Blackpool in the Premier League 10 years on: An eventful afternoon at Everton

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It’s 10 years since Blackpool graced the top flight and we’re retelling the story week-by-week of that sensational season in the big time.

A decade ago, the Seasiders headed to Everton and, as STEVE CANAVAN reported, found themselves on the end of a 5-3 defeat...

There is a huge billboard next to Goodison Park for a company called Red Sea Holidays, with the slogan: ‘Summer lasts all year round in Egypt’.

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Which is unfortunate, rather like the last 15 minutes of this contest were for those with any allegiance to Blackpool.

Jason Puncheon scores for Blackpool at EvertonJason Puncheon scores for Blackpool at Everton
Jason Puncheon scores for Blackpool at Everton

When Charlie Adam’s diving header put the Seasiders 3-2 in front, then Ian Evatt turned into Mr Elastic to quite brilliantly clear Jack Rodwell’s chip off the line, it appeared Ian Holloway’s team were heading for a long overdue three points, to finally get off that 28 mark and edge a little closer to safety.

Alas, the best laid plans and all that. One had to feel sorry forHolloway

At 3-2, he did what he very rarely does and made two defensive substitutions in a bid to ensure victory. Everton then scored three goals in eight minutes and Blackpool fans muttered ‘why did he make those subs?’

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If he’d not made them, and Everton had won, the same fans would be asking why he hadn’t gone more defensive. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

For Blackpool, things are getting a little worrying.

Four wins required from 19 games, as it was a few weeks back, sounded OK. Now it’s four from 13, which doesn’t sound so comfortable.

I’ll say it again though – the way they are playing, Pool are well capable of getting the results they need and I’m still confidently backing them to stay up.

Scoring three goals at Goodison Park in itself suggests there isn’t too much wrong with their game.

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They were just exceptionally unlucky to come face-to-face with a striker in the hottest of form.

Louis Saha has hit his stride in the last few weeks and he peaked on Saturday, scoring four goals, all of which were quality finishes.

That’s not to say the Seasiders couldn’t do anything about them. They should have defended better, especially late on, and there’s no doubt they need to improve when it comes to shutting up shop.

Even when the manager tried to go more defensive on Saturday, it didn’t work. Mind you, that’s the Premier League for you – sometimes the opposition is simply too good to stop, whatever tactic you try.

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However, throughout the contest, Pool were guilty of giving Everton too much space down the left flank, and as well as Jason Puncheon played on his debut, he needed to give Neal Eardley more help.

As it was, Eardley had to cope against not only the impressive Russian Diniyar Bilyaletdinov but Leighton Baines, the Toffees’ left-back who loves to roam forward.

It was an odd game in some respects because although the 5-3 scoreline makes it sound like a cracker, the first half was pretty dull.

With Holloway making five changes to the side which lost to West Ham – Paul Rachubka, Puncheon, James Beattie, Elliot Grandin and Evatt in – Pool were a little disjointed. Everton weren’t much better.

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In driving rain, which teemed down like tap water all afternoon, the home side took the lead on 20 minutes when Bilyaletdinov nipped in between tame challenges from Eardley and David Vaughan and put the ball on a plate for Saha.

But then an equaliser. After Adam’s 38th minute free-kick was deflected behind, the skipper drilled in a rather lame-looking corner kick, a little like the effort which went straight in against West Ham. Remarkably it led to a goal again.

Evatt got a near post touch which hit the post and possibly crossed the line, before Baines cleared against Alex Baptiste and the ball rebounded into the net, definitely going in this time.

The goal was credited to Baptiste – his second in the Premier League on only his seventh start of what has so far been a frustrating season for the lad.

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Moments later, a massive let-off as Saha converted Seamus Coleman’s cross, only to discover referee Kevin Friend had already blown for a foul in the build-up.

That get-out-of-jail moment boosted Pool’s confidence – but it was deflated within 60 seconds of the restart.

A brilliant Everton move – Jack Rodwell to Baines to Saha and in – saw the Toffees regain their lead. That’s Premier League quality – three passes and a goal.

Rodwell missed a sitter, rolling the ball past the post with Rachubka beaten, before the Seasiders levelled after 62 minutes.

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Great credit to Grandin for winning a 50-50. He fed Beattie and the striker’s pull-back was coolly converted by Puncheon.

It justified the manager’s decision to select both Beattie and Puncheon. They both did well, and Beattie – still rusty after a mixed spell at Rangers – will benefit from the minutes on the pitch.

Amazingly it got better four minutes later. Puncheon broke with speed and passed to DJ Campbell.

His excellent left-footed effort hit the bar and Adam dived full length to head home the rebound.

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What a turnaround, and the feeling that Pool were on their way to a terrific, morale-boosting win heightened when Evatt brilliantly cleared off the line from Rodwell.

Moyes brought on Tim Cahill and Jermaine Beckford. Holloway responded by getting Keith Southern and Rob Edwards on and switching to a 4-5-1.

Pool now looked solid. Or so we thought.

What happened next was horrible. Three goals in the blink of an eye for the home side and game over.

First Saha headed in Baines’ bouncing corner, then Beckford got beyond Baptiste to fire home a fine, first-time volley, before Saha secured victory by finishing off an Everton breakaway move.

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Poor old Rachubka. The lad waits ages for his first top-flight start and lets five in, without really having a chance with any of them.

It was also harsh on someone like Evatt, who defended really well, yet the scoreline doesn’t suggest that.

So there it is, eight goals and brilliant for Match of the Day viewers, but sickening for Seasiders fans.

Three Blackpool players celebrated their birthdays over the weekend: Craig Cathcart (22), Jason Euell (34) and Ludovic Sylvestre (27).

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Let’s hope they didn’t have a joint party lined up for Saturday night – none of their team-mates would have felt like celebrating.

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