'Pool end 2007 on a high
7 points from 3 games eh? Not bad going over the Christmas period - especially considering one game was a 4-0 victory and another was a fighting performance against Sheffield United with 10 men for more than 80 minutes! I'm sure any Seasiders fan would have taken that points tally before the Christmas period...not to mention 30 points at the half-way stage of the season!
Simon Grayson surprised some fans yesterday by dropping Ben Burgess - very impressive against United, considering he was alone up front for most of the game - and started Scott Vernon who appeared to be out of favour in the run-up to the January window but silenced some of his critics with his cool finish against Coventry City after robbing the defender of the ball and slotting neatly home to make it 4. Ian Evatt, suspended for the game after his red card against United on Boxing Day, was replaced at the heart of defence by Captain Michael Jackson - meaning Danny Coid regained his place on the bench.
The teams lined up as follows;
Duguid - Baldwin - Virgo - Granville
Yeates - Guttridge - Jackson - McLeod
Sheringham - Platt
Barker - Jackson (c) - Gorkss - Crainey
Taylor-Fletcher - Flynn - Jorgensen - Hoolahan
Morrell - Vernon
Early on, 'Pool would force the issue on the U's defence with Mike Jackson's header going close to breaking the deadlock from a Wes Hoolahan corner. However not long after, it would be the 'Pool fans with their hearts in their mouths as Paul Rachubka spilled a Mark Yeates freekick onto the post and, luckily, out for a corner to the home side. A rare lapse in concentration for the shot-stopper who has otherwise been a rock between the sticks since signing from Huddersfield last season.
A brief set-back for the Tangerines, they were straight back on the offensive just 10 minutes later and managed to break the deadlock through that man Scott Vernon - a man hailed by yours truly as one of the best finishers at the club for a long time now.
He played the ball to Taylor-Fletcher on the right hand side of the area before continuing his run into the area, Taylor-Fletcher pulled the ball back to Vernon - through the legs of the defender - before Vernon turned on a sixpence and lashed home a rocket with his left foot into the top right hand corner. The former Colchester loanee visibly delighted in proving a point to gaffer Simon Grayson that he is worth holding onto in the January window.
Not long after, it could have been 2-0 to the visitors, however midfielder Michael Flynn could only lash his shot onto the upright from 6 yards.
Colchester then went close from a freekick which was expertly saved by Rachubka - atoning for his earlier slip-up - but it would be Blackpool who would go into the half time break on the ascendancy with another goal from the number 10.
Andy Morrell broke down the right hand side before lifting a ball across the middle with the defence no-where to be seen (probably wondering whether they'll be roped into New Years shopping with the WAGS!) and it was left to Vernon once again to tap in from 2 yards into an open net at the far post.
And so into the half time break, Blackpool were 2-0 up and in control of the game. When was the last time we could say that?!
As the Tangerines emerged from the half time break, once again with a renewed energy and still pushing for more goals while other teams may have sat back to defend their lead, Andy Morrell had the ball in the back of the net, only to be denied by the Assistant Referee and the offside flag.
The first change of the game came as veteran striker Teddy Sheringham - not long off collecting his bus pass along with Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, surely?! - was removed from the action to be replaced by Kevin Lisbie.
Once again the ball was in the U's net with 20 minutes left on the clock, this time Vernon hunting for his hat-trick - I wonder if that would have silenced his critics had he succeeded! - was sent free of the defence but unfortunately for the visitors, he had strayed offside and so his goal was also ruled out.
Wes Hoolahan was replaced by David Fox in a change similar to the game on Boxing Day, with Jorgensen switching to the right and Taylor-Fletcher to the left.
With just under 15 minutes remaining, Andy Morrell almost made it 3 as he managed to jink past 3 defenders, but his finish was off-target and once again the U's had a sigh of relief. He was then booked for delaying the restart of the game when Colchester tried to take a quick freekick, before being replaced by Ben Burgess in attack not long after.
Shaun Barker was then cautioned with the game coming to a close, for taking too long when taking a throw-in. His fifth card of the season, which means he will miss the FA Cup tie with Barnsley. Luck or intentional...you decide! (winky thing)
Scott Vernon was replaced with time almost up by loanee Bartosz Slusarski who's first touch was an over-head kick from a David Fox corner!
7 points from 3 games, Preston losing at home from 1-0 up against Cardiff, Burnley losing at home and Scott Vernon proving a point that he can indeed do a job in The Championship. A good day all 'round for the Tangerines.
The Dingles next up at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday afternoon for the Seasiders in front of a full-house. The place will be buzzing, the Gene Kelly will have a family atmosphere about it and there will be an air of expectation in the home end to carry on this recent form and climb further up the table.
Lets hope 2008 is as good a year for Blackpool as 2007 was!