Blackpool's Championship memories: A Bash and grab raid against Crystal Palace

With Blackpool back in the Championship, we’re recalling the Seasiders’ previous stint in the second tier from 2011-15.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 3:00 pm

This week, we’re still in January 2012 when, after beating Fleetwood Town in the FA Cup and drawing at Ipswich Town, they saw off Crystal Palace 2-1 as seen by STEVE CANAVAN...

If this game were a song it would be more Cheeky Girls than the Beatles.

A classic it wasn’t. Whether that was down to Crystal Palace’s effective but slightly boring approach or a lacklustre Seasiders display is hard to work out. Probably both.

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Maybe it was the conditions – windy, cold, bit more wind and cold – or perhaps the pitch, which, understandably in January, was cut-up, and caused the ball to bobble around.

Whatever, this wasn’t Ian Holloway’s team at their finest … which, if anything, makes the three points even more enjoyable.

How nice it is to play averagely and yet emerge with a victory.

There is that old cliché about the best teams managing to win when things aren’t going their way.

If it’s true, then the Seasiders are a cracking side, because here they definitely did not play at their optimum.

After going behind to a slightly contentious penalty decision, two goals in the final five minutes saved the day, and for the second week running, it was the substitutes who made a difference.

Once again, Elliot Grandin and Kevin Phillips entered the fray to great effect, and also Chris Basham, who managed to score the winner with his shoulder.

In fairness to Palace, their tactics, no matter how distasteful to football purists, were effective, and they did well to come so close to victory, given the team they had out.

With more than one eye on tomorrow’s Carling Cup semi-final second leg, boss Dougie Freedman made nine changes.

Just why I’m not quite sure. I mean, surely the league and a possible £40m payday for going up, is more important than getting to Wembley, where they will be up against Manchester City or Liverpool.

With the Seasiders making six changes themselves, it meant that, in total, there had been 15 changes made by both managers from the previous games – bizarre.

For Pool, there were recalls for Craig Cathcart, Ian Evatt and Gary Taylor-Fletcher, skipper Barry Ferguson and keeper Matt Gilks were back in after suspension and injury, and John Fleck made a debut after his loan move from Rangers.

Big call for Holloway to pick Fleck ahead of Grandin, after the Frenchman’s cameo at Ipswich but Grandin wants to leave Blackpool, Fleck wants to play for Blackpool – hence the manager’s choice.

Fleck did pretty well, and in a first half best described as forgettable, came closest to scoring for the Seasiders, missing by a fraction with a powerful, curling effort from outside the box.

He needs to work on his fitness though, visibly tiring after an excellent first 20 minutes.

Mind you, it wasn’t only Fleck that didn’t truly shine, for no one in Tangerine was at their best.

Pool certainly missed the presence and hold-up play of the injured Lomana LuaLua.

There’s no one else quite like him in the squad, and his trickery was required in a contest like this, when the opposition were dogged, kept their shape and closed down well, and ensured there was very little space for Holloway’s men to exploit.

With only one man to mark, big striker Calvin Andrew, Evatt and Cathcart tried to liven things up by charging forward whenever they could but even that didn’t improve things.

As an attacking threat, Pool offered little, mainly because they couldn’t find a way through Palace’s crowded and well-organised rearguard.

Then it got a bit worse when the visitors scored.

There appeared little danger when Kieron Cadogan chipped the ball into the area. It wasn’t particularly going anywhere, and certainly wasn’t threatening.

Ferguson, hands by his side but, crucially, leaning slightly towards the ball, blocked the pass. Referee Nigel Miller said penalty, Holloway went ballistic, Owen Garvan blasted the ball past Gilks.

Ludovic Sylvestre, turning in his usual decent performance, brought a fine save out of Lewis Price with a blaster from distance but that was that. It wasn’t a great half.

It was the same story after the break, when, for a while, it seemed Palace were more likely to go further in front than Pool were to level.

The Eagles were dangerous on the break, and both Garvan and Ibra Skeajja spurned golden opportunities.

On came the three subs and eventually, with Pool constantly pressing and Palace forever retreating, it did the trick.

Five minutes from the end, and moments after Basham couldn’t convert after good headers inside the area by Evatt and Taylor-Fletcher, the vital moment.

Taylor-Fletcher, finally finding space on the left flank after being well shackled in the centre throughout, beat two defenders with a delightful wriggling piece of skill and sidefooted the ball into the path of Grandin.

The Frenchman showed excellent feet to take the pass in his stride, stepped forward and blasted an unstoppable left-footer into the roof of the net from an angle.

Then, almost inevitably, and a triumph for perseverance after the most awkward of 90 minutes, Pool snatched it at the death.

Taylor-Fletcher popped up on the right this time and rolled the ball back to Matt Phillips.

He swung in a delightful cross and Kevin Phillips rose in trademark fashion to send a header crashing against the upright

It deserved to go in, but no matter, for Basham was there, almost diving in goalkeeper-style, to somehow prod the ball in with his shoulder.

Saturday was the first time Blackpool had gone behind at Bloomfield Road since October and the visit of Nottingham Forest.

They lost that game. To come back and win this, against a side intent on keeping them out by hook or by crook, took some doing.

It wasn’t a game to live long in the memory, but three points are all that matters.

2012 is proving to be pretty damn enjoyable so far – long may it continue.

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