Blackpool's Championship memories: Victory over Reading is gritty rather than pretty

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

Friday, 8th October 2021, 3:00 pm

We’re in December 2011 this week when, after draws with Middlesbrough and Birmingham City as well as defeat at Leicester City, they bounced back with a 1-0 win over Reading as watched by STEVE CANAVAN...

This was a fantastic win, against impressive opponents, because the three points were much-needed.

As a contest it wasn’t a classic, more workmanlike and gritty – which, of course, is exactly what every successful team needs to be able to produce from time to time.

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On a horrible day, it could have done with something to liven it up, perhaps Jeremy Clarkson being wheeled out at half-time to give his views on Unison, or better still the guy in America who got shot in the buttocks by his own dog.

One of those stories that is too good to be true, a 46-year-old from Utah was on a hunting trip when he jumped out of his boat to move a decoy in the undergrowth.

Unfortunately he left his shotgun in the boat, where his pet dog accidentally stood on the trigger and fired a perfect shot into his owner’s backside.

There was nothing that out of the ordinary at Bloomfield Road, just a solid and decent performance – the type that the manager and the players appreciate more than the fans.

The calm and unruffled manner in which Pool held on to their 1-0 lead, for instance, was splendid to witness.

Ian Holloway’s team haven’t always been dab hands at doing that – the late equaliser by Birmingham in the last home game a case in point.

Here, the manager’s clever use of substitutions – particularly bringing on Chris Basham to play a holding midfield role – ensured the team had a good, solid shape right until the end, and thus they were able to claim the points without any real drama.

After a defeat and a couple of draws in the last three outings, getting a win was important.

To do it without arguably their best defender (Alex Baptiste), Jonjo Shelvey (back at Liverpool), and Keith Southern makes it even more impressive.

Southern, of course, is recovering after surgery to remove a tumour, and it was patently clear there was a quiet determination among the players on Saturday to get a result for their mate.

The quietly-spoken and fiercely private midfielder had told only a handful of his closest friends what had happened to him.

Gary Taylor-Fletcher, one of the few who knew what was going on, broke the news to the rest of the squad the day before this game.

It was an emotional speech Taylor-Fletcher gave, and it was appropriate that GTF played a vital role in securing this win.

Making two changes from the side which lost at Leicester – Callum McManaman and the fit-again Craig Cathcart for Shelvey and Baptiste – the first half was a tough battle, with occasional flashes of quality.

Much of that was supplied by Reading, who played in admirably adventurous fashion and had pace to burn in the form of widemen Jimmy Kebe and Hal Robson-Kanu.

The pair were a constant menace, keeping full-backs Neal Eardley and Stephen Crainey busy.

Indeed it wasn’t until the second period that the Pool defence finally got some measure of control.

The Seasiders had three major let-offs before the break – Adam Le Fondre headed wide from six yards out, Robson-Kanu missed Kebe’s driven cross into the penalty area, and Simon Church was harshly ruled offside when he nodded in following Matt Gilks’ great reflex save from a Robson-Kanu header.

Pool were grateful for that, though the boss was almost too busy to notice, as he fumed at what he considered a huge injustice after 13 minutes.

Sent clear by Lomana LuaLua’s clever pass, McManaman was knocked to the ground by left-back Shaun Cummings just after getting a touch on the ball.

Everyone in the ground was convinced it was a foul, and had referee Mark Brown agreed, it would have been a certain red card for Cummings was last man.

Brown put his whistle to his mouth, then changed his mind and waved play on.

I wouldn’t say Holloway was angry, more apoplectic. One had to feel for the fourth official as the Blackpool boss raged.

Cummings was indeed a lucky boy. However, from my view from the East Stand, I could see why the official baulked at making the decision – it was a hefty shoulder barge more than anything else.

The decisive moment came on 55 minutes when Pool needed something special to happen – and it did.

Matt Phillips played a key role with a fine run down the left, slipping the ball into the feet of McManaman.

The Wigan man, a bubbly mix of hard work and skill, left centre-half Alex Pearce on his backside with a wonderful turn, before remembering to do the important bit as well, coolly sliding the ball past Adam Federici. Quality goal.

Apart from a deflected, angled shot from LuaLua which flew narrowly wide, that was pretty much that.

Without busting a gut, Pool simply played out the rest of the game with great professionalism.

The closest Reading came to scoring was from a free-kick taken by dead-ball specialist Ian Harte but it went at least five yards over the bar.

When sub Michail Antonio chucked a long throw straight out of play in stoppage time, it summed up a frustrating day for the visitors.

Holloway didn’t care, of course – he was delighted. Every manager loves a 1-0 win and the Blackpool boss doesn’t often get them.

This will give the Seasiders renewed confidence and optimism, and good timing too with a daunting trip to Southampton next up.

Cathcart and McManaman are certain starters for that game – the pair were the standout performers.

Cathcart put in a textbook display in defence, while the work rate of McManaman, his will to win and his goal illuminated the afternoon, and ensured the home fans went home happy, if not enthralled.

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