luke Beckett's 81-second opener, but the Kindergarten Corps - average age 21.27 - did it with only 10 men for the final 34 minutes following Chris Brandon's red card.

It was a terrific show, especially when there was tremendous pressure to deliver a victory and reverse a worrying slide towards the danger positions.

Blackpool - who were awful in the first half and ran offside far too many times in the second - now occupy that perilous fifth-bottom slot while Town are up to 14th and closer to the play-offs than the bottom four!

How fitting that delighted manager Peter Jackson - whose substitutions were well timed and perfectly thought out - should hug every player as they left the pitch at the end.

He knew they had performed above and beyond the call of duty and no-one more so than Adnan Ahmed, who was an inspiration in the midfield.

The 20-year-old was involved in most of Town's best moves thanks to an astonishing workrate, and it was only a pity his 23rd-minute free-kick was headed off the line by Peter Clarke, because he deserved a goal.

So, too, did Brandon for his non-stop running and foraging, while skipper Jon Worthington led by example and young Michael Collins showed some touches of class on his League debut.

Not that Town's gritty show was all about midfield; far from it.

John McCombe showed a very cool head alongside the excellent Nathan Clarke in central defence, while Tom Clarke and David Mirfin did all that was asked in the full-back positions.

Keeper Paul Rachubka responded to their efforts with his most positive display for weeks, and no-one will have been more pleased with the clean sheet than him.

Rachubka stood firm under some fierce second-half pressure, and his save to deny John Murphy at close quarters 16 minutes from time matched that to thwart Keith Southern with only 11 minutes on the clock.

Southern, in fact, was the man involved when Brandon got his marching orders.

There was no doubt about Brandon's scything foul from behind or that he was the last man, but referee Colin Webster and his assistant failed to spot Southern tugging back the Town man in his efforts to get to the ball.

Town should have had the free-kick but, instead, found themselves down to 10 men.

While the odds were stacked against them, Town had the chance to create some valuable breathing space on 62 minutes when John McAliskey threw himself into a challenge with two defenders and keeper Brad Jones and came out of it with a penalty.

With Pawel Abbott suspended, Tony Carss and Rob Edwards injured, Danny Schofield ill, Brandon in the dressing room and Lee Fowler dropped, it was left to Macca to try and provide a 2-0 cushion, but his spot kick was tamely struck to the keeper's left and he made a comfortable save.

It was one of several chances missed to sew up the points - Worthington shot wide when well placed - but Town held their nerve to score a much-needed and meritorious victory.

Man of the Match: Adnan Ahmed

SHONE in the centre of the park, especially in the second half before being moved wide right. Tackled well, prompted and unlucky to see a free kick headed off the line. Tremendous


Paul Rachubka Brilliant saves to deny Southern (first half) and Murphy (second) and no-one will be happier about the clean sheet. Rating: 8/10

Tom Clarke A home debut to be proud of and helped Town keep a solid back line. Got help from Ahmed later in the game. Rating: 7/10

John McCombe A first League start for the big stopper and he looked very assured, making two clearances from near the line Rating: 7/10

Chris Brandon Made Beckett's goal and unlucky not to score a couple himself. Top man until unluckily sent-off on 56 minutes Rating: 8/10

Nathan Clarke Simply superb at the back. Finished the game with a swollen right eye but he was extremely influential Rating: 8/10

David Mirfin Very strong at left-back and did good work despite coming under heavy pressure in the second half. Excellent Rating: 7/10

Adnan Ahmed Got a special hug from the manager as he left the pitch, and no wonder. He was the irresistible driving force Rating: 9/10

Jon Worthington Ploughed through stacks of tackles and his workrate was back to top level. Should have scored on the hour Rating: 7/10

Michael Collins Thrown in for the illness hit Danny Schofield and had a fine League debut. Several excellent passes in the first half Rating: 7/10

Luke Beckett Scored a scorching winner, his sixth in six matches. Worked very hard and got a standing ovation from the fans Rating: 8/10

John McAliskey Involved in the Beckett goal and grafted hard. Earned and missed a penalty which would have eased pressure Rating: 7/10

Blackpool: B Jones, Evans, Southern, Warhurst (Wellens 59), Grayson (Butler 86), Parker, Murphy, Coid, R Edwards, P Clarke, P Edwards (Bullock 59). Subs not used: L Jones, Shaw.