Blackpool Championship memories: Seasiders put leaders Southampton to the sword in March 2012
With Blackpool back in the Championship, we’re recalling the Seasiders’ previous stint in the second tier from 2011-15.
This week, it’s the end of March 2012 when, after drawing with Leicester City and losing at Reading, Pool defeated Southampton 3-0 as seen by STEVE CANAVAN…
The Seasiders had to respond after a disappointing run of form which had seen them win only one of their previous six games.
But the bad news – it was league leaders Southampton in town, unbeaten in 12 and possibly the worst side Pool could have faced.
That was the theory. In reality, Ian Holloway’s side made their loftily-placed opponents look rather ordinary.
Granted Saints were missing key man Rickie Lambert – ruled out before kick-off with a groin injury, despite manager Nigel Adkins being adamant in the build-up that Lambert would ‘definitely’ be OK.
Even so, the manner in which the Seasiders cantered to victory was impressive to say the least.
Everyone played their part, including keeper Matt Gilks, for it was his early penalty save – diving to his right to repel Billy Sharp’s effort – that altered the course of the contest and went a big way to ensuring the points went to the team in tangerine.
It was a crucial three-point haul too. Had Pool lost they would have been at risk of being reeled in by the teams below them. Victory has not only put them back in the top six but eased them away from the chasing pack.
Not that they can relax, for it will be a battle till the end – just like it was two years ago, and last season come to think of it.
Ever since Holloway took over there has been something to keep you on the edge of your seat till the very last day and this year promises to be no different.
This was a vintage Holloway performance, all swashbuckling, attacking stuff, with Pool only letting up after securing a three-goal advantage.
Just how many of the crowd, on hearing the starting 11, would have placed money on the Seasiders winning so handsomely is open to debate.
Not many, I’d wager, for Kevin Phillips – four goals in his last three outings, 17 for the season – was crocked and Barry Ferguson and Stephen Crainey were rested.
Brave management to say the least, but boy did it pay off as Angel Martinez, Bob Harris and Stephen Dobbie – the three to benefit from Holloway’s team selection – and everyone else in Pool colours played sublimely.
It is wrong to pick out individuals, which is what everyone says just before picking out individuals. So here we go.
Tom Ince was scintillating on the right flank and too hot for the Saints to handle. It’s just a pity so many will have watched him on national TV.
The cat is out of the bag now – the lad’s game has really come on in the last couple of months.
Silky skills aside, what was impressive was the way he and Matt Phillips on the other flank dropped back and worked hard when the opposition had possession. It gave Saints no outlet ball and was the foundation for victory.
Keith Southern was lung-burstingly good, Ian Evatt and Alex Baptiste excellent in the centre-half spots and Harris – apart from one lunge to concede the penalty – terrific and looking like he’d played at left-back all season.
Pick of the lot, though, was Gary Taylor-Fletcher. Leading the line in the absence of Phillips, he was at the top of his game, creating the first two goals and using every ounce of experience to repeatedly get on the ball and make something happen.
The trick now is to keep it this good, especially away from Bloomfield Road. Home form has been excellent all year; away it has, at times, been poor.
So Pool, to ensure they make the play-offs, have to up their game in their remaining four games on the road, starting at Watford.
Forget that for a moment. Let’s concentrate on this Saints win because it deserves to be talked about.
As good as it was, though, Pool needed a couple of moments of good fortune early on; first, when Guly Do Prado burst clear and chipped Gilks, only to put his shot wide.
Then when Harris felled Do Prado in the area, Gilks made a fine spot-kick save from Sharp.
In both instances, Lambert would have no doubt been much more precise but let’s not dwell on that. The close shave from the penalty spot was the spur Holloway’s troops needed.
They poured forward and won a penalty of their own on 22 minutes, when Taylor-Fletcher slalomed in between three defenders before being halted by Morgan Schneiderlin.
A tad soft but Taylor-Fletcher won it through clever, canny play. Dobbie grabbed the ball and planted a confident shot low to the keeper’s right.
It was 2-0 in the 31st minute, when Taylor-Fletcher flicked on and Dobbie outpaced and outmuscled the rather ponderous Jos Hooiveld before poking an angled shot past Kelvin Davis.
Seven minutes after the break, Evatt scored his second goal in the space of four games, intelligently losing his marker in the area and heading in Phillips’ corner from six yards.
After this, and with the game won, Pool eased off a little, allowing Southampton to carve out a few openings.
The only time Gilks was extended was when he had to beat away a Danny Fox free-kick from the edge of the box.
Neither Gilks nor his back four buckled. A clean sheet for the first time in 16 games and a big morale-booster.
Southampton looked well and truly cheesed off by the end and no wonder. This was only the third time they have conceded three goals all season and their joint-heaviest defeat of the campaign.
That says everything you need to know about how well Pool played. Six games to go, can they do it again? If they play like this, yes.
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