There’s no substitute for class. Ian Holloway’s treble substitution did the trick against Crystal Palace on Saturday, though the match left our fans’ panel with mixed feelings, and raised no shortage of debating points.
QUITE how we came away with three points on Saturday I am not sure – not that I am complaining.
Palace were frustrating. It would have been hard to accept a defeat to a team void of attacking ideas, who seemed satisfied to sit back on their 1-0 lead, courtesy of an early penalty. But they must have forgotten who they were playing. Teams may never rest on even a two-goal lead against Blackpool (as evidenced the previous week at Ipswich), and yet again our super subs combined to turn a defeat into a win within the final five minutes.
It is heartening to know we have a benchful of hungry players champing at the bit to get their opportunity to ravage the opposition. Take a bow once again Grandin, Bash and Super Kev. But of course we should not be leaving it so late to take control of matches. The tried and tested method of “destroy from the kick-off” – as expertly demonstrated at Leeds this season – is far more pleasing to witness.
Yes, it is great that we won at the weekend – and picking up points from below par performances is perhaps a sign that this is our season. But, really, Blackpool must do better than this on a weekly basis. Not unduly concerned, but some improvement required. We must learn how to break down teams who stifle our play. Super Kev could be key here.
Man of match: Alex Baptiste
IT felt like it was going to be one of those games on Saturday! It’s not often you get matches at this level against a team where you’ve never heard of a good chunk of their starting 11, but that’s what we faced, and for long spells they were resolute in defence and midfield without creating much up front.
The fact that Palace were fielding what was effectively a reserve and youth side, heightened the expectation amongst the fans, and the natives were getting restless early on when things weren’t quite going our way. I still can’t really tell, having seen the replay a few times, whether the penalty was right to be given or not. I don’t really know why anybody would deliberately handle the ball with absolutely no pressure on them, but the ref saw fit to award it, and we found ourselves one down.
For a long time after that, we dominated both possession and chances, without actually giving their keeper too much to think about. Ollie had seen enough on the hour, and made one of his regular triple substitutions, which worked a treat, as we began to pen them into their own half, and the opportunities kept coming. In the end, a fantastically-taken goal by Elliot Grandin and a scrappy one from Basham, after a decent effort from Kevin Phillips hit the bar, got us the points, and everyone could leave Bloomfield Road much happier than they were feeling just 10 minutes previously. It’s often said that the good teams pull results like this out of the bag, and we have proved on plenty of occasions this season that we are a good team. We can forget the league for a short while this Saturday, but I hope we have a full team out against Wednesday and aim for round five.
Man of match: Barry Ferguson
HOLLOWAY rang the changes with three substitutions, which earned a deserved three points, and extended the Seasiders’ unbeaten home record to six games, following a defeat by Forest back in October.
New loan signing John Fleck showed great promise, but Pool contrived to go in at the break a goal down after a handball by Ferguson, Garvin’s subsequent penalty kick just beating Gilks. Although Pool came straight out of the blocks at the start of the second, Holloway introduced Kevin Phillips, Grandin and Basham after 60 minutes. After some positional changes, the back four started to noticeably get on top, with Evatt especially surging forward at every opportunity with new confidence.
GTF, who had covered every blade of grass on the pitch, was now able to run directly at Palace, effectively from deeper positions. It was from his never-say-die determination to retain possession which eventually fed Grandin the equaliser with an unstoppable near-post shot. Once again the spirit in the side was there for all to see, and with the Bloomfield crowd now finding its voice, the game was set-up for a grandstand finish, which came a minute from time after a Matt Phillips cross was superbly met by Kevin Phillips, whose goalbound header rebounded into the path of Basham for the winner. Ferguson impressed on his return, while Ince and Matt Phillips ran their legs off for the cause. Confident Pool will now be hoping to despatch Wednesday at the first time of asking next weekend to be in the hat for the FA Cup fifth round draw.
Man of match: Gary Taylor-Fletcher
FANATIC: a person with extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal. So, to those people in the South Stand shouting abuse at a player who was not only an integral part of our promotion to the Premier League, but had a big hand in both goals on Saturday; they shouldn’t call themselves a fan, they should look up the definition of half-wit instead.
Let’s get this right; Blackpool didn’t play very well on Saturday for large parts of the game. But it’s fairweather fans that only sing when they’re winning. How many times has a team come back from the brink of defeat only to credit the fans for their continued support? Well that wasn’t the case on Saturday, and I hope that, if you’re reading this and abused your own players, you’re ashamed of yourselves. It’s not doing us any good; it’s destroying confidence and obliterating morale. If there’s a rollicking to be handed out, leave it to Holloway to do it behind closed doors, and concentrate your own efforts on getting behind the lads.
Speaking of Holloway, it was again his substitutions that got us something out of this game, with all three coming on at once, and all three having a major part to play in both our goals. But the question must be asked: why aren’t we lining up with a team capable of winning, instead of relying on changes? The second goal was lucky, and our luck will run out, so let’s hope that next time we play a lot better – with a supportive crowd behind us.
Man of match: Gary Taylor-Fletcher
A BIT of a frustrating afternoon, that ultimately ended with the most important thing – three points. A second string Palace side were resolute, and at times we made very hard work of breaking them down. We really struggled to get going at times, with little tempo to our play, with more than one player not quite at their best.
We do seem to struggle with a middle ground at times – when we’re good we’re very good, but when we’re bad we can be really quite bad. A little bit more consistency in performance would go a long way.
Like I said, though, the three points was what matters. And credit again for the substitutions that made it happen. Chris Basham can probably have considered himself unlucky to be dropped after some excellent performances in recent weeks, and he made a difference when he came on. He certainly gives us more energy in the middle of the park – something perhaps we’ve not had without Keith Southern.
Man of the match is a difficult one. Gary Taylor-Fletcher’s work rate was second to none, and he deserves credit for his role in both goals, but he’s being shunted round the pitch constantly. I half expect to see him popping up in goal next week! Defensively, we were much better, with good performances across the back four, and Barry Ferguson’s influence was notable on his return, too.
Back to matters of the cup. We have a great chance in making round five for the first time in a long time. In the meantime though, let’s also hope we see some more new faces incoming.
Man of match: Stephen Crainey
SATURDAY was one of those games that in previous seasons would have seen us lose.
The character in the team to keep going until the final whistle meant that, ultimately, we all came away happy with another three points. As in the previous week, the substitutions made all the difference.
For much of the game, Palace were content to sit on the edge of their own area and frustrate our attacking intentions, while trying to catch us on the break. Their goal had an element of controversy in it, as Ferguson didn’t move his arm towards the ball, it striking him. The controversy comes from the fact that the referee then failed to apply any consistency, turning down similar appeals from us, as Palace players were struck on the arm by the ball.
Despite the perceived injustice, the team came probing and, eventually, a flash of skill from Gary Taylor-Fletcher skinning two players, and Eliot Grandin taking the ball in his stride and smashing it in, meant that we were back in the game. Basham should have then scored, but the winner came from a header from Kevin Phillips hitting the bar, with Basham following up to gleefully bury the winner to ecstatic scenes around the full ground. It would be nice to see the ground completed asap, so that more fans can enjoy the spectacle at Bloomfield Road in a completed stadium. Next week is an example of missed revenue caused by the delay.
Man of match: Elliot Grandin