IAN Holloway didn’t know quite what to say after the Seasiders opening play-off game ended in victory.
The problem was that it wasn’t a comprehensive win, so every outcome remains a possibility.
Pool played very well, and deserved to score more than a solitary goal.
But the fact they haven’t got a two or three-goal advantage, as the manager had hoped, means it is still on a knife-edge.
As a result, the manager and his players had to be very careful about what they said to the press after the game.
They didn’t want to give any hint that they are too confident. That might be seen as cocky, and would no doubt be used by Birmingham manager Chris Hughton to motivate his team ahead of Wednesday’s return.
So instead Holloway had to pick his way carefully through the questions and make sure he said the right things.
In fact the most animated he got was when he got asked if it was awkward for a manager having to talk about a tie that has another 90 minutes to go.
“Yes, just a little bit,” he smiled. “Basically we are at half-time and if you talked to me at half-time in any other game you wouldn’t understand what on earth I was on about because there is no result at that stage.
“It is the same in this scenario. There is no full-time result yet.
“All I can tell you is that my team now knows how good they are because of how well we played. They also know they can beat Birmingham because unless I am very much mistaken we won that game 1-0.
“We had lots of chances, we created those chances against a Birmingham team who are very organised and don’t concede too many, and that will do my lot the world of good.”
Having failed twice to beat Hughton’s men earlier in the season – 2-2 at Bloomfield Road, a 3-0 defeat that would have happened regardless of skipper Barry Ferguson’s red card – Friday’s victory at Bloomfield Road was certainly a morale-booster. The 1-0 scoreline is deceiving for Pool had bags of good chances in the second period, Stephen Dobbie squandering an opportunity he’d normally gobble up with ease and Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Ferguson denied inside the area when scoring seemed more likely.
But despite having the upper hand we can’t overlook the fact that Marlon King twice hit the woodwork, had a goal disallowed, and that Pool’s winner came courtesy of an unwitting Curtis Davies rather than Tom Ince’s boot.
It is why, when you also take Birmingham’s fine home record into account (one defeat in 23 games), no one at Blackpool FC will be able to sleep easy ahead of St Andrew’s. Throw 28,000 screaming Brummie fans into the equation and Holloway knows how difficult it will be. But he remains confident. Not cocky, just quietly optimistic.
“No one gave us much of a chance a couple of years ago when we took a one-goal lead to Nottingham Forest but I remember us doing pretty well that night,” added the boss.
“We have a good team, who are playing well. We’ve not lost in a while and the players are getting better all the time and developing as a group. “We will give it everything we’ve got at Birmingham and, with a little bit of luck throw in – because we all need that – hopefully it will be enough.”