Blackpool's Championship memories: Seasiders leave it late again to defeat Cardiff City
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 start of February 2012 when they posted a third straight league win with a 3-1 victory at Cardiff City as watched by STEVE CANAVAN...
If this was an edition of Family Fortunes and 100 people had been asked to name the most likely score in Saturday’s game, I dare say fewer than five would have gone for 3-1 Blackpool.
Blimey, Cardiff must hate the colour tangerine. First Wembley, now this.
What a result, and what an afternoon. Notice I don’t mention evening, for there was nothing pleasurable at all about that part of the day.
With England and Wales suddenly resembling the Antarctic on a particularly inhospitable day, it meant a horrific journey home along blizzard-hit motorways for hundreds of fans.
Don’t know about you, but my top speed was 27mph, achieved when I was feeling particularly daring just south of Evesham on the M5 – getting back to the North West before midnight was an achievement.
No matter how painful and arduous the return trip, at least we could reflect on another terrific performance, one of those 90 minutes which makes the prospect of another promotion become just that little more believable.
These three points continued the Seasiders’ unbeaten start to 2012, but it was without doubt the best win yet of the new year.
Cardiff are one of the Championship’s top sides.
They had won nine and drawn two of their 13 home games prior to the weekend.
For Blackpool to go there and, for the most part, dominate, really is a sign that Ian Holloway’s men might just be gearing up to once again do something very special.
That said, it is a shame we are making an enemy of Cardiff because it is a splendid place, not least because it gave us, in a roundabout way, one of the finest comics of all time.
Bob Hope’s parents met in the Welsh city.
He died a few years ago, after living till the grand old age of 100, which led to many gags about age, like “The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat are really good friends”, or “I don’t feel old – I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap”.
I mention that because there was a time, until very recently in fact, when watching the Seasiders made one age.
More often than not, they could only be relied on to let you down. It isn’t like that any more.
Holloway has done something very odd, something few of us who’ve watched the club for a while thought was possible: he has turned the Tangerines into a damn fine team, able to produce good performances and get wins.
Crucially, he has kept the team spirit and character that was the catalyst for the upturn in fortunes, forged by the likes of Shaun Barker, Ben Burgess and Andy Morrell during the Simon Grayson era.
By being clever with his additions and keeping faith in the old guard, Holloway has maintained a harmonious and largely ego-free dressing room.
They are all in it together, and that is why it is no coincidence that, for the fourth match running, Pool were able to recover from a goal deficit.
Victory in this match also gave further credence to the manager’s argument that he has never had so much strength in depth.
Holloway was able to select Danny Wilson, Chris Basham, John Fleck and Nouha Dicko, and still beat a team third in the table.
Of course, having a subs’ bench that is arguably stronger than the starting line-up helps, with the boss able to bring on Kevin Phillips and Roman Bednar.
Both had a major role in securing a first Blackpool victory in these parts for 16 years.
In the first half, though, there was little sign of the excitement to come.
Pool were great, knocking the ball around in confident fashion, content to frustrate Cardiff by dominating possession.
It wasn’t a particularly thrilling spectacle, with just a couple of notable moments – a Dicko snapshot from an Alex Baptiste cross and a Stephen Crainey free-kick, both pawed away by Bluebirds keeper David Marshall.
That was as good as it got, though it was much better than Cardiff, who failed to get a single shot on target.
At the break, obviously unhappy with what he’d seen, Cardiff boss Malky Mackay replaced midfielder Joe Ralls with striker Joe Mason.
This meant the home side switched from a 4-5-1 formation to a 4-4-2.
It immediately opened up the game, with Cardiff pressing forward for the first time.
Ironically, this almost paid off for Pool, who had a glorious chance to score when Barry Ferguson’s terrific 50-yard pass put Dicko clear on goal.
The young lad never quite looked convinced he’d score though and, with just Marshall to beat, dragged a poor right-footed effort well wide.
A bad miss, but Dicko has talent – he is lively, quick and not scared to put himself about. The finishing will come.
It looked like that would be a costly miss when Mason put Cardiff ahead, firing in from close range after Kenny Miller had cleverly headed Andrew Taylor’s deep cross back into the six-yard box.
That strike came in the 59th minute, exactly the same juncture Coventry had gone ahead in last Tuesday’s game at Bloomfield.
Pool roared back in that one, and here they did the same.
With Kevin Phillips and Bednar on for Dicko and Fleck, Pool hit back 11 minutes from the end.
It was a thing of beauty. Matt Phillips’ dangerous, inswinging corner was half-cleared by the defence, and Kevin Phillips, never once taking his eye off the ball looping out of the snowy sky, controlled it on his chest and struck a quite sumptuous dipping volley back over everyone and into the top corner.
Ninety-nine strikers out of 100 would have panicked and blasted the ball high and handsome.
Pool’s tails were up, and namesake Matt soon got in on the action.
After a thumping defensive clearance by Wilson and some good work by Kevin Phillips, then Bednar, Matt smacked a delicious angled half-volley into the bottom corner, which was so good the keeper didn’t even move.
The youngster added a second in stoppage time, outmuscling a defender to get on the end of Bednar’s pass and finishing with style, caressing the ball around Marshall.
How satisfying for the 20-year-old, who was the subject of three bids from the Welsh club during last month’s transfer window.
The Seasiders players celebrated wildly in front of the travelling supporters at the end, and quite rightly so, for they knew how big a victory this was.
Then came a journey home to forget, but the match will live long in the memory.
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