Wins come no more precious than this

Matt Phillips' goal celebration
Matt Phillips' goal celebration
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MASSIVE! There’s just no other way to describe yesterday’s win.

The threat of relegation has never been taken too seriously around Bloomfield Road, with the feeling the squad was more than good enough to drag themselves out of trouble.

But after Saturday’s results, when just about everyone below the Seasiders won, all of a sudden people were having to face a serious prospect of League One football last season.

But while things may not have been brilliant of late, don’t ever underestimate this group of players.

Against Crystal Palace yesterday it was their commitment and endeavour which caught the eye.

You expect the likes of Tom Ince and Matt Phillips to offer ability, but the way the whole 11 gave every last ounce of effort for the cause was enough to make everyone realise Blackpool will be fine this season. But it wasn’t easy.

Barry Ferguson’s sending-off just before half-time made facing a Palace side packed with quality even more of a difficult proposition.

And after grafting for 85 minutes, the difference was magic from a pair of players who have the tools for the top. Ince carried the ball 50 yards before finding Phillips who curled a stunner into the fair corner.

Blackpool held on for a vital three points, and it’s just as well. Yet again teams at the bottom picked up points. Ince’s men are now three points from the drop-zone with six to play, so there’s work to do yet.

The Blackpool boss made one change to the side which drew at Blackburn on Friday, and you can’t say it was much of a surprise.

Nathan Delfouneso replaced Matt Derbyshire in attack, while Alex Baptiste shook off a knock to his knee to lead the side out as skipper.

The whole of the pre-match build-up became the Ian Holloway show, with the former Blackpool boss even doing his familiar talk to fans in the sponsors’ lounge.

He’ll never admit it, but it was clear he’s missing the seaside.

Much had been made about what sort of reception the former hero would get on his return, and in truth it was very quiet.

He wondered out of the tunnel and took his place on the bench, without any fuss at all.

The good thing is there were no boos. He didn’t deserve that.

It may well have been a bright afternoon on the Fylde coast but it was another freezing cold day.

And it’s the cold weather which means there was no real improvement in the pitch. The club’s ground staff had hoped for some bright spring weather but it hasn’t yet come.

It made for another scrappy start, with the pitch cutting up badly under the players’ feet.

Pool have tried to adapt their game at home, by getting the ball forward much quicker, and it was from that tactic which the first chance of the game came.

Barry Ferguson lifted the ball over the Palace back four, Delfouneso ran in behind and fired straight at Julian Speroni in goal.

A big chance but a decent save.

As you’d expect from a Holloway side, Palace were dangerous in attack.

Their forward line of Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie, Glenn Murray and Stephen Dobbie is as good as any outside the Premier League.

And Zaha, who will join Manchester United this summer, was impressive down the right.

It was he who had Palace’s best chance of the opening stages when Bolasie lost Basham before threading a pass to the right. Zaha cut inside and drove at Gilks from 12 yards.

The away side were on the ascendency, with Pool struggling to cope with their movement in attack.

As the half-hour mark approached, it was the Seasiders who started to do the pressing.

Pool were getting joy down either flank, with Phillips and Stephen Crainey getting forward well to deliver dangerous balls.

Crainey was once again in the thick of it when he met Ince’s pass before finding Delfouneso in the box. He turned well before firing low and forcing a brilliant save from Speroni.

Ince’s men were unlucky not to be ahead. Then came a huge moment in the game and one which was harsh to say the least.

With Bolasie charging towards goal, Ferguson stepped in front of him to block before being shown his second yellow card and sent off.

The first was a nothing foul on the halfway line, but the sort which usually results in a yellow.

Sadly, Ferguson’s only two fouls of the afternoon warranted ruining the game. It’s something no-one wants to see. Denying a goalscoring opportunity or a leg-breaking tackle maybe, but two nothing fouls should never be allowed to spoil a game.

While the second may have looked at first like a textbook yellow, replays suggest otherwise.

The Palace forward had knocked the ball a good 10 yards ahead of him. He’d never have got to it and Crainey had the situation under control.

A referee with any common sense would have awarded the free-kick and allowed the game to continue 11 v 11.

The decision incensed the Seasiders but also appeared to inspire them.

And only a moment later, Ince came so close to breaking the deadlock with a brilliant mazy run and cross. Sadly Phillips couldn’t quite get to the far post quickly enough for the easiest of tap-ins.

As half-time came, it was such a shame for the Seasiders they found themselves a man down.

It had been a decent half for Ince’s men and they were the better side.

The start of the second half was a totally different story.

Pool were having to be patient as Palace made the most of the extra man and enjoyed large spells of possession.

Despite this, Palace had very little in terms of chances, with Blackpool’s 10 doing well to contain the lively attack of their visitors.

It was always going to be a case of keeping it tight, and hoping for a lucky break in front of goal for Ince’s men.

As of 20 minutes into the second period, there had been not one chance for either side, something I suppose would have pleased Ince with his side a man down.

What was working for the Seasiders was the counter-attack, with both Ince and Phillips a constant threat.

The young wingers took a fair bit of stick from fans after the draw at Blackburn, but they responded brilliantly.

Their commitment, effort and ability shone through yesterday.

While Blackpool were doing well, the attacking ability of Palace was always going to offer a threat.

Thirty-goal striker Glenn Murray went agonisingly close to getting on the end of a superb Zaha cross with 11 minutes left.

But Blackpool deserve real credit for the way they went about their business and finally got the reward they deserved with five minutes left.

Ince picked up the ball on the halfway line and did brilliantly to carry it 40 yards before teeing up Phillips, who curled an unstoppable effort into the top corner.

Bloomfield Road erupted. It was a goal worthy of winning any game.

Unbelievably, it was Blackpool’s first goal at home under Ince.It was huge.

Palace launched all sorts at Pool’s back-line during the four minutes of added time, but the Seasiders were strong at the back and held on.

The job is far from done but those three points felt like six. Pool now face a tough trip to Nottingham Forest at the weekend, with new belief and confidence around them.

Sometimes goals, moments or results can kick-start a team into life.

Maybe Phillips’ brilliant strike will prove the proper start of the Paul Ince era.