MATCH REPORT: Blackpool 1 Blackburn 1
The sun shone as Gary Bowyer's new-look side impressed as their quest to lift dark clouds after years of gloom at Bloomfield Road kicked off with a 1-1 draw against Bowyer's former club Blackburn Rovers.
The Seasiders were the better side in the first-half as Bowyer’s organised League Two unit asked questions of the Championship club’s defence in his first game in the dug-out at Bloomfield Road.
New boy Kyle Vassell breezed past Rovers centre-half Elliott Ward as he cut in from the right and as Coyle’s defence crumbled the striker’s shot took a wicked deflection off the visitors Irish Euro 16 star Shane Duffy to break the deadlock in the 19th minute.
It was just what the hosts deserved as Danny Philliskirk was denied by Steele and the bar as his angled effort cannoned off the keeper up onto the woodwork and crashed to safety in the opening exchanges.
And Brad Potts’ fierce right-footed effort just skimmed the bar as ‘Pool continued to attack.
Bowyer’s men finally got their reward through Vassell and the Tangerines looked solid until Ben Marshall wormed his way though on goal just moments before the referee blew the half-time whistle.
Blackpool centre-halves Tom Aldred and Will Aimson had managed to keep Rovers’ front two Anthony Stokes and Danny Graham quiet but it was winger Marshall who did the damage.
The midfielder, who’s heavily jelled jet black hair was pulled off his face by a black headband, stole in from the left, steamed towards goal and his angled strike took a deflection to loop past new Blackpool keeper Slocombe.
Vassell had a second-half penalty shout waved away by referee Rob Jones as he claimed his shot was handled by Rovers captain Jason Lowe after the right-back slid in to deflect his effort wide.
Both Duffy and Graham nodded free headers over up the other end when they really should have hit the target as both sides made mass changes.
And it was apt it ended in a draw with League Two side Blackpool holding their own against Owen Coyle’s Championship outfit.
Bowyer finally got to bid farewell to the Blackburn fans at the final whistle.
The ‘Pool boss was sacked by Rovers in November last year and he said after the game that he had a lump in his throat after more than the 1,503 strong travelling Blackburn fans cheered him and chanted “There is only one Gary Bowyer’ and ‘Gary Bowyer’s Blue and White Army’ as he went over to clap them at the end of the game.
It was an emotional moment for both the fans and Bowyer as the fans showed their gratitude to a man who loyally served an 11 year spell in various roles at eh club before he was let go by the club last year.
Blackpool is Bowyer’s first job since leaving Ewood and he showed a glimpse of what is to come in the new season as his organised side built on a 3-0 win over a Manchester United XI in midweek.
Bowyer started with a 4-4-2 formation with Kelvin Mellor at right back, Aldred and Aimson in the middle and a trialist at left-back.
Brad Potts started on the right wing but switched with left-winger Colin Daniel middway through the first-half.
Jim McAlister and new boy Danny Pugh lined up in the middle of the park with Philliskirk and Vassell up top.
‘Pool started brightly as Mellor’s cross in from right just evaded a touch from the on-running Vassell as he stole in at the back post.
Marshall curled the ball way wide of the right stick and then Philliskirk was denied by Steele and the cross bar.
The blocks of four were clear to see as Blackpool defended from the front with Philliskirk and Vassell tasked with pressing from the front.
Philliskirk steamed down the right flank but nobody was on hand to get a touch on his teasing cross as ‘Pool continued to find holes in the lethargic Rovers back-line.
Brad Potts’ fierce right-footed effort from outside the box just squeezed over the bar and then Vassell finally made the Seasiders pressure count as he stole in.
Vassell got the better of Blackburn’s centre-half Ward and found himself in acres of space as Coyle’s defence crumbled just days after centre-half and captain Grant Hanley sealed a £5.5m move to Newcastle United.
Vassell, who joined the club from Peterborough earlier in the summer took his time as he ghosted past ward and when he finally unleashed the trigger his strike took a deflection off Duffy, who was playing his first pre-season game after his Euro 16 exploits and the ball before flew past the helpless Steele in the 19th minute
Colin Daniel sliced the ball wide and Aldred put Steele under pressure as the Rovers keeper flapped at a probing ‘Pool cross into the mix.
But Marshall equalised just before the break as his left-footed angled, strike took a deflection and flew past new keeper Slocombe.
Rovers made a host of changes at the start of the second half with Elliott Bennett, Hope Akpan, trialist Gordon Greer and Darragh Lenighan coming on for Anthony Stokes, Jack Byrne, Danny Guthrie and Ward.
The move saw Marshall join Graham up front as Blackpool boss Bowyer left most of his substitutions to the 60th minute.
Vassell terrorised Rovers’ defence once again after a slick piece of counter-attacking play.
After pinching the ball off Graham’s feet just as he appeared to be steaming into the box Aimson managed to hoof the ball up to Vassell who once again carved through Rovers’ defence like a hot knife through butter but Rovers right-back Lowe came across to cover and slid in to ensure Vassell’s strike was deflected to safety.
Vassell appealed for the penalty in vain as he believed his effort struck Lowe’s hand as the captain came across to clear but the referee waved away his claim.
But that was to be one of the last pieces of action for Vassell as Bowyer made nine changes in the 60th minute and switched to a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Mellor, McAlister, Aimson, Vassell, Potts, Aldred, Philliskirk, Pugh and Daniel all came off with John Herron, Mark Yeates, Macauley Wilson, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Caleb Richards, Rowan Roache and three trialists on.
Wilson slotted in a right-back, the trialist who had been playing at left-back moved into the middle to pair up with another trialist with Richards filling in on the left.
Bowyer had five in midfield with one trialist sitting just behind Herron and another trialist in a defensive midfield role.
Osayi Samuel played on the right wing whilst Yeates was on the left wing.
Roache played up front on his own with the two wingers pushing forward in support as often as they could.
The lively Yeates fired wide but Duffy nodded over up the other end as the game became more of a test of fitness and a chance for Bowyer to get a look at some of his youngsters and the host of trialists, some of whom could become permanent fixtures in the next few weeks.
Rovers sub Elliott Bennett looped the ball over to the normally clinical Graham could not bag his fourth goal in as many pre-season games as he miraculously failed to hit the target by nodding over from close range in front of the mass of expectant Blackburn fans.
The lively Yeates curled a free-kick just outside the box on the left towards the top corner but Steele was on hand to claim it.
It was an emotional end to the game for Bowyer as he bid farewell to the Rovers fans.
But if Bowyer’s opening game at Bloomfield Road is anything to go by his new journey looks to have got off to a good start as his organised side knew their roles, defended from the front and showed glimmers of brilliance, class and quality against a Championship side.
The Blackpool fans that did turn out to see Bowyer’s new-look side in the club’s first public game of pre-season will have left the stadium thinking, if this is anything to go by, that the team is in good hands as Bowyer’s bid to end the run of successive relegations begins here in two weeks time.
Blackpool: Slocombe (Boney, 69), Mellor (Herron, 60) Aldred (Yeates, 60) Aimson (Wilson, 60), Trialist, Daniel, McAlister, Pugh, Potts, Philliskirk, Vassell. Subs: Herron, Yeates, Wilson, Osayi-Samuel, Richards.
Steele, Lowe, Duffy (Wharton 76), Ward (Greer 46), Henley (Doyle 76), Feeney (Evans 76), Guthrie (Lenihan 46), Byrne (Akpan 46), Marshall, Stokes (Bennett 46), Graham.
Subs not used: Raya, O’Sullivan, El Bakhtaoui.
Attendance: 2,657 (1,503 Rovers)
Referee: Rob Jones