GTF Stunner Seals Opening Night Win
A stunning goal from Gary Taylor-Fletcher earned Blackpool a hard fought 1-0 win over Hull in the opening game of the Football League season tonight.
After all the off the field antics of late, the Seasiders yet again let their football do the talking, and although their performance wasn't as polished as we've come to know, they got the job done and earned three crucial points that will go a long way to easing the concerns of 'Pool fans everywhere.
GTF scored the opening goal of last season as we thrashed Wigan 4-0 and he did the same tonight, although the margin of victory was far narrower.
GTF played in a front three alongside Brett Ormerod and Kevin Phillips, with Keith Southern, Barry Ferguson and Elliot Grandin completing the midfield. As expected, Neal Eardley didn't travel, meaning that the back four was made up of Crainey, Evatt, Cathcart and Baptiste, with Gilks in goal. On the bench were Halstead, Hill, Basham, Clarke and Sutherland.
It was clear from tonight's performance that the 'Pool intend to play at a slower tempo this year and that they still need to gel as a unit, and they started the game very quietly.
So did Hull to be fair, with both sides seeming to be sizing each other up.
Before the game I'd pinpointed Tom Cairney as Hull's dangerman, and it was him who had the first chance of the game - firing a curling freekick against the woodwork.
'Pool's first chance came just after the quarter hour mark - Barry Ferguson firing straight at Gulasci from distance.
Robbie Brady - on loan from Man Utd - looked tricky on the wing for the Tigers, and he fired just wide after some fancy footwork for Nigel Pearson's men.
With ten minutes of the first half left, Kevin Phillips crossed from the right of the area, but Elliot Grandin could only loop his header wide.
Joe Dudgeon was then booked for a late challenge on GTF, whilst Ian Evatt also entered the referee's notebook for a challenge from behind on Dele Adebola.
With two minutes of the half remaining, a defensive error gifted the ball to GTF who squared for Phillips... unfortunately the veteran frontman's powerful shot from the edge of the area struck the woodwork.
HT: Hull 0-0 Blackpool
The Seasiders nearly had a chance in the opening seconds of the second half; Elliot Grandin running straight at the Hull defence from kickoff, only to be stopped by Brady just as he entered the area.
Dele Adebola then limped off for Hull, being replaced by Nick Barmby.
Ian Holloway's men were enjoying the better of the game in the second half, and Craig Cathcart headed wide from a Grandin freekick on 50 minutes.
Eight minutes later, Alex Baptiste produced a tremendous tackle to stop Matt Fryatt from pulling the trigger, whilst Barmby was inces away from connecting with a Brady cross five minutes later.
With twenty five minutes remaining, Billy Clarke replaced Brett Ormerod.
A minute later, GTF headed wide from a corner when he should have scored.
Sixty seconds later a through ball by Cairney was diverted into the path of Fryatt, who was denied by Gilks with the rebound being blazed over by Barmby.
Barmby was then inches away from connecting with a Fryatt cross as the Tigers began to claw their way back into the game.
Craig Cathcart was then on hand to block a goalbound Cairney shot, before a give and go with ten minutes left between GTF and Clarke saw GTF lash the ball in on the angle and on the half volley. A truly wonderful goal and a contender for goal of the season.
At the other end Cairney fired a freekick wide and the hosts brought on an extra striker in the form as Jay Simpson as they searched for an equaliser.
'Pool made changes of their own with minutes left; GTF and Grandin being replaced by Sutherland and Basham.
With 88 minutes on the clock, Southern fired straight at Hull's keeper from distance, before Simpson fired wide as the game ticked into four minutes of injury time.
Simpson then lobbed over the bar as Hull's attack once again breached Blackpool's high offside trap, which Ollie seems determined to stick with despite the fact that it clearly doesn't work.
Nevertheless, the final whistle blew shortly after and the points were in the bag.
There's a long way to go, but it's a start.