It was a must win match today, and Simon Grayson’s side battled away against a sorry Walsall side. Goals from Williams and Southern gave the seasiders all three points, but the important point from today’s game was that the all of the players put 110% in and never gave up.
Grayson made a couple of changes to the side that lost out to Oldham last week. He ditched the 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 tatics and went for the 4-4-2, the simple brown bread tactic of football and it worked. Predergast played on the left wing, Parker on the right, which meant Williams came into the starting 11 to partner Murphy.
Stockley, injured, was replaced by Edwards, which meant the back four was, left-to-right, Wilcox, Clarke, Edwards and Joseph. The change in formation gave the Seasiders a better shape and resulting in Parker and Prendergast causing chaos down the flanks.
Pool started off bright and breezy, creating numerous chances thanks to great wing play from Parker, who had the beating of his man from the off.
Williams had the first chance of the match but fired his shot from a free kick just over the bar.
Walsall did have a few opportunities but couldn’t manage anything of any merit, much to the disappointment of the healthy away following.
There were two major talking points form the first half, first of all one ‘those’ misses. A ball over the top from Peter Clarke found Rory Prendergast, the left winger managed to hustle past his man and stick a cross in towards Williams. With goalkeeper Oaks in no-mans land Williams had the goal at his mercy, but the loanee was only able to head the ball back into the arms of the recovering Oaks.
The second major talking point of the half also envolved Williams, he was sent clean through on goal, as the ‘Ginger Ninja’ was just about to shoot he was taken down by Ian Roper. All eyes decended on Mr Beeby, but the man in green waved away the appeals.
John Murphy who was deemed fit to play only lasted till 35 minutes and had to be replaced by Ian Morris, Parker joined Williams upfront and Morris filled in on the right hand side of midfield. But it appeared that the big man had not suffered a reoccurrence of the neck injury as he had been feeling his hamstring before going off.
Ian Roper must have had something better to do this afternoon, after a failing to get a red card in the first half after hacking down Williams, the big central defender then brought Parker down just outside of the box. But he only picked up a booking despite Parker appearing to be clean through on goal.
The resulting free kick from Morris went over the top, but Peter Clarke once again implemented his free kick routine of staring at the opposition goalkeeper and shouting at him, as freekick routines go its one of the best.
Clark was then involved in the opening goal, his long ball picked out Rory Prendergast who was excellent all afternoon on the left. The former Accrington player slotted the ball to Williams, the Ginger Ninja turned his man in the box and then fired a low shot past Oaks.
Most of Pool’s problems this year have come from either late goals or conceding after taking the lead, but Walsall who were pretty much the worst team to visit Bloomfield Road this season, didn’t muster up anything in the second half.
A second wasn’t too far away, Williams laid the ball off to Southern, despite the ball bobbling its way to the midfielder, Southern managed to fire a low shot from 25-yards which nestled in the bottom corner.
Parker who was back to his best today had three opportunities to get his name on the score sheet. He fired two efforts just wide of the post and late on had a curling shot from the corner of the box saved by Oaks.
Joseph also had the chance to get his first goal for the club in the dying moments of the match. His shot from 20 yards was parried by Oaks who managed to grab the ball at the second attempt.
A battleing peformace today was needed and that’s what Pool did, but at the same time managed to play some good football on the deck dispite the poor pitch. Most of the good work coming down the left flank where Parker and Predgerast worked well with each other. Southern battled away in the middle, breaking up play and forging attacking opportunities. The defence didn’t have much to do today but in coming weeks they’ll be up against it, Southern and Swansea will prove a stiffer test than Walsall.
Blackpool: Jones, Joseph, Edwards, Clarke, Wilcox, Parker, Southern (Fox 81), Bean, Prendergast (Donnelly 90), Williams, Murphy (Morris 35).
Subs Not Used: Pogliacomi, Warrender.
Walsall: Oakes, Westwood, Roper, Gerrard, Fox, Wright (Timm 52), Osborn (Fitzgerald 65), Mills, Keates, Claridge (Barrowman 80), Devlin.
Subs Not Used: Leary, Gilmartin.
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Lee Jones 7
Solid, nothing much to do, but dealt with a few second half crosses well
Jason Wilcox 7
Wasn’t really tested but did well linking up with Prendergast.
Peter Clarke 7
Another solid performance.
Rob Edwards 7
Solid like Clarke.
Marc Joseph 7
Solid again at the back, unlucky not to get his first goal for the club with the late effort.
Keigan Parker 8
Played well out on the right wing and then upfront, linked up with Prendergast well and looked a threat.
Keith Southern 8
A tireless performance, battled hard and winning possession back on numerous occasion. Took his goal well and even managed to keep the flow of play going at times.
Marcus Bean 7
Solid with Southern in the middle of the park. Didn’t get forward which allowed Southern to do so.
Rory Prendergast 8
Great wing play all afternoon down the left flank. Also worked hard defending back and breaking up play.
Gareth Williams 8
Took his goal really well and linked up with Parker well after Murphy had gone up.
John Murphy 7
Did well against the huge centre back paring of Roper and Gerrard. But as we know Murphy needs to be 100% to make a positive contribution to the team.
Ian Morris 7
Did well playing out of position.
David Fox 5
No time to make an impression.
No time to make an impression.