Date: 23rd April 2011 at 6:38pm
Written by:

Blackpool were unlucky not to take all three points against Newcastle United at Bloomfield Road. A much-improved performance from the Seasiders deserved more than a 1-1 draw from a highly competitive, and sometimes fractious, encounter.

Ian Holloway was bold with his team selection, dropping the out of sorts Craig Cathcart for Alex Baptiste and giving raw winger Matt Phillips a start. David Vaughan was back from injury and he would turn out to be a key figure in a rousing display.

The fixture was high octane right from the off, with the 14,000 Pool fans creating a cup final atmosphere, spurring the players on to be first to every ball and never shirk a challenge.

However, despite early opportunities, it was United who drew first blood on 17 minutes. And yet again it was all the home side’s own wrongdoing.

Charlie Adam was the culprit the week as instead of playing the ball up the line, he decided to play his way out of trouble. That invited Joey Barton to pick up the ball and feed Peter Lovenkrands who still had a lot to do 25 yards out. The Danish international took one stride before powering a left-footed shot down to Matt Gilks’ right, giving Alan Pardew’s team the lead.

In truth, it was a poor goal to give away all round, and reminded supporters of the Wigan capitulation last week. Both Stephen Crainey and Adam had ample chances to play the ball up the line but tried to be too clever, whilst the goalkeeper – still recovering from injury – was painfully slow to get down to the shot.

Last week, that type of goal had the whole place deflated, but not this. Although admittedly there was a quiet spell five minutes after the opener, the tangerine faithful soon found their voice (with a little help from PA Tony Parr) and willed their side on to attack.

And attack they did. Neal Eardley consistently found himself popping up on the right wing whilst his left-sided partner Crainey was doing his best to help DJ Campbell against the impressive Danny Simpson.

For all that attacking, the tide turned when Vaughan kicked on. The central midfielder was tenacious in the tackle, rigorous in the air but also eloquent on the ball as he got Pool moving. That meant it wasn’t long before they were back on level terms.

Campbell was slipped in beyond the United back four before being hauled down by Tim Krul in the away goal but there was nothing doing from referee Martin Atkinson.

No panic, the Seasiders continued to force corners without really stretching Krul – although Phillips might have done better with a half chance.

It was their fourth of the afternoon which sparked the equaliser on 35 minutes. Charlie Adam – who up to that point had looked off the pace – whipped in a low cross which Campbell (who had twisted around the front of his marker excellently) guided home just over the line to up the ante of the game.

From then on, it was all Blackpool.

Ian Evatt popped up as unintentional playmaker for the remainder of the half as he was allowed time to dictate proceedings in the opposition half. This led to a trilogy of chances which should have seen Pool go ahead.

The first was a Matt Phillips shot which ballooned over the bar from 15 yards, closely followed by a superb Alex Baptiste hit brilliantly cleared off the line by Jose Enrique.

There was also a huge shout for a penalty when a blatant handball was waved away as unintentional by the referee.

But the best chance of the lot fell to the busy Campbell, who peeled away off the back post from a pin-point Phillips cross, only to find his header hit the side-netting. That chance came on the break and Ollie’s 11 really had their tails up. Unfortunately, it also spelled the end of the first half.

After the break there was still that hunger and desire to win from all in tangerine (and in fairness, black and white) as they pressed on for a second.

Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Keith Southern both regularly draw criticism by supporters, but both played their part.

GTF, who led the line for the most part, has developed into an intelligent, aware and very physical Premiership striker who bullies defenders whilst giving them a problem on the deck as well. Coloccini had no answer for him at times, despite his international experience.

Southern was a huge surprise. Although the game was made for him – with tackles flying everywhere – it was interesting to note his ability to take stock of the situation and instinctively know what position to take up. It can be argued that yes, he played in this system all last season and he should know where to be at all times; however, he hasn’t really had a chance to play a part this term and the gulf in class is huge. Tracking runners like Kevin Nolan from midfield is a difficult task and one he performed admirably.

The intensity of the game continued after half time but the chances did dry up slightly for both teams.

Pool looked threatening without creating so much, with GTF noticeably tiring towards the last 20 minutes. Charlie Adam saw a free kick fly wide whilst Neal Eardley floated one over from a similar position.

The away side took the sting out of the game well, fouling tangerines when they were breaking and with a weak referee in charge, it was a tactic which eventually earned them a point.

Having said that, GTF did have a good headed chance which went over the bar.

Luke Varney and Jason Puncheon came on but failed to make an impact whilst United were dangerous on the break but never really looked like they would score a second to take all three points.

A friend texted me after the game saying it was two points dropped, but I don’t see it that way myself. It was important that there was a reaction after last week and although the side didn’t win the game, it provides a platform for next week against Stoke.

With results generally going our way, Blackpool still have survival in their own hands – you can’t ask for much more at this stage in the season.