Blackpool 1, Brentford 3

IN a week when Blackpool's supercasino bid became little more than a busted flush, there was another burning issue at Bloomfield Road. When it comes to winning promotion, have the Seasiders already tamely cashed in their chips too?

That must be the $64,000 question after this depressing match, which should have been the home banker to beat all home bankers, according to the odds compilers.

Brentford gambled on hitting Blackpool hard in attack and discovered a lucky 17-minute streak as they hit the jackpot by rattling up football's equivalent of three oranges.

Blackpool were all over the place against a struggling side who had not scored a solitary away goal for four months – until they trod on the welcome mat so thoughtfully laid down at Bloomfield Road by the home defence.

Such was Blackpool's dejection at falling 3-0 down at the break that manager Simon Grayson had to take drastic measures in the second half.

Sacrificing

Normally his problem is which two of his four strikers to utilise – he overcame that difficulty by using them all, sacrificing a defender in the process in a vain attempt to turn the match around.

It was an understandable ploy, but even such a bold contingency plan failed to herald a revival and Brentford still boasted the game's most outstanding striker in Neil Shipperley, no matter how hard the home forward-line worked, finding blind alleys all along the line.

Brentford had to defend in depth at times but it was never desperation stakes, even though Bees keeper Nathan Abbey did have an inspired afternoon with a succession of fine stops.

Keigan Parker, surprisingly paired with Ben Burgess up front at kick-off, had the ball in the net early but had been clearly flagged offside.

The Bees replied with a Thomas Pinault shot that whizzed well wide.

Burgess went down in the area as Blackpool probed again and for a split-second it seemed as though ref Pat Miller had awarded a penalty, but he had actually signalled for a goal-kick.

Parker's hopeful strike from the edge of the box then curled wide.

Brentford won a succession of early corners, all taken on the left by Joe Keith, but the Seasiders were able to defuse any threat.

But that wasn't the case seconds later, when Shipperley almost caught Rhys Evans napping with a hopeful long-range effort.

Brentford made the breakthrough on 13 minutes, going ahead after the home side had failed to deal competently with the corner that resulted from Evans' last-ditch save.

The Bees maintained the impetus as Andy Frampton stole in far too easily on the near-post to nod home Keith's centre.

This was a massive shock to Blackpool's system – they were spurred into immediate retaliation as Burgess drilled the ball through to Parker.

Abbey just reached the ball first, and although Parker fell to ground the referee ruled that there had been no foul in the box.

Jitters

There were more jitters for Blackpool when Ian Evatt's weak header almost caught out Evans, and the home side were lucky not to be punished severely for this dreadful misunderstanding, though worse was to follow.

Claus Jorgensen, another surprise choice to replace the suspended Keith Southern in midfield, was brought down on the edge of the area.

Midfield partner David Fox clearly fancied his chances as he weighed up the set-piece and forced a tremendous diving save from Abbey, who then regathered himself immediately to deal with Adrian Forbes coming in full-pelt for the rebound.

It represented Blackpool's best passage of play of the first half, which was about to take a fraught turn which angered and frustrated the home fans in equal measure.

Blackpool fell further behind on 29 minutes. Frampton drilled the ball forward, it was flicked on in muscular fashion by Shipperley and Jo Kuffour was on hand and free of any marker to glide the ball home.

A minute later, Blackpool's concentration levels were on zero as Kuffour unaccountably found himself in acres of space yet again.

And with the defence still in a state of severe shock and rank indecision, he fired the ball along the ground and past the scrambling Evans for the third, stunning the crowd.

Hoolahan had a snap shot turned round the post by Abbey and then showed all manner of trickery to bamboozle the Brentford defence with a dribble across goal.

He beat Abbey near the by-line and then sent an outrageous back-heel across the face of the goal which found the head of Burgess, though his goal-bound effort deflected off Che Wilson for a corner.

Parker then wasted a superb opportunity with a tame shot after finding himself in plenty of space.

Outstanding

Two minutes before half-time, Abbey was on his mettle again to make a wonderful save from Shaun Barker, palming his sweetly-struck shot around the post.

Abbey continued his outstanding game, thwarting Parker in the opening seconds of the second half, when Blackpool needed the impetus of an early goal.

They had sacrificed Michael Jackson at the back to fling three up front in a desperate attempt to retrieve the situation.

Shipperley nearly made it 4-0, hitting the underside of the crossbar as Blackpool looked vulnerable at the back again.

Jorgensen stole in at the far post but only succeeded in jabbing the ball wide. Any kind of shot on target would have found the net ... but it was that kind of day.

Soon afterwards, substitute Simon Gillett fired over a perfect cross from the right on his return to the club but Andy Morrell's glancing header flew tantalisingly across the face of goal.

Abbey was becoming the hero of day as he pounded out a close-range shot from Parker, while Burgess threatened with another header.

Charlie Ide sent a rasping shot wide of the mark, much to Blackpool's relief as time started to run out, while Abbey was equal to carefully-placed shots from Parker and Scott Vernon in rapid succession.

Abbey rode his luck, fumbling Hoolahan's shot before diving to thwart Burgess.

The Seasiders got some sort of consolation three minutes into injury-time, when substitute Vernon headed home Parker's pinpoint centre, but by then the lasting damage had been done.

It was an afternoon when all too many players sporting tangerine and white endured an off-day, and the general mood of gloom was not helped by Brentford manager Scott Fitzgerald, who rather put the Seasiders' shortcomings into perspective when he said: "I still wasn't happy with the team at half-time. We have played better this season and lost."

Brentford edged off the bottom of the table with this victory. As for Blackpool, tomorrow they move upmarket by taking on the new League One high rollers Oldham Athletic.

How the dice shake out at Boundary Park could go a long way towards determining whether there is any big dividend come the spring.

steve.simpson@blackpoolgazette.co.uk