Fans’ Panel: Matt’s the way to do it

Matt Phillips celebrates his third goal against Fleetwood.
Matt Phillips celebrates his third goal against Fleetwood.
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Cup matches have brought little for Pool supporters to cheer in recent years, making Saturday’s FA Cup success over neighbours Fleetwood all the more pleasing for our fans’ panel, who were also highly impressed by the Highbury revolution.


IT was a great feeling to finally be able to celebrate our first win in the FA Cup since 2007, with the fact it came in a derby match at Fleetwood adding to the enjoyment, as both teams contested a hard-fought game in which the Championship quality shone through.

In the build-up to the game, I never really feared an upset, and was delighted to see both managers pick strong, experienced sides.

Having seen what they could do against Middlesbrough last Monday, I was hoping we would kick off with Ince, Phillips and LuaLua leading the line, and all three helped themselves to a goal. They are developing a partnership which defences of a much higher level will find a nightmare to deal with.

The first half was very even, both teams creating chances up until we scored a tremendous team goal. Sturdy goalkeeping then prevented an immediate response from Fleetwood. At 1-0, the game could still very much have gone in either direction, but we turned the screw and some excellent finishes took the game beyond the hosts.

No doubt a few nerves were jangling when the score was pulled back to 3-1 – a goal which was no more than they deserved – but the in-form man Matt Phillips took another two goals brilliantly to complete his second hat-trick in less than a fortnight. It’s a pleasure to watch a winger like that play with such confidence and important that we keep him in this transfer window.

Our reward for beating our neighbours is a home tie with Sheffield Wednesday, but we must put that to the back of our minds as league matters resume for a few weeks, starting with the unhappy hunting ground of Portman Road – time to lay our hoodoo there to rest!

Man of match: Matt Phillips


IT’S always nice to get a break from the league for cup matters. The tie against Fleetwood was something that had excited both sets of fans, and while both teams have more important matters to focus on, you knew everyone was up for it.

At a packed Highbury, it was a great contest. Fleetwood are a good team, in good form, and had the potential to cause us an upset. It was important, then, that we played well. And without ever really hitting top gear, we did.

Fleetwood caused us a few problems, notably in spells at 1-0 and 3-1, but the biggest difference between the two sides was the movement, fluidity and finishing of our front three. Matt Phillips was almost verging on unplayable at times. He is truly in sensational form at the moment, and we do need to resist offers in January.

There wasn’t a bad goal amongst the bunch either. The more individual finishes will get plaudits, but our first goal was absolutely brilliant. From back to front it was slick, incisive football and a joy to watch. It was all made by Bob Harris, who was impressive on Saturday. For a player who’s not had much look at the first team, he certainly looks to have something.

A draw against Sheffield Wednesday gives us a good chance of progressing in the cup. We’re starting to hit form now, and games to carry that on are no bad thing.

It’s back to league matters on Saturday though. We don’t have a great record at Portman Road, but if we can continue this form, we can beat virtually anyone. Good luck to Fleetwood in their promotion efforts, and more of the same please Blackpool.

Man of match: Matt Phillips


THE Fleetwood game was the classic banana skin for Blackpool, with everything to lose and nothing to gain, whatever the result. After so many bad results in the cup over the years, I was very apprehensive as we went to Highbury.

The team news was heartening, as I thought that if we played close to a full-strength side, then we’d be too strong for Fleetwood, and so it proved, with the only changes being a reshuffled defence.

In a fairly even first half, both teams had their chances, but Blackpool came out on top with a lovely flowing move, culminating in a goal for LuaLua. Howard kept Blackpool ahead with a fantastic save from the impressive Vardy, and then getting back up well to tip the follow up from Till over the bar.

The game was effectively settled early in the second half, as first Phillips, with a fantastic curling effort into the top corner, then Ince, with a sweet half volley, killed the game.

Fleetwood got the consolation they deserved through Vardy and mounted some pressure, but a breakaway move the length of the pitch led to a shot from Ince saved by the keeper, with Phillips on hand to sweep home the rebound. The hat-trick goal, as Phillips broke from the half-way line and finished with aplomb under the keeper, added the icing to the cake. A banana skin avoided and a real chance to get into the fifth round if we can dispose of Sheffield Wednesday. Take it seriously and why not?

Man of match: Matt Phillips


THE trip to Fleetwood made a refreshing change from our recent cup exploits in that we fielded a strong side and performed magnificently.

What more can I say about our thrilling three-pronged attack?

LuaLua is simply breathtaking and we are so privileged to have the opportunity to see him in action week in, week out. He traps the ball effortlessly and it is nigh on impossible to get it out of his possession.

As for Tom Ince and Matt Phillips, just how exciting are these boys? I love to watch confident young players fearlessly tearing through defences and these two have to be amongst the best seen on the Fylde coast in donkey’s years. They are a joy to watch – and prime examples of what Ollie always promised us in terms of entertainment.

Not surprisingly, all three hotshots were on target against Fleetwood – and congratulations to Phillips on his second hat-trick in the space of a fortnight.

It is pleasing to see Fleetwood’s progress in recent years and they have a good side and some excellent facilities. The timing of this fixture was unfortunate for them in that our tails are up and we are even destroying top Championship sides (in which category we may now count ourselves).

Sheffield Wednesday at home in round four is certainly winnable. With strength in depth in our squad for the first time in living memory, taking the FA Cup seriously may well reap dividends.

Man of match: Matt Phillips


CIRCUS is a word I’ve heard used to describe Saturday’s game against Fleetwood, and while the hype surrounding the game was undoubtedly over the top, that’s the beauty of the FA Cup.

To be honest, it was nice to be Goliath for once, with Fleetwood described to me as “more like David’s little brother”. The carnival atmosphere proved to be a nice change from the nervousness that has enveloped Bloomfield Road at certain points in recent years.

The fact it was a close neighbour – and a team that will probably be playing league football next season – really made the tie for me though. And although some corners were saying the rivalry borders on hatred, I really don’t see it myself. There was a few derby-type tackles on the pitch, and a few derogatory chants here and there, but it was generally a very good atmosphere.

With all due respect to the ‘battered Cod’ Army (sorry, couldn’t resist), we were far superior to them on Saturday, and would easily have beaten any team in the Championship such was our style of play.

Matty Phillips will have big clubs interested after an outstanding display. A hat-trick doesn’t flatter him either. If anything, he could have got more. The post and a few inches stopped him from scoring five or six.

Hopefully, both the player and the club will realise that for us to be successful in our quest for promotion, we need him on board – but with him we can go far.

Man of match: Matt Phillips