After a dire first half, the addition of the ?Ginger Ninja?, a big big slice of luck the Pool managed to earn all three points over Vale today.
Manager Simon Grayson made wholesale changes to the team for today?s encounter. Sam Stockley made his debut at right back. Along side him in defence was Peter Clark, Jason Wilcox and Mark Joseph who returned from his hamstring injury. Marcus Bean returned to the center of midfield after suspension, also returning to the team was Ciaran Donnelly after injury. Prendergast and Morris filled in on the wings. Parker and Murphy kept their starting placed which mean Gareth ?the Ginger Ninja? Williams had to settle for a place on the bench.
With the conditions at Bloomfield Road at the freezing point, a strong wind going from the Kop end to the open end, and the pitch looking its? worst this season the opening 10 minutes were always going to be sc**ppy.
It took a Mark Joseph error to create the first point of interest, as he headed towards his own goal. An alert Lee Jones was able to save Joseph?s blushes and tipped the ball around the post for a corner.
Jones was nearly called into action again a few moments later when Craig James fired in a very good effort, Jones dipped out of touching it over as it rose above the bar.
On 20 minutes Craig James picked up the first booking of the afternoon, his tackle from behind on Keigan Parker earned his name to be put into Mr Jones? book.
Pool?s first glimpse of goal came when Parker shot was blocked by a port vale defender, on 27 minutes. From the way the game was going it looked like last weeks dire affaire against Rotherham was going to be repeated.
Not much else happened until the half time whistle, then only thing apart from the hot chocolate at half time that could warm up the Pool fans was the prospect that the second half had to be better than the first half, as the first half performance had seen Pool hit rock bottom.
Surprisingly at halftime Simon Grayson made no chances to the eleven, but 3 minutes into the second half Vale should have taken the lead, Sam Togwell forced his way in between Joseph and Clark but he managed to lift his shot over the bar when it seemed easier to score than miss.
Once again Vale managed to muck up at the vital moment, moments later, Leon Constantine strode past Stockley and Donnelly and crossed into the box, Togwell stepped over the ball letting it run when he should have fired as he had the goal at his mercy.
Port Vale kept on pressuring the Pool, and all signs were for the Vale to get the first goal of the afternoon, in a second half which was slightly more entertaining that the first half display.
Grayson made his first change of the match, Prendergast and Donnelly came off, Keith Southern and Gareth Williams replace them. Pool changed to 4-3-3 with Williams going over to the left of the front three. The change turned out to be the turning point of the match.
It didn?t take long for Williams to make an effect on the game, first crossing for Keigan Parker, whose overhead kick went wide, and then firing a shot over the bar from 12 yards.
And on 66 minutes the man known as the Ginger Ninja fired in his first goal in a Blackpool shirt. A fortunate deflection saw the ball fall to Murphy, his shot smashed off the bar, and the chance looked lost. But it landed at the feet of Williams, who jinked past two defenders and shot from a narrow angle to give the Pool a remarkable lead.
Williams?s first eight minutes on the pitch created more excitement than the Pool fans had seen over the first 58 minutes of today?s game, and last week?s match against Rotherham.
Despite the new sense of confidence Vale still had a say in the game, going forward creating chances. Mark Joseph made a second mistake of the day, handling in the area after miss controlling the ball.
Former Pool player Tony Dinning stepped up to take the penalty. Jones who has a really good history of saving penalties would have saved the penalty but Dinning shot wide to the delight of the Pool fans and to the relief of Mark Joseph.
Vale made a change with time running out, Jeff Smith went off to be replaced by Michael Husbands.
Morris then nearly doubled the lead, a low shot bobbled and wrong footed Vale keeper Mark Goodlad who palmed the ball behind for a corner.
Butler replaced Joseph who was feeling the effects of missing recent games from injury. And with some careful defending Pool managed to hang on for a vital three points.
The double substitution bringing on Southern and Williams, changed the match today, three upfront gave pool the edge while Southern was able to hold. But really it was down the individual effort of Williams to pick the team and the crowd, and then break the deadlock.
Jones, S Stockley, P Clarke, M Joseph(86 T Butler), J Wilcox, C Donnelly (58 G Williams) , M Bean, I Morris, R Prendergast (58 K Southern) , J Murphy, K Parker
Subs: L Pogliacomi, K Southern, T Butler, G Williams, M Blinkhorn
Goodlad, M McGregor, G Pilkington, C Fortune, C James, M Cummins, T Dinning, S Togwell, C Birchall, L Constantine, J Smith (82 M Husbands)
Subs: J Brain, D Holmes, M Husbands, M Innes, L Briscoe
Lee Jones 8/10
Did well. Saved when he had to and good at set pieces collecting the ball. I even heard some communication from him!
Sam Stockley 7/10
Did Ok, a good debut. Gave away some cheap ball, but tackled well and looked calm.
Jason Wilcox 5/10
Rarely got the ball, but when he did, just gave it away and but us under pressure.
I fail to understand why he continues to play.
Peter Clarke 7/10
Again, did Ok. A bit theatrical for me, doing some things for his personal status with the fans is not what a captain should be doing.
Marc Joseph 7/10
Some mistakes but looked good and I can see where he’ll be playing next year.
Ciaron Donnelly 6/10
Failed to get in the game really, not sure why he played.
Rory Prendergast 6/10
Worst game for a while. I still believe he has a future for Pool next year.
Marcus Bean 8/10
Controlled the midfield well, took Morris under his wing like a true proffesional.
Ian Morris 6/10
He isn’t a centre midfielder. Tried his best, as he always will.
John Murphy 7/10
Won some good headers, but lost his fair share also. Good assist for the goal! (We won’t talk about the miss)
Keigan Parker 7/10
Played much better when Williams came on. Before that wasn’t great.
Keith Southern 7/10
Was a hard game for him to come onto. Did exceptionally well, looked calm and won some hard 50/50’s.
Gareth Williams 9/10
This guy will do brilliantly for us! Watching 30 minutes of him showed me that. A breath of fresh air.
Came on too late to make a difference (thankfully).
Simon Grayson 7/10 – I don’t know what he was doing with his team selection, as usual, but his subs, apart from Butler, were spot on.
Needs to have a hard think on what his best eleven is.
A Hat Full Of Chances
For Port Vale, but they couldn’t convert. Lucky victory really. That’s what we need in order to stay up.