Abel's Vital View - Blackpool versus Watford
A broken down hearse. My dad watching 'Custer`s Last Stand` on TV. Thunder rumbling on the horizon. The signs weren`t exactly brilliant regarding the Seasiders chances of finally hauling themselves to Championship safety on Sunday.
Arriving at Bloomfield Road, I half expected to see vultures circling. Instead what I saw was one final great effort from the boys in tangerine, securing Championship football again next season with points to spare.
Pardon me for using an oft used expression, but it truly has been a rollercoaster of a season, not just for ourselves, but for every club in the division - a fact reflected by the sheer number of fans listening intently to their radios or checking the internet on their phones on Sunday.
As it turned out though, Simon Grayson`s warriors weren`t left to rely on other results as they got the point that they required for safety with a committed display against a Watford side who, on their recent form, will require something Houdini esque to return to the Premiership via the playoffs.
Ben Burgess calmed Blackpool nerves in the second minute, pouncing on some slack Watford defending to fire home from close range. It was the target man`s tenth goal of the season, although doubts remain whether he`s consistently good enough for this division or not.
After Danny Shittu had somehow managed to burst the ball, Joe Martin perhaps should have put the Seasiders 2-0 up, but the man on loan from Spurs, making his debut, could only direct his header at Hornets stopper Richard Lee. The young man (presumably selected primarily because of his height) acquitted himself well and many would like to see him back at Bloomfield Road again next season.
At the other end, Paul Rachubka brilliantly denied Tommy Smith and Darius Henderson. There is no doubt that Rabs is an extremely agile keeper capable of pulling off such wonderful stops, but his inability to command his area (especially at set pieces) is an area of huge concern and there is little doubt in my mind that Simon Grayson will be looking to bring in another goalkeeper over the summer.
Wes Hoolahan, possibly playing his last game in tangerine, nearly gifted Watford an equaliser in the opening minutes of the second half before somewhat redeeming himself at the other hand with a drive that just fizzed wide. Wes is the most skilful player I have seen play for this club, and will be a big loss should he move on over the summer.
Stephen McPhee then hit the post, before Watford`s Darius Henderson was given his marching orders for elbowing Kaspars Gorkss. However, the Seasiders let the Hornets back into the game just seconds later; Tommy Smith striding forward before slotting home.
Claus Jorgensen cleared off the line, before, with both sides realising that a draw suited both sides, time wasting tactics ensued; Paul Rachubka standing with the ball at his feet unchallenged for what seemed like a lifetime. With the referee seemingly realising that there was no point in continuing the game, the final whistle was blown.
There is no doubt that keeping Blackpool in the Championship is a huge achievement for Simon Grayson, his staff and players. However, the hard work begins now. All too often we see clubs suffer from 'second season syndrome`. It is vitally important that we do our up most to retain the services of the likes of Hoolahan and Gorkss, as well as strengthening the squad suitably; the division looks like it will be a lot tougher next season, and Grayson must be ruthless in his wheeling and dealings.
To progress further on the pitch though, the club needs to progress off the field too. The South Stand being built is the obvious starting point, but the training ground needs improving tremendously as well if we are to establish ourselves at this level.
A vitally important summer in the future of Blackpool Football Club awaits, let`s hope that nobody is found wanting.
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