In what was a bad tempered affair, Blackpool overcame a physical Tranmere side by three goals to two with Keigan Parker, Wes Hoolahan and Andy Morrell scoring.
Simon Grayson made an enforced change in goal as Paul Rachubka will be out for the season, so with Evans out as well, youngster Lewis Edge started his first game for ‘Pool this season. Some fans are calling for an emergency loan to be brought in (although this seems unlikely because Rabs was injured on Tuesday, so presumably we would have signed someone before yesterday?); this may be a wise thing to do, but the defeatist attitude towards Edge`s inclusion is not what we need and I hope he will be supported throughout.
Again there was no substitute place for Kaspars Gorkss, who failed to impress in the reserves last week. Instead Larry went for the more attacking options on the bench, with Vernon, Forbes and Gillett sitting next to the management.
The start to the game saw the two sides exchange attacks without really threatening in the opening ten minutes. That was until Gavin Ward collected a routine cross in goal and proceeded to throw the ball against the back of Parker`s head and the Scotsman fired home between the keeper`s legs to give ‘Pool a one nil lead.
The Seasiders then held a large spell of pressure, with Hoolahan instigating many attacks with Claus Jorgensen supporting well. It was a shame that with all the ball we had, David Fox was having a poor game as we needed him to spray the ball around and stretch the visitors. However, he couldn`t find a tangerine shirt for the entire half and was substituted at half time with Keith Southern coming on.
Back to the opening period, and Tranmere fought their way back into the game on 29 minutes through a Calvin Zola who took a very well taken opportunist goal. The ball looped into the Blackpool six yard box (with Edge stranded on his line) over Michael Jackson who should have hoofed clear but instead decided to wait for Edge to come and collect the ball, only for Zola to steal in and poke home the equaliser. It`s easy to blame the goalkeeper in this situation but really I saw it as a Jackson mistake.
That didn`t deter the home team who continued to press, and ten minutes before the break Wes Hoolahan was allowed too much time and space in the Rovers box before smashing past Ward in goal at an angle from ten yards.
Half Time: Blackpool 2 – 1 Tranmere
I`d hardly got sat down before Tranmere were level again. Comical defending (and goalkeeping it has to be said) saw Calvin Zola thrash home the second leveller of the afternoon. Poor goalkeeping from Edge as he failed to collect the original cross, should have done better with the first shot (which he fisted away) and then swung a leg at the goal scoring strike. It was his first game for us in a very long time though, and I`m all for him being given a chance, so everyone get behind him tomorrow!
Rovers were beginning to take a strangle-hold of the match soon after but ruined any chances they had of three points when former Blackpool target John Mullin wildly threw himself into a challenge with Jorgensen and be shown a deserved straight red card. This wasn`t the end of the punishment though, as Chris Shuker was booked for trying to haul Claus from his heap on the floor, and Jason “I`m not stupid?honest!” McAteer saw red after he clashed with Jorgensen, Evatt, Parker and manager Simon Grayson!! So with 35 precious minutes remaining, this was an ideal opportunity for The Seasiders to boost their goal difference. Sadly, it didn`t pan out that way.
The management then made a substitution as former Rovers skipper Michael Jackson – who struggled with the lively Zola all afternoon – was replaced with Adrian Forbes. Forbes went to right back, with Shaun Barker moving inside to centre half. This as far as I could see was to combat the pace Zola had on the counter and with Barker in the middle, the exciting front man hardly had a sniff. Thinking about the substitution logically, I can see why Larry made it. Rovers weren`t threatening down our right as almost everything went through Zola down the middle. This allowed in theory Forbes room to roam with the ball and carry it deep into opposition territory. However, Grayson must have forgotten he is incapable of this and what looked like a decent plan turned into a hindrance.
The stuttering nature of Blackpool`s attacking had the fans agitated but an Ian Evatt cross (why was he the only player actually stretching the nine men?) on 73 minutes met Andy Morrell`s head and nestled itself into the corner of Ward`s goal to send the 7000 or so home supporters wild.
Unfortunately, the mighty couldn`t keep going and preferred to keep the ball instead of press for another goal, and the game ended without further incident, apart from Chris Brandon picking up a stupid caution.
Full Time: Blackpool 3 – 2 Tranmere
Lewis Edge – 6
For his first game in a while, he didn’t do badly. Second goal he won’t be happy about but he’ll improve with games.
Shaun Barker – 7
Defended well, especially in the centre.
Robbie Williams – 8
Great display. Full blooded and gives everything.
Michael Jackson – 5
Was shown up for what he was by Zola. Gorkss is a far better player for me.
Chris Brandon – 6
Didn’t really come off for him, but he’s quality and will be key to success in the coming weeks.
David Fox – 5
Poor. Did he find a tangerine shirt in his 45 minutes? Got bullied out of possession often as well.
Claus Jorgensen – 7
Wasn’t at his best, but is a breath of fresh air in what is a stale midfield sometimes. Puts himself about.
Wes Hoolahan – 8
Tricky and clever, took his goal well.
Keigan Parker – 8
Answered some critics after a good performance. Doesn’t stick with him enough but why don’t we play to his strengths and get the best from him?
Andy Morrell – 7
Had a mixed game. Was generally below average but scored the all important match winner.
Saturday was a perfect opportunity to boost our goal difference when the two Rovers players were sent off, but we failed to capitalise unfortunately. In a highly entertaining game at the seaside, ‘Pool probably just shaded it with decent passing and moving, although some players were a bit static and looked overawed by Tranmere`s bully boy tactics.
Without Rachubka the nerves were always going to set in but I thought Edge did ok, despite his error for the second goal. Jackson wasn`t himself at the back, and was shown up for what he is against an excellent Calvin Zola who led the Rovers line particularly well.
Obviously the two red cards were the turning point of the game, but I felt both were fully justified and showed the immaturity and lack of discipline the opposition had. How they can moan about the decisions is beyond me. Mr Olivier: Blackpool fans normally love to hate him (especially after the away games at Chesterfield this term and Swansea last) but he officiated the game excellently, wasn`t as pedantic as usual; got all the major decisions right and communicated with the crowd well.
I am worried at the dip in form from Andy Morrell who despite his goal, was well below his normal high standards, and was out muscled too easily throughout. Fox also didn`t get into the game at all before he was subbed.
I`m delighted with the win, and we`re now at the dizzy heights of fifth, but I can`t help thinking we didn`t press hard enough in the later stages. Scott Vernon was brought on too late in my opinion. However, a win is a win and we`re now firmly cemented in the playoffs, which is where we want to be.