Ian Holloway’s brave selection gambles came up trumps against the Saints and the less familiar faces impressed our fans’ panel.
SATURDAY marked 15 years to the day since the first Blackpool match I ever witnessed, and in the intervening years I can’t say I’ve seen too many performances against divisional leaders that rival our display against Southampton.
Knowing that earlier results elsewhere had been in our favour, we showed an incredible will to win throughout the game that our opponents struggled to equal. The stats might suggest that they had more possession than we did, but our tenacity in the middle of the park – not giving them a moment’s breath when they ventured anywhere near halfway – ensured most of their time on the ball was around their own penalty area.
Hearing the team selection pre-match raised a few eyebrows in the bar, but this is why we sit in the stand and not the dugout; Ollie deserves plenty of credit for his changes. Stephen Dobbie is a known quantity to us and, in truth, it felt like he had never been away. Angel not only matched the excellent Keith Southern for midfield grit, but also produced some great passes, and I’ll bet not a single neutral watching at home could tell that this was Bob Harris’ first appearance in the Championship.
The saving of one penalty and the scoring of another were the game changers for some, but by the time the crowd had lifted the roof off Bloomfield Road after Matt Gilks’ save, we had already created plenty of chances. Within 15 minutes of that, the ‘Dobbie effect’ hit them full-on, with Evatt’s towering third putting the seal on a great day for all concerned.
We’re now at the point where fans across the land are trying out the various permutations for that top six finish – let’s hope our performances against Watford and Barnsley lead to a cracking Easter for us all.
Man of match: Bob Harris
NOT for the first time this season, I’m struggling to find the words to describe my feelings about the weekend’s game, albeit for entirely different reasons this week.
Before the game, it’s probably safe to say I thought we would get thumped – and I wasn’t the only one. No Kevin Phillips, and a team selection that, I suspect, will have confused the players as much as the fans.
But credit where credit’s due, Holloway knew what he was doing. Steve Canavan tweeted on Friday that he’d been told that the team had been practising set-pieces so much that their heads hurt – and it was evident.
Quite how we turned over such an impressive side, even at home and with the players we have, amazed me. I said last week that, until recently, I’ve always thought Blackpool could beat anybody on their day. However, maybe I’ve been proven wrong. I still maintain that we can be beaten by anybody too, though!
I spoke to a Saints fan before the game, and they told me that every time his team plays on TV, they’re rubbish – and how right he was! I’m a huge admirer of Adam Lallana and co, so to see them made to play like Sunday league players was brilliant.
That was, put simply, the best performance we’ve put in all season.
Unfortunately, the chances of us going on a run, similar to the infamous one of 2010, are slim. I said a couple of weeks ago that I think our promotion chances are shot, and I stand by it, but I’m more than happy to see us playing for pride now.
Man of match: Stephen Dobbie
HOLLOWAY must have incredibly long sleeves to be holding that many cards, and on Saturday evening he seemingly pulled out another ace. That was not before he gave the Pool faithful their biggest shock of the season when details of the Seasiders line-up appeared. Let’s face it, everyone knew it was vitally important to try and secure a toe-hold back in the play-offs, never mind having to face an in-form Southampton at Bloomfield Road in front of the entire nation, so to approach the game with such an unfamiliar line-up was a huge gamble.
With up to seven changes to a side that had arguably played reasonably well the week before at Reading, let’s be honest, it was a lot for most to take in.
When Billy Sharp’s penalty was saved by Gilks, it also proved to be a significant turning point in the game, especially when Stephen Dobbie would mark his return with a well-despatched penalty himself. His fine opportunist second goal gave Pool a dream 2-0 platform at the break, and it was pleasing that both Bob Harris and Angel Martinez were impressing in positions that have previously been the sole reserve of two experienced pros in Stephen Crainey and Barry Ferguson.
Ian Evatt’s fine free header from a corner, of all things, finished off a lacklustre Saints, who clearly missed Rickie Lambert, and credit to Holloway and the players for what must have been a hard week in training, but frankly it was needed, and it showed, resulting in a deserved win against the league leaders.
Man of match: Gary Taylor-Fletcher
BEFORE Saturday’s kick off, I’m sure that most had seen the results coming in, and thought that it had gone as well as it could have. What was needed was a real performance from Blackpool to capitalise on others’ failings. On hearing the team, I had real misgivings, but it goes to show that the manager really does know best.
Defensively, that was probably as good as we’ve been all season, with the hard work put in on the training ground coming to fruition, with the whole unit working well, attacking the ball, and generally doing the right things. In particular, Harris came in for his first League start, and played like a veteran, with some great challenges, one in particular denying Billy Sharp a certain goal.
The defence were helped in no small part by a fine performance from the midfield, with Angel and Southern harrying and getting right into the opposition’s faces, giving them no time to settle and impose themselves on the game.
We knew what to expect from Dobbie, of course, but the cool way he dispatched his chances shows what a valuable addition he will be for the run-in.
It was like he’d never been away, despite playing with new wing partners, amongst others.
All in all, a great result that reignites the promotion hopes, so long as we can now capitalise over the Easter period.
The other contenders must have watched that performance and be hoping they don’t get us in the playoffs, as, in that mood, we are irresistible.
Man of match: Stephen Dobbie
THERE were more than a few eyebrows raised when news of Saturday’s 16 filtered through pre-match. With favourable results elsewhere, the absence of Ferguson, Crainey, Kevin Phillips et al initially seemed like a brave, and possibly mad, decision.
That, though, is why Ian Holloway is a football manager and we are not! Because it certainly paid off. What followed was a 90-minute exhibition of Blackpool at their very best. We know we’re capable of it, but it just hasn’t been seen enough all season. It was thoroughly enjoyable to watch, and, off-day for Southampton or not, it made a team top of the table seem distinctly ordinary. With not one bad performance in the side, choosing a man of the match is virtually impossible, but there were a few standouts.
Bob Harris and Angel Martinez are both lovely little players,who I’ve been impressed with every time I’ve seen them play, and both excelled again on Saturday. It’s great to have Stephen Dobbie back; he seems to be one of those players that just excels in Tangerine.
It was a brilliantly-taken second goal, and some of his link-up play with the excellent Taylor-Fletcher was brilliant. Between them they were running the game at times. Tom Ince, though, was the one who was causing all the problems.
He really has come on leaps and bounds in recent weeks, and has the potential to be a massive part of the club’s future.
All the play-off contenders are struggling for form at the moment, so all we can do is concentrate on ourselves. Watford won’t be easy, they are in good form, but let’s just hope for more of the same please.
Man of match: Tom Ince
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