EYEBROWS were raised by many last week when Paul Ince criticised the ‘gung-ho’ style of Blackpool’s play.
His comments following the game at Birmingham on midweek sparked more posts, emails and tweets than anything else the Pool boss has said so far.
Many were quick to jump down his throat and point out the success the all-out-attack philosophy has brought to the club in recent years.
While no-one will ever argue the Ian Holloway style wasn’t brilliant, on Saturday Ince’s point was proven – and in some style.
When Watford took the lead on the half-hour mark, three or four weeks ago Blackpool would have responded by chasing the game.
In attacking innocence they would have bombed on, probably created a couple of good chances and been 3-0 down before they knew it.
Saturday was a totally different approach.
Pool came out for the second half almost ignoring the fact they were a goal down.
Instead, they kept their heads, defended well and worked on the theory that eventually they’ll get a good chance.
When it did come, it was as big a goal as Pool will score this season, and the reaction of everyone in white said it all, it was celebrated just as much as Gary MacKenzie’s eventual winner.
Ince made only one change to the side which drew at Birmingham on Tuesday night, and that was a forced one.
Matt Derbyshire replaced the injured Gary Taylor-Fletcher in attack.
The striker tore his hamstring in midweek and looks like he’ll miss the remainder of the season.
Watford boss Gianfranco Zola’s selection was simple enough, he just did as, controversially, he has been doing for a lot of the season ...picked the Udinese B team!
There’s a lot been said about Watford’s use of the loan market, and whether it should be allowed.
It all comes from a bizarre link-up with the Italian Serie A side who have loaned 12 players to the Hornets this season.
Normal rules claim clubs can only name five loan players in their match day squad, but as the deals are classed as short-term international deals, they escape.
On Saturday Zola named five borrowed players in his starting eleven, and another four on the bench. It’s something which the Football League needs to address for the next season.
On the field, the pitch at Vicarage Lane was perfect, there were certainly no excuses this week about the surface.
Pool looked to be enjoying the conditions, and on six minutes had the first sight of goal.
Derbyshire raced onto a ball over the top before volleying goalwards from 20 yards but sadly Jon Bond in goal was a match to it.
Watford are a side flying at the moment, and you could see their confidence as they grew into the game.
And they almost took the lead in the ninth minute.
Neal Eardley surrendered possession in the middle of the park, Watford broke in numbers and Fernando Forestieri fired wide when he really should have done better.
It’s been trotted out almost every week recently, but Pool’s record of conceding the first goal is terrible.
Before the game the Seasiders had gone behind in 25 of their 36 league games and opened the scoring in a divisional-low nine Championship games.
Just before the half hour mark it was 26, but in the most controversial of circumstances.
Kirk Broadfoot thought he’d won a throw-in on the halfway line, only for the referee to give the decision to the home side.
Nyron Nosworthy then committed what looked to be a blatant foul-throw, with almost two feet off the ground.
The ball found it’s way to Troy Deeney who capitalised on a MacKenzie mistake before feeding Cristian Battocchio who chipped Matt Gilks with ease.
A lovely break and finish, but two shocking decisions from referee Andrew Madley in the build up.
Despite Watford being the clear leaders at this stage of the contest, Pool kept going.
All week Ince has spoken about the work they’ve done on the training ground on attacking set pieces, and this was evident at the weekend.
Broadfoot and MacKenzie were a constant threat, and it’s that combination which brought the best out of home keeper Jonathon Bond.
On the stroke of half-time Broadfoot flicked a free-kick into the path of Derbyshire who’s lovely header was tipped away at full stretch by the Hornets’ stopper.
The break saw the change of the game by Ince.
In an attempt to get Pool playing, he brought on Ludo Sylvestre, and you have to say it worked.
Apart from Matthew Briggs’ header just after half-time, Watford were never really in it as Blackpool looked much more like their old selves.
Ince’s men looked confident, calm and composed, and really took the game to their high flying hosts.
In recent weeks Pool have enjoyed decent spells in games, but their failure to make it count has cost them.
Ince was waiting to see his side’s first goal from open play as Blackpool boss, when it eventually came on 68 minutes, it was well worth the wait.
Sylvestre was at the thick of a move of 15 passes from the away side.
Eventually the ball found it’s way out to Stephen Crainey on the over lap, who’s brilliant near post ball was finished by Tom Ince.
Ince Jnr is not what you’d call a goal-poaching striker, but the way he ran across the defender at the near post and turned the cross into the box had all the hallmarks of a top class forward.
The goal almost breathed a new life into the Seasiders, and we began to see signs of the side we saw at the start of the season.
For the first time in months Pool dictated the game, with Barry Ferguson pulling all the strings in the middle of the park.
Zola’s men got more, and more frustrated, and Pool got their deserved winner in the dying minutes.
Ince whipped a corner towards the far post and MacKenzie was there to bundle the ball home from close range. Whether it went in off his head, knee or toe is irrelevant, it was huge.
Blackpool saw out the remaining minutes, even though there was a huge penalty claim in the dying seconds of added time.
Crainey appeared to foul Battocchio in the box, only for the referee to wave play-on, even from my biased eyes it looked like a spot-kick could easily have been awarded.
It meant Pool took their unbeaten streak against Watford to six matches and still haven’t lost away at the Hornet’s since 1997.
More importantly it’s a result which leaves Ince’s men a much more comfortable looking seven points away from the dreaded drop zone.
For the first time in months Blackpool looked to have a bit of confidence about them, and there were real signs the team are getting back to what we all know they are capable of.
Ince has now only lost one of his five games in charge, with Saturday’s win making his start as Pool boss look like a pretty decent one.
The job is not yet done, they’ll need around 53 points to secure safety, but none will be as big as those three on Saturday.
We might just look back on Watford away as the day the recovery began.