By Pete Moore
It didn’t quite match the intrigue of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery but the Pool’s game against Watford at Vicarage Rd was certainly a real thriller. Blackpool’s only crime was some shocking defending for Watford’s three goals but this was more than redeemed by four great finishes to take the sting out of the Hornets, This was their first win at Watford since 1970 and in my 43 years of watching the Pool I cannot recall seeing them win a game when they have been behind on three occasions!
The day was very grey, cold and wet with the floodlights on well before the match started. There was a good turnout of Pool fans, perhaps a few less than last year but still in very good voice. After ‘roughing it’ with some supporters on Sky’s Soccer AM earlier in the day, Karl Oyston was also in the away end. I actually arrived at the ground at 1.30pm just as the team coach arrived. Mo Camera was not with them having turned up in a huge 4×4 – A Lincoln Navigator I believe – so big it had an electric step so you could clamber in and out. Having parked in the main road outside the ground a policeman suggested the car be moved and Mo handed over the keys to him. He obviously had second thoughts a few minutes later as he ran back out of the ground to move it himself with the help of a friendly steward and before it got towed away!
Larry kept faith with the starting line-up he has used in the last couple of games with Camera, Fox, Broomes, Hamill and Mitchley on the bench. The full starting line-ups were as follows:
Doyley, DeMerit, Ward, Sadler
O’Toole, Eustace, Harley, Smith
Barker, Edwards, Evatt, Coid
Vaughan, Southern, Jorgensen, GTF
This was a very open match with end to end action from the start. In the first half Watford used the wide pitch more effectively and the pace of Hoskins and Harley and the height and skill of Rasiak caused our defence all sorts of problems. O’Toole dived for a penalty as early as the third minute, only to be waved away by the referee. Just a minute later came the first of the defensive shockers. A bit like Moses ‘parting the sea’ our midfield and defence contrived to open up in the middle and allow two Watford players to run through unchallenged. Hoskins shot into the right hand corner leaving the advancing Rabs no chance. Blackpool could have been level within five minutes with misses from both Burgess and GTF. The tricky Hoskins responded by crashing the ball against the base of the post.
Blackpool’s first equaliser came on about eighteen minutes with a free kick just outside the area. Jorgensen hit the ball against the wall and it rebounded out to the left edge of the area where Southern hit a good left foot shot through a crowd of players into the opposite corner of the net. One-one and game on.
With both sides pressing and plenty of open play Watford got a free kick on the right side of the pitch outside the area. The kick was directed towards the far side of the goal where there were once again two Watford players completely unchallenged waiting to attack the ball. Rasiak rose to head the ball back across the goal into the opposite corner, leaving Rabs little chance. Defensive shocker number two!
Harley continued to torment Barker down the left wing but we also had chances with Gow being pulled down when clean through – no free kick given though.
Watford went into half time two-one up.
The second half started brightly for the Pool with some good passing and more forward support from players like GTF and Southern. Their patience played off when in the build up to another attack Big Ben received the ball out wide on the edge of the area. He looked up and curled a superb shot into Lee’s right hand top corner. BBB then came across to do his flapping bird impression with the Pool fans responding likewise.
Both sides were now looking for the winner but Blackpool were making it difficult for themselves at times with some poor clearances. During another Watford attack pace again caught out the Pool defence. A run across the area resulted in a penalty as Evatt leaned on then brought down the Watford player – no complaints on it being a penalty. Defensive blunder number three! Smith stepped up and put the pen into the bottom corner, sending Rabs the wrong way.
It’s never easy supporting the Pool and many of us thought that it just wasn’t going to be our day. We forgot however the fighting qualities of this team. Larry brought on Hamill for Vaughan. A good move as the big pitch and Watford’s slow defence was ideal for Hamill. I was surprised that the substitution wasn’t for Jorgensen who in my opinion was ineffective the whole match. Almost immediately Hamill had a positive effective with his runs and crosses from the left. During one attack he skinned the defender on the outside and sent over a great cross from the by-line. It was headed back from the far post and GTF was on hand to put the ball in the net. Well deserved and game on again.
With five minutes left the Pool faithful sensed that there was still time for an unlikely winner and raised the roof with their singing and cheering. With Pool pressing and with two minutes of injury time already gone, Gow was played through on the left hand edge of the area. He unleashed a hard, low, right-foot shot (yes right-foot!) across the goalkeeper and into the far side of the goal – pure ecstasy amongst the Blackpool fans now. I got hugged by the woman behind me. I don’t know what she really looked like because they had turned the lights off in the stand, but I do think she was younger than me! The Blackpool players were also celebrating with Gow getting booked for removing his shirt. We had a couple of other unnecessary bookings in the game for dissent, but no one really cared on a day like this.
What about individual performances? Well the defence was put under pressure (particularly Barker, Edwards and Evatt) and failed on the occasions mentioned today. They did clear more than they failed to clear though! For me Coid was the best defender today – he only got caught out once and put in some good tackles and cleared well.
In midfield Southern and GTF played well. I personally thought Southern had his best game this season, not only scoring a good goal but challenging and passing well and much more mobile – getting into some good attacking positions. Vaughan was ok but relatively quiet. Jorgenson was off the pace and got in few passes and tackles. His corners and free kicks were poor. I would try Vaughan in the centre and Hamill on the left midfield for the next match.
Gow and Burgess both played well together today. Playing Hamill with them also compensates for their general lack of pace.
Although Rabs conceded three goals I cannot recall him having to actually make a save apart from the goals – all of which he stood little chance with.
If I was to choose a man of the match today it would be Southern.
Whilst Larry will be delighted with the win he must also be concerned about the number of goals we are conceding. The teams’ sheer persistence and ‘never say die’ attitude pulled them through today. A bit like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple!
All in all an excellent and exciting win. We now need to get the full value of these good away performances by winning more of our home matches – roll on Ipswich and Preston.
Up the Pool!
Murder at the Vicarage?
By Pete Moore