Apologies for the rather corny title, I’m a bit rusty when it comes to writing match reports!
Perhaps the best place to start would be at the beginning…
Going into today’s game, Ian Holloway hadn’t toasted a victory at Bloomfield Road since November 7th against Scunthorpe United – in a 4-1 fightback against 10 men. What’s more, he was set to sit out his first game of a 2-match ban after his actions in the FA Cup tie against Ipswich and a week in which his side could have cemented their place within the Championsip’s Playoff places was quickly becoming a week to forget after a draw against QPR and a defeat – and a poor performance – against strugglers Sheffield Wednesday as they aimed to kick-start their season under new management.
Watford were the visitors and they were on the look-out for their first post-Christmas victory, having not won in five league games since beating QPR 3-1 back in December.
The major talking point across the BFC online community after the Sheffield Wednesday game was the poor performance of Captain Jason Euell. Holloway went on the defensive the following day in the Gazette, criticising fans who had apparently booed Euell off the pitch when he was replaced by Keith Southern and said that it was time to go back to the drawing board to ensure that this slump in form didn’t become a ‘crisis’ – as certain sectors of the media seem to call it when a team isn’t performing to their usual high standards.
Conspicuous by his absence today then was the Seasiders Captain as he was not only dropped from the starting XI, but also the entire match-day squad of 18, as Ishmel Demontagnac took up a spot on the bench alongside Matt Gilks, Rob Edwards, Andy Butler, Al Bangura, Ben Burgess and the forgotten man, Daniel Nardiello.
With three changes from Tuesday night, the ‘Pool lined up as follows;
Eardley – Baptiste – Evatt – Crainey
Vaughan – Southern – Adam
Ormerod – Taylor-Fletcher – Bannan
Having lost the coin-toss, many of the fans around me remarked that we would perhaps have a good first 45 minutes kicking toward the Mortensen Kop – it has long been said of course that the fans behind the goal ‘suck’ the ball into the net when fully behind the team urging them on. In hindsight, I guess we’re better off playing towards the empty South!!
It wouldn’t be too long before ‘Pool would have the lead in the game. Scott Loach – more on him later! – in the Watford goal denied a point-blank header from Keith Southern at the back post after a cross from the left flank before Charlie Adam broke the deadlock on 17 minutes with his 11th league goal of the season – and his fourth in as many games. He challenged the Watford defender in the air and the ball dropped at his feet for him to quickly toe-poke it through the legs of the Watford ‘keeper before celebrating in front of the fans in the West Stand.
Once again it would be a case of Blackpool dominating the possession in the game, however unlike Tuesday evening, they were also carving out chances to test the goalkeeper. Brett Ormerod went close in the first 45 with a shot that went just a fraction too high and wide, while Keith Southern had a couple of long-distance shots stopped by Loach, the latter was destined for the top corner before Loach palmed it away.
However, with a defence that hasn’t kept a clean-sheet since Boxing Day away to Derby County, it was almost inevitable that Watford would draw level.
Ten minutes after Adam gave the hosts the lead, Henri Lansbury – team-mate of former ‘Pool loanee Jay Emmanuel Thomas at Arsenal – would be the man to get the goal after some slack ‘Pool defending. Baptiste lost the ball by the corner flag and the Watford man was played the ball on the by-line. With a bit of trickery, he wrong-footed Neal Eardley, before playing the ball into Lansbury’s path for him to stab the ball home from 6 yards.
Going off on a bit of a tangent for a moment, if there’s one thing that has disappointed me over the 3 home games this week, it’s the lack of interaction between both sets of fans. I’m sure there’s a good reason to keep the away fans at the far end of the ground – closer to the exits, toilets & burger van, along with it being easier to Police safely – but when they’re so far away, there’s no back-and-forth banter between both sets of supporters and it brings the atmosphere down a level. Just an observation.
Before the first half was through, Ian Evatt was harshly booked – again, from my view of the incident from the back of the Kop – for a 50/50 challenge outside of the area where he seemed to play the ball, yet the Watford man stayed down holding his leg. Bizarrely, the referee waved play on, even with Blackpool in possession of the ball until the play came back to where the injured player was lying on the pitch when he blew the whistle and booked Evatt. His 4th yellow card of the season.
The second half began with the ‘Pool on the front-foot again. Spreading the ball from wing-to-wing with Adam and Southern in particular the architects, however on many occasions when the ball was whipped into the middle, there was no-one in Tangerine in sight to attack the ball or put the ‘keeper under any pressure.
Throughout the second half, The Tangerines would continue to force the issue, however. Brett Ormerod was put through after good work from Charlie Adam and David Vaughan in midfield but once again saw Scott Loach equal to his shot, saving it with his legs.
Gary Taylor-Fletcher would also flash two shots wide of goal, one shot with his left foot as the ball bounced up in front of him maybe could have been controlled before being struck at the target with his second trickling wide of the far post. David Vaughan also saw a chance fly agonisingly wide of the far post as well as the home side once again created a number of chances that would come to nothing.
A frustrating aspect of the game would be the referee’s inconsistency (nothing new there, then). After booking Evatt for a 50/50 challenge in the first half, a number of Watford players decided it would be fair game to hack down players in Tangerine to stop them in their tracks when about to launch a counter attack. Amazingly, despite at least 6 or 7 of these similar fouls – many from players who had been guilty of employing similar tactics earlier in the game – the referee decided not to book a single player during the second 45 minutes. Perhaps he had left his cards in the changing room at half time?
Ben Burgess and Ishmel Demontagnac came on at the 75 minute mark to replace Barry Bannan and Gary Taylor-Fletcher, in an effort to re-fresh the attack and put the defence under some more pressure, in particular in the aerial battles.
However, only a few minutes after they came off the bench, they watched Watford take the lead for the first time in the game. Lansbury turned provider as he slotted a ball through a gap in the ‘Pool defence to Tom Cleverley – another loanee, from Champions Manchester United – who slotted neatly past an on-rushing Paul Rachubka who was trying to close down the angle.
Once again, fans in the home end decided it was time to head for the exits. On Tuesday, they missed Charlie Adam’s injury-time consolation which maybe wasn’t all that big of a deal. Today however, they’ll be kicking themselves after what was the quickest turn-around of a game I think I’ve witnessed at Bloomfield Road.
With 2 minutes of normal time remaining, Daniel Nardiello was brought on to replace Ian Evatt – who had a disappointing game by his normal standards – as ‘Plan B’ was given its first trial run this season. With Crainey, Baptiste and Eardley staying in defence, ‘Pool could push at the very least 5 players into attack to over-load the Watford defence and it certainly paid off.
From a corner taken by Neal Eardley, the ball was cleared as far as Ishmel who had a fairly tame shot at goal, only for it to land at the feet of Keith Southen whom, at the second attempt, fired the ball into the far corner of the goal, much to the delight and relief of the home fans that had remained in the ground after Watford’s second.
No sooner had the ball hit the back of the net, Daniel Nardiello was sent free on the left hand side after Watford had lost the ball in midfield. Sprinting free of the tired defence, he squared the ball into the middle for Brett Ormerod to poke home the winning goal from a couple of yards out which sent Bloomfield Road into hysterics and the Watford fans for the exits.
At the end of the game, the players saluted the fans and punched the air with delight at having finally got their first win of 2010 and having come back from 2 goals down to win the game within the space of around 90 seconds.
Many of the fans leaving the ground at the end of the game couldn’t hide their delight, nor could they believe, that they had witnessed the superb fightback.
Watford ‘keeper Scott Loach must be cursing his luck after the result because after keeping his side in it after many top-quality saves, he still ended up on the losing side. Having said that though, there is no doubt in my mind that he will, or at least should, play Premiership football at some point in the near future. It’s no wonder he’s held in such high regard.
It would seem that ‘Plan B’ was a success and we may well be seeing it brought into action later this season after this turn-around in fortunes.
The result means Holloway’s men climb to 6th place in the league, although they have played a game more than their three closest rivals in Sheffield United, Crystal Palace and Leicester – whom actually have two games in hand on the Seasiders.
A huge advantage, however, come the end of the season could be the Seasiders’ goal difference. At +10, it’s the 5th best in the league. The closest tally from the teams below them in the league is +4 with Boro in 12th position. That goal difference could have the same influence as an extra point or two come May.
Next up for Blackpool is an away tie against Coventry in a week’s time as Ian Holloway once again will have to make do with viewing the game from a position somewhere in the stands as he serves his second and final game of his touchline ban.
Apologies for the rather corny title, I’m a bit rusty when it comes to writing match reports!