Pride Park, Derby
28th August 2007, 7.45pm
There's not too many words left in the thesaurus that I could use to describe the team we currently have gracing the lush green grass at Bloomfield Road...
Magnificent? Imperial? Superlative? Magnanimous? Commanding?
All of the above could be used to describe the squad and management at Blackpool FC, something which is vastly different from what we may well have been saying this time two seasons ago!
This evening, Simon Grayson and his merry men made the long trip to the midlands for the second time in 4 days as they took on struggling Premiership new-boys, Derby County. Without a win in the League campaign this season, former PNE boss Billy Davies decided to shuffle his pack of players making no less than 7 changes to the side that lost on Saturday to Birmingham City.
Grayson meanwhile also decided to experiment while resting some regulars, making 6 changes and introducing young centre-half, Matt Lawlor onto the subs bench for the very first time. Adrian Forbes, Michael Flynn, Scott Vernon and Rhys Evans made their first starts of the season.
The teams lined up as follows;
Beardsley - Moore (c)- Leacock - McEveley
Teale - Malcolm - Jones - Camara
Fagan - Earnshaw
Subs: Price, Howard, Macken, Todd, Pearson
Barker - Evatt - Jackson - Gorkss
Forbes - Flynn - Fox - Hills
Parker - Vernon
Subs: Rachubka, Lawlor, Southern, Hoolahan, Morrell.
Both sides had chances early on in the game without really troubling either 'keeper until former Manchester United trainee, David Jones forcing Rhys Evans to tip a low shot from distance around the post.
'Pool nearly broke the deadlock through Keigan Parker - recalled to the starting XI while Ben Burgess sat the game out with Radio Lancashire for the evening - when a long ball found the Scottish forward on the edge of the box, who then failed to lift the ball over the on-rushing Derby stopper Stephen Bywater.
David Jones - also a former PNE loanee under Billy Davies - continued to threaten with shots from distance up until the half time break, however Derby failed to break the deadlock and the teams went in all square.
Within 3 minutes of the restart, Grayson brought on his [not so] secret weapon in the form of Wesley Hoolahan who replaced John Hills on the left hand side of midfield.
Not long after, 'Pool had a golden chance to break the deadlock. After some loose play in the Derby midfield, Parker pounced on a free ball and sprinted through the emerging gaps in the County back-line and let rip with a shot that Bywater just forced behind for a corner with his outstretched legs. From the resulting corner, chaos ensued in the Derby area before the ball found it's way to Parker on the edge of the area. His shot cannoned off the post with the 'Keeper beaten.
The deadlock was finally broken on the hour mark as Mo Camara picked up the ball on the right hand side before whipping a ball into the 'Pool area which evaded everyone and found its way into the far corner past the returning Rhys Evans.
A challenge from Ian Evatt forced County into their 2nd change of the evening - their first being Andy Todd replacing debutant Beardsley - with Rob Earnshaw being replaced by Steve Howard.
'Pool also made their final 2 changes with Keith Southern replacing Michael Flynn and Andy Morrell replacing Scott Vernon on 70 minutes.
Wes Hoolahan linked with Keigan Parker on 75 minutes, sliding a ball through to the Scotsman, who fired off a weak shot that failed to trouble Stephen Bywater. Meanwhile David Fox threatened also, his long-range freekick curling towards the top corner of the County net before Bywater pushed it to safety with an acrobatic save.
Stephen Pearson replaced Mo Camara in Derby's final change of the tie.
Late on in the game, stand-in left back Kaspars Gorkss was encouraged to play in attack by 'Pool boss Simon Grayson and it paid off. With 85 minutes on the clock, Shaun Barker crossed from the right hand side for Kaspars to head home unchallenged at the far post to net his first ever goal for the Seasiders!
That sent the tie into Extra Time with some players out on their feet after playing 90 minutes already.
With Derby's first chance of goal in the first 15 minutes of extra time, came their 2nd of the evening. Former Wigan winger Gary Teale broke free on the right before sending a deflected cross into the Blackpool area, where Craig Fagan headed in from 8 yards out, shattering Blackpool's hope of progressing in the competition....or so it seemed.
With virtually the last touch of extra time, Kaspars Gorkss pulled another one out of the bag, the Latvian this time on the end of a Parker cross from the right hand side and in similar fashion to his first goal, headed in unchallenged at the back stick to send the tie to penalties!
1. Steve Howard (Derby) - Saved
1. David Fox (Blackpool) Scored
2. Craig Fagan (Derby) - Scored
2. Wes Hoolahan (Blackpool) - Missed (over crossbar)
3. Robert Malcolm (Derby) - Saved
3. Keith Southern (Blackpool) - Saved
4. Gary Teale (Derby) - Scored
4. Ian Evatt (Blackpool) - Scored
5. James McEveley (Derby) - Scored
5. Keigan Parker (Blackpool) - Scored
6. Stephen Pearson (Derby) - Scored
6. Andy Morrell (Blackpool) - Scored
7. Stephen Bywater (Derby) - Scored
7. Adrian Forbes (Blackpool) - Scored
8. Andy Todd (Derby) - Scored
8. Shaun Barker (Blackpool) - Scored
9. Darren Moore (Derby) - Missed (wide)
9. Michael Jackson (Blackpool) - Scored
Final Score: Derby 2-2 Blackpool (AET), Blackpool win 7-6 on Penalties.
A fantastic result for Simon Grayson and his men beating a Premiership team away from home with a relatively weakened side and with goals coming from the most unlikely of sources, central defender come left back, Kaspars Gorkss. To score his first goal must have been fantastic for the lad, to score his second in the same game under such circumstances must put him on cloud nine for some weeks to come!
Unfortunately though it does raise the question about the necessity for a proven goalscorer 'at this level' - as Colin Hendry would say. Not taking anything away from the result or the performance, goals are welcomed from anywhere in the team, but with only Andy Morrell off the mark for goals this term, we can't rely on a defender to keep us up...or march us on towards mid table or the playoffs (very wishful thinking).
'Pool though are now securely in the 3rd round of the competition, with a money-spinning home tie against one of the giants of the Premiership a real possibility...or even giant killers Morecambe who knocked out 'Pool's previous opponents in the league, Wolves, 3-1 after extra time!