The Vital View – Blackpool v Crystal Palace – By Abel
After a two week break which saw England reach the final of the Rugby World Cup, our cricketers beat Sri Lanka on their own turf and our footballers almost hammer the final nail into their own coffin that is EURO 2008 qualification, Championship football was finally back at Bloomfield Road.
The visitors were Crystal Palace, who just days before yesterday’s clash had appointed the enigmatic Neil Warnock as manager, replacing the under achieving Peter Taylor. As a result, it was not surprising to see the media hovering around the away manager’s dugout, eager perhaps to capture any glimpse of Warnock at his excitable ‘best’. However, perhaps their cameras should have been pointed at Pool boss Simon Grayson, as no doubt he would have been frustrated yet again at his side’s inability to show a killer instinct in front of goal and turn one point into three.
Grayson’s team selection was certainly interesting; he elected to bring Kaspars Gorkss back into the side after his international heroics (and the birth of his first child; I’m sure that everyone connected with the club passes on their congratulations), dropping on loan Matt Jackson to the bench. Meanwhile, Ben Burgess had failed to recover fully from his ankle injury despite media reports to the contrary and Andy Morrell woke up on Saturday morning with a stiff back, leaving Grayson no choice but to go with a pairing of Scott Vernon and Keigan Parker upfront. With new signing Phil Marsh also on the injury list, there was no striker on the bench; something that further underlines our dire need to strengthen in that area.
The visitors were the quickest out of the blocks, putting the Pool under some early pressure. The usually reliable Shaun Barker was having a fairly torrid time up against Palace left winger David Martin as Palace looked to get off to a flying start and impress Warnock.
The Pool were being forced to play on the break, but failed to cause their visitors many problems at all in these early stages; they either over complicated moves, leading to them giving the ball away softly or threaded the ball through to Keigan Parker, only to see the Scot be given offside time and again. If the lad had a brain, he’d be brilliant, but as it is, he gets caught offside far too often and this side of his game is only going to get worse against better defenders unless he does something about it.
After seeing so many attacking moves break down, Scott Vernon was the first player in tangerine to have a crack from distance, but could only direct his shot into the arms of Julian Speroni. It was certainly good to see Scott given a chance to impress and despite his obvious lack of match fitness, he acquitted himself very well. The thing that strikes me most about him is that like Andy Morrell, his team play is very intelligent and he will often link up play between attack and midfield/defence. Despite what some supporters may say, he definitely is an asset worth keeping hold of.
The second half again saw Crystal Palace start the brighter; David Martin was allowed to run and run with the ball before firing just over the bar with a powerful drive.
However, Blackpool started to find their feet again; Keith Southern firing agonizingly wide of Speroni’s right hand post with the type of blockbuster shot that we have come to associate with him. Southern has struggled to maintain his immense form from the first few games of the season. We really need him to start breaking up the opposition’s game in the middle of the park again; there were too many occasions yesterday when Palace won the ball in midfield under no duress.
Shaun Barker then saw an effort agonizingly diverted over the bar from five yards out after a good ball from the again enigmatic Wes Hoolahan. This was probably Hoolahan’s best display in a while, but he still tries to run the game too much; he needs to learn that sometimes the simple ball is best.
As is somewhat typical with Blackpool, just as we were looking like we were going to take the lead, we let the opposition in. Tom Soares was left to tap the ball home at the back post after good work by Danny Butterfield and the impressive James Scowcroft. The fact that Palace started with a strike partnership of Scowcroft and Dougie Freedman, with Paul Dickov and Clinton Morrison on the bench only serves to illustrate the strength in depth certain teams in this division have and again, why it is imperative that we ourselves also dip into the transfer market.
Pool were only behind for ten minutes though; Keigan Parker was somewhat undeservedly awarded a free kick just outside the area by the utterly incompetent Graham Laws. Stephen Crainey’s effort deflected off the wall and fell into the path of David Fox who slotted home his first goal of the season. Foxy bagged several goals during pre-season, and no doubt Larry will be hoping that he can now do the same in competitive matches.
Fox was then replaced by Mike Flynn, who impressed me in his short time on the pitch as he was constantly looking to get onto the ball and get involved. When we signed him, I said that I didn’t believe that he was any better than anything we already have, and although this remains the case, his cameo yesterday was impressive.
Another player who impressed after coming on was Andy Welsh (who had replaced the injured Gary Taylor-Fletcher; arguably man of the match until he went off), although he and everyone else will be wondering how he failed to score from just a few yards out in the closing stages. Again, our lack of a killer instinct reared its ugly head; we’re failing to kill teams off when we should do and our points tally really doesn`t reflect how well we’ve done to date.
Tom Soares was then sent off at the death for stamping on Welsh. Although the incident took place in front of me, I didn’t see anything untoward, although apparently television replays clearly show the offence.
Palace put the Pool under pressure in the closing stages, with the Seasiders defending nervously until Graham Laws brought proceedings to a close with the full time whistle.
Another two points dropped; will they come back to haunt us come May? Let’s hope not.
Blackpool’s Vital View
The Vital View – Blackpool v Crystal Palace – By Abel