Blackpool's Championship memories: Matt Phillips' Barnsley hat-trick prolongs that festive feeling
With Blackpool back in the Championship, we’re recalling the Seasiders’ previous stint in the second tier from 2011-15.
This week, we’ve gone back to Boxing Day in 2011 when, after draws with Southampton and Watford, they won 3-1 at Barnsley as watched by STEVE CANAVAN...
After a successful Christmas Day, it was nice to get out of the house, away from turkey and repeats of Keeping Up Appearances, and into Barnsley.
It is a venue Blackpool fans have visited on many occasions over the last few years, and regularly returned from disappointed.
Possibly the most depressing 90 minutes came on Tuesday January 27, 2004. I mention it here because it still haunts me – and anyone else of a tangerine persuasion who had the misfortune to be present.
In fact, forget the ballot for Fleetwood tickets – if you were one of 247 hardy souls at Oakwell that night, you should get one posted to your door in a gold envelope.
The rain was lashing down, Steve McMahon was in charge of the Seasiders, Barnsley were managed by Gudjon Thordarson.
There are no words which can fully sum up how bad those 90 minutes were.
It ended 3-0 to the Tykes, it could have been 15. The Blackpool fans cheered when their team won a throw-in.
Proof, if it were needed, that those who say the Seasiders haven’t progressed all that far in the last few years are talking rubbish.
Yesterday was simply glorious to watch, the team’s display in the second half imperious.
The manner in which Ian Holloway’s charges knocked the ball around – all short, little triangular passes – was terrific.
It would be stretching it to say it was Barcelona-like but it was certainly of a standard that any other team in the Championship, Southampton included, would have struggled to match.
The victory and the manner in which it was achieved was slightly surprising given that, before kick-off, news of Matt Gilks’ injury broke.
His replacement Mark Howard, released by Aberdeen in the summer, is something of an unknown quantity.
Not any more. We now know he is a fine keeper in his own right and the composure he showed to perform so well in difficult circumstances was impressive to say the least.
He made several good stops throughout, the best in the first half when he denied Matt Done after the striker burst clear.
That was the story of a curious first 45 minutes – Blackpool dominating in terms of possession and getting into some excellent positions, but Barnsley enjoying the better chances.
The Seasiders might have had better luck had they got more shots off. Instead, first half, they had a tendency to over-elaborate.
On the one occasion someone did pull the trigger, it led to a goal – Matt Phillips finally ending a Pool goal drought which stretched back to September last year and his debut against Blackburn in the Premier League.
It won’t go down as the best he’s ever scored – his shot from 20 yards was struck powerfully enough but keeper Luke Steele managed to somehow jump over it – but Phillips won’t care.
He has hit the woodwork in each of his last two games, and before he struck here, had volleyed wide from six yards when it seemed easier to score.
No wonder he looked pleased when his 38th minute strike went in, and he deserves it – a fine player, hopefully this memorable afternoon will act as a catalyst to a sustained run of good form and further goals.
Phillips’ breakthrough was important because just before he pounced, the Seasiders were beginning to look frustrated and a little ragged
This was because they had gone behind against the run of play 18 minutes in.
It was a fine goal Barnsley scored, Jacob Butterfield flighting a delightful pass inside Stephen Crainey, Craig Davies firing a low cross into the area and Done poking in from close range.
One-one at the break but if the first half had been close, not so thereafter.
Pool were brilliant in the second period and were dominating long before the key, second goal arrived.
That came on 68 minutes, though once again Barnsley keeper Steele was at fault.
Phillips took a free-kick from the left, Elliot Grandin made a run in front of the keeper but didn’t touch the ball, which ended up nestling in the far corner.
Not great goalkeeping, though Phillips – for the second time – didn’t care a jot.
Notice Grandin’s name by the way? The Frenchman is back, coming off the bench just after the hour mark for his first taste of action since the third game of the season.
He did well and what a bonus to have a player of his talent back, especially with Jonjo Shelvey gone and the imminent return of Callum McManaman to Wigan.
Pool ended the game as a contest eight minutes from the end when Crainey was barged off the ball in the penalty area by Scott Wiseman.
Phillips belatedly realised this was the chance for a hat-trick, grabbed the ball and duly dispatched it into the bottom corner.
It completed a fine afternoon’s work both for him and the team.
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