Blackpool's Championship memories: Stephen Dobbie's Watford double makes it a very Good Friday

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

Friday, 17th December 2021, 3:00 pm

This week, it’s Good Friday in April 2012 when they backed up victory over Southampton with a 2-0 win at Watford, as seen by STEVE CANAVAN…

The tallest man in America is a chap called Igor Vovkovinsky, who measures 7ft 8in and has size 26 feet.

Each time he needs some trainers, Vovkovinsky has to launch an internet appeal to raise £15,000 because they have to be custom-built by Reebok.

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Stephen Dobbie celebrates netting for Blackpool at Watford

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The point of this little tale is that, even if Watford’s back four each possessed size 26 feet, they wouldn’t have been able to prevent Stephen Dobbie’s first goal.

What a corker it was, collecting the ball 15 yards outside the penalty area, charging forward, zig-zagging past three defenders like a world champ slalom skier, and firing a low shot past Tomasz Kuszczak.

Not content with that, he fired home from the penalty spot to make it four goals in two outings. Not a bad start to his second Blackpool spell, I’m sure you’ll agree.

When Dobbie re-signed, many a Blackpool fan hoped he would be a good luck charm. After all, he was the player who helped the Seasiders into the Premier League, joining on loan from Swansea and, along with DJ Campbell, Seamus Coleman and Barry Bannan, firing the club to Wembley glory.

It seemed daft to think it could happen again but after the last couple of games, which have coincided with Dobbie’s return, maybe not.

The win over Southampton was impressive. This defeat of Watford was arguably better.

I say that because Pool’s away form was a worry. They haven’t been particularly good on their travels of late.

Prior to yesterday, they’d racked up three successive defeats, one of them – at Peterborough – bordering on downright awful.

They needed to be more solid away, more determined as a back four to stand up to a physical battle and win everything in the air.

Ian Evatt and co were stung by the criticism after the defeat at Reading. They spent a lot of time on the training ground, heading balls and practicing set pieces.

There was grit and determination in abundance from the off here, particularly from the impressive centre-half pairing of Evatt and Alex Baptiste.

There needed to be, too – Watford, a strong, physical team whose main tactic is to get the ball forward as quickly as possible, usually by hoofing it in the air.

“They are horrible,” commented Baptiste afterwards.

Understandable, though a tad harsh perhaps – after all, the Hornets were unbeaten in seven heading into the match, so they must be doing something right.

However, this was all about Blackpool, and, watching from the stands, I couldn’t help but get the same feeling I had during the club’s last two promotions.

During the Perfect 10 run, when the Seasiders went up from League One, they played in a similar “we know we’re good and no way are you going to beat us” fashion.

It was the same two years ago when the club rose to the Premier League.

Towards the end of that year, there was almost a cockiness to their football, a confidence that radiated from the pitch.

At Watford, it was back, and victory was all the more impressive because this was such a difficult game.

The home team are exactly the kind of big, bruising side that Pool have struggled against in the past.

You can’t expect to stroll in, pass the ball around and get the points. You have to compete, win the battle first, then play your fancy stuff – and that is exactly what Holloway’s men did.

After a frantic start, Pool gradually took control.

They had been denied an early goal by a brilliant double stop from Kuszczak, the on-loan Manchester United keeper keeping out Tom Ince’s deflected shot, then jumping to his feet to prevent the ball from creeping over the line.

That was a rare good opening, though, as the teams spent most of their time in a fierce scrap to control the centre of the park.

It meant there were few clear-cut chances, and it was obviously going to take something special to break the deadlock ... which is where Mr Dobbie comes in.

Brilliant run, brilliant finish in the 24th minute, and it set the Seasiders on their way.

There were a couple of slightly nervy moments either side of the break – Jonathan Hogg’s shot looping off Evatt’s leg and landing on top of the net, and John Eustace’s half-volley from the edge of the box skimming wide.

Just as Watford looked as if they may be about to build up a head of steam, a horrible-looking injury to Gary Taylor-Fletcher led to a lengthy stoppage.

Taylor-Fletcher took a whack to the back of the head and had to be stretchered off. The good news is that Taylor-Fletcher is fine, just a little dazed.

Maybe he took one for the team, for after that Watford’s threat lessened, the Seasiders wrestled back control, and went on to win quite comfortably.

There was one scare – Mark Yeates’ low shot from the edge of the area beaten away by Matt Gilks – but that was it.

Victory was wrapped up 21 minutes from the end when Pool caught the hosts on the break.

Keith Southern walloped the ball forward and Matt Phillips, like he did all afternoon, chased the pass down and showed great strength to hold off two defenders.

He slipped the ball to the unmarked Ince in the area, who was taken out by Kuszczak. Penalty, no doubt about it.

Up stepped Dobbie to slide the ball to the keeper’s left – the opposite of his spot-kick against Saints.

Pool held firm until the end, playing some good stuff on a pitch churned up as badly as Bloomfield Road.

Mind you, that’s not surprising given Watford share their ground with Saracens, which means 20-stone prop forwards run about on it most weeks.

Holloway’s team don’t care a jot about that. This was a huge win in terms of making the top six.

Another on Monday and, with just four to play, the Seasiders would almost be there.

May 19 is the date of the Championship play-off final. Keep it free.

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