Date: 25th October 2008 at 10:10pm
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A Strong wind, heavy rain and two evenly matched teams were just three of the components to the 2-2 draw between The Seasiders and Crystal Palace in a well-fought contest.

And it was the proverbial game of two halves, with the visitors playing superbly in the opening period, but were then totally outclassed by a rejuvenated ‘Pool side in the second half, that ended with Simon Grayson’s team moving up to 11th in the Championship.

Despite rumours this week that both Steve Kabba and Daniel Nardiello would be fit for the bench, both were out injured yet again, with youngster Danny Mitchley taking his place on the sidelines. Danny Coid rightly kept his place at left back.

Blackpool (4-4-2):
Barker – Edwards © – Evatt – Coid
GTF – Southern – Jorgensen – Vaughan
Burgess – Gow

Crystal Palace (4-5-1):
Butterfield – Lawrence – McCarthy – Hill
Oster – Derry © – Watson – Carle – Ifill

How either side managed to find a man throughout the game is a mystery, with the conditions being absolutely awful. But to their credit, Neil Warnock’s Palace side were able to keep the ball freely in the opening stages. A long ball through The Eagles’ back line (with a little help from Alan Gow) after only a matter of minutes found Keith Southern breaking free of the last man, but he skewed his shot wide of Julian Speroni’s right hand post.

But that chance was to be the solitary ‘Pool effort for some time as the away side were allowed time and space to boss early proceedings – something which is now becoming a worrying trait. Just as Derby County sought to keep the ball for long spells early on Tuesday, Palace gave us a bit of a run around.

However, we did get to grip with their style of play, which leant itself to the rest of the first half being scrappy and pretty dire. The strong wind blowing into the faces of the 1000 or so travelling away fans meant long balls aimed for Ben Burgess were flying out of play, and the back four weren’t adapting to the conditions with their wayward distribution.

Paddy McCarthy could have given the Southerner’s a lead, but his header hit the post.

Shortly after Gary Taylor-Fletcher saw a rare foray into the box culminate in a free header flying over the bar, Palace scored. Paul Ifill was slipped into the box by the impressive Craig Beattie and although he failed to gather the ball in, we failed to clear our lines, ended up gifting the ball back to the winger, and he didn`t need a second invite as he rifled in a shot right into the corner of the net. The defence was clearly at fault, but the goal could have easily been avoided. Firstly, Palace were allowed far too much time in and around the box. Secondly, Jorgensen failed to track his man (in this case Ifill) into the box, which led to the former Millwall man having a clear strike at goal under little pressure.

Shaun Derry might count himself a little lucky tonight not to have seen red in the first half for what looked like to be a flying elbow on Jorgensen which although resulted in a freekick, didn’t go any further, despite Claus’ angered rants to referee Taylor throughout the half about Derry’s tackling.

Even though The Seasiders were frankly abysmal in the first half (which had as much to do with the conditions as it did personal performance I might add), they did have chances to equalise. Gary Taylor-Fletcher – who was a constant threat throughout, thank goodness the manager kept faith in him last season when others were questioning his contribution – fired a shot wide, and a Shaun Barker header was well saved on the line before the half time whistle.

Why is it we only ever seem to turn up in the second half of games? It took all of three minutes after half time to square the game at 1-1. A good direct run by Danny Coid ended in his cross coming back to Ben Burgess on the edge of the box, whose right foot volley had Bloomfield Road erupting into cheer as the big man flew off to celebrate with the kop. ‘Let’s all do the birdman’ got yet another outing, with the kop then giving their impressions of Burgess; very amusing from the west stand!

I thought Danny Coid and Burgess had absolute blinders today. Burgess, who had to contend with the wind more than most today, held the ball amicably and won nearly every header against his marker, whilst Coid defended brilliantly against the tricky John Oster, also showing what he could do going forward, with his link up play with David Vaughan. These performances were in stark contrast to those of the central midfield pair, Southern and Jorgensen. Both players had particularly poor games, stemming from woeful first touch on the ball every time they received it. This now is the only area in the team which needs serious improvement.

The kop were still doing the birdman when Palace went up the other end and score to make it 2-1. Ben Watson ran from midfield, breaking free of all in tangerine and slipped in Craig Beattie beautifully, whilst the former Celtic striker – still having a lot to do – caressed the ball into Rabs’ goal from just inside the box on the angle. So, 2-1 after 49 minutes – game on!

And Blackpool really took the game to The Eagles after that goal. For the first time in the game they built up a head of steam with both fullbacks being influential in taking the game to the opposition. This positive attacking play was rewarded on 65 minutes when the referee gave a freekick to us just inside our half. Paul Rachubka took it which, just as it looked liked it had evaded everyone, found the outstretched head of Ian Evatt who guided the ball past Speroni to his left into the corner for his first league goal in tangerine. The place was absolutely bouncing. I can’t help but think that Neil Warnock might be slightly disappointed with his defence – Evatt was unmarked when he planted the header into the net, but also they seemed to hold their line far too high up the pitch, which allowed a lot of room for the big defender to run into.

Ten minutes later came the introduction of Adam Hammill. What a different player he looked to the one in previous weeks! He played with skill, drive and determination in his 15 minute outing, typified with his classy run into the box and cross for Burgess, only for the big man to fluff his lines, as his header looped over. The chance was however more difficult than it looked as the striker had clearly already made his mind up that he was going to head the ball, but by the time it reached him, he should have gone with his left foot. Very unfortunate.

Hammill could have made himself a true hero with just minutes left in the game as he knocked the ball beyond the last man Matt Lawrence only to then pass his effort wide of the goal when one-on-one with Speroni. On reading some of the negative comments about Hammill’s performance, perhaps I was at a different game to others. One miss doesn’t make him a bad player, which he clearly isn’t. Just like his early entertaining games against Bristol City and Macclesfield didn`t make him a world beater. If it was up to me, I’d start the Liverpool winger on Tuesday night at Cardiff.

That chance was to be the last of the game, and brought the end to a fraught second half where either side could have won it, even though ‘Pool had the best of it. It was refreshing to see Danny Mitchley get a few minutes at the end of the match – hopefully that will give him some confidence for future games.

Coming out of the ground just moments after the final whistle, I saw Neil Warnock and Simon Jordon (lovely bleach blonde hair Simon, that’s your natural colour, right?!) walking away from Bloomfield Road. This is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever witnessed at a football match – why wasn’t Warnock giving his team a talk? Why did he then not give any press interviews? Assistant Mick Jones was left with the duties.

So, yet another draw (that is six in the league already!) and although we are not losing these games it would be nice to kill some more teams off. However, given the awful showing in the first half, it is definitely a point won rather than two dropped. We go to Cardiff City on Tuesday night full of confidence, despite having a really poor away record there. 4th plays 11th at Ninian Park – sounds a tasty game to me!


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