Date: 12th August 2011 at 1:32am
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Blackpool were tonight dumped out of the League Cup in the first round away at lower league opposition.

The Seasiders dominated the game against League One Sheffield Wednesday, but missed chance after chance, and after Ash Eastham’s red card in the second, paid the ultimate price by losing on penalties.

‘Pool manager Ian Holloway made eleven changes to the side that beat Hull (Wednesday made ten themselves), as ‘Pool lined up thus: Halstead, Harris, Hill, Eastham, Basham, Martinez, Sylvestre, Eardley, Ince, Sutherland and Clarke.

With a far from capacity crowd in at Hillsborough, the opening stages almost had a pre-season feel to them as both teams looked to gel with so many changes.

Mark Halstead looked very nervy in goal early on for the Seasiders, making three big errors that could well have gone punished on another night. After receiving backing from BFC fans on Vital earlier this week, his stock undoubtedly dropped tonight and hopefully ‘Pool can bring in another keeper before Sunday’s clash with Peterborough if Matt Gilks’ injury keeps him out of the game, as on the basis of tonight, Halstead does not look up to our level (yet).

Billy Clarke had ‘Pool’s first shot of the night just after the quarter hour mark, lashing the ball wide after creating some space for himself.

Clarke didn’t have the best of nights finishing wise, but considering that was his first ninety minutes of competitive football in well over a year, he did well and will be a valuable player for us this season. Understandably, it looked like he was holding a little back, but as he gets more games under his belt, I think we’ll begin to see him at his best.

‘Pool’s finishing was poor throughout infact, and Ollie will be ruing the club’s inability to add to his firepower, especially after deals for David Goodwillie and Ishmael Miller recently fell through. Tonight only served to highlight that strengthening our forward line asap is a must. Get your cheque book out, Karl!

Neal Eardley, playing in his converted central midfield role, was a surprise inclusion; he was originally expected to miss the game because of international duty, but after being an unused sub for Wales last night he was thrown into the side tonight. Not only that, but he was named captain – perhaps Ollie’s attempts to move on from the speculation surrounding him during the course of the past seven days? The former Oldham captain looks comfortable in midfield and played well tonight. He had ‘Pool’s second chance of the night; blasting wide from 25 yards.

With Eardley playing in midfield, it meant that Chris Basham got a chance to impress at right back. And impress he did, looking solid at the back and confident going forward. After a lengthy absence through injury, Bash will be keen to get games under his belt and force his way into the side. On the basis of tonight, the likes of Alex Baptiste will be feeling a bit of pressure.

Seven minutes before the break, Neal Eardley fired just wide after a great move saw Tom Ince freed down the left and cross the ball to the edge of the area where the Welsh international was waiting.

Ince had a very promising debut, although he’s still a bit green and doesn’t get his head up at key times. He definitely has potential though and should get games as the season progresses. The thought of him playing down the left and Matt Phillips down the right is very exciting indeed.

Eardley and Harris then blazed high and wide as the Seasiders began to dominate just before the break.

Clarke then fired straight at Wednesday’s keeper from the edge of the area and Sutherland fired just wide from close range as the half drew to a close.

Sutherland clearly has potential and with some hard work on the training ground has the potential to become a good player. If we’re to be competing at the top end of the Championship this season though, he’s not someone we want to be relying on at this stage of his career.

‘Pool dominated the second half but just couldn’t find the winner that their play deserved.

Sutherland had the first chance of the half, firing straight at Wednesday’s keeper on 56 minutes from a tight angle.

Ten minutes later Eardley smashed a freekick over the bar from 25 yards as ‘Pool began to really stretch their hosts.

Whilst the finishing was undoubtedly poor from the Seasiders, as this report makes clear, there were some real positives to be taken from tonight’s game; for instance, both Sylvestre and Angel played very well in the middle of the park. You get the sense that if Ollie gets what he needs transfer wise over the coming weeks, we could be in business.

With 67 minutes on the clock, the ever busy Sutherland fired straight at Wednesday’s keeper, whilst Clarke dinked an effort just wide seconds later after a through ball from Sutherland.

Sutherland then fired straight at the keeper after Clarke had returned the favour, releasing him with a clever dink after Sylvestre had strode forward.

Basham then drove wide, before Harris released Ince with a super ball, and the ex Liverpool man’s cross found Billy Clarke unmarked with the goal gaping… unfortunately the only thing gaping a second later was our mouths as Clarke somehow transpired to fire wide. A real sitter.

Speaking of Harris though, he was in the wars tonight but played well. Looks like he could be a real steal.

Just two minutes later though, ‘Pool were down to ten men after Ash Eastham was shown a straight red card for a heavy challenge.

Despite their disadvantage, ‘Pool continued to dominate and with just wunder ten minutes remaining, Sutherland had a decent penalty shout turned down. It was one of those where you’ve seen them given.

Palmer then fired wide for the hosts from long range, before ‘Pool made a double change; Llera and Barkhuizen replacing Basham and Ince.

Giles Coke then fired straight at Halstead with about five minutes of normal time remaining as the game drifted into extra time.

The additional thirty minutes began with ‘Pool replacing Sutherland with Bruna.

O’Connor fired just wide for the Owls in the opening exchanges, but again it was the Seasiders who looked more threatening, with young Tom Barkhuizen showing some promise. He could probably do with a loan move to get some experience.

Halstead then made another error, but Gary Megson’s side couldn’t capitalise on the resultant corner.

Moving into the seond period of extra time, Wednesday fired just wide through Nyoni before O’Donnell tipped a brilliant Barkhuizen shot (after a brilliant Barkhuizen run) onto the bar. By this point we’d had 25 shots at goal, but only 6 on target… as the commentators said, we should have been out of sight.

And so the game went to penalties; Billy Clarke’s tame effort was saved, whilst Eardley blazed over. Sylvestre and Llera hammered home their efforts, but it was to no avail as Wednesday scored all their penalties to send the Seasiders out.

Despite the defeat, Ian Holloway will be happy with the workout. It’s clear that we still need a few more players though, especially in the attacking third. Hopefully we’ll be busy in the transfer market before the window shuts, and as always, as soon as any news happens we’ll bring it to you on Vital… stay tuned!