Blunt Blades Draw
26th December 2007 - 15:00
The 4-0 demolition job on Iain Dowie's Coventry at the weekend was extremely pleasing, but the 1-1 away at Sheffield United yesterday topped that result comfortably as The Seasiders came from a goal down and a man down to achieve a very credible draw.
Simon Grayson named an unchanged side:
Barker © - Evatt - Gorkss - Crainey
GTF - Jorgensen - Flynn - Hoolahan
Morrell - Burgess
The home manager Bryan Robson had an embarrassment of riches to choose from, which highlights what a bad job he is doing at Bramall Lane, with a team that looked like:
Bardsley (European exp) - Kilgallon (Prem exp) - Lucketti - Naysmith (international)
Gillespie (international) - Montgomery (Prem exp) - Tonge (Prem exp) - Armstrong (prem exp)
Beattie (international) - Sharp (£2m fee)
On paper, it was to be a very tough game, which is exactly what we got from the off, but it was Simon Grayson's side who we causing the early problems, passing the ball wide and giving the game a tempo. However, this good early spell was brushed aside, as Sheffield United won a penalty in the sixth minute as Billy Sharp took a tumble (where have we seen that before?) in the box under an Ian Evatt challenge, with contact looking minimal. Referee Attwell - officiating his first ever Championship match - had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and dishing out the punishment to Evatt, which was a straight red card for a professional foul, to the dismay of the two thousand travelling 'Pool fans.
James Beattie stepped up to take the penalty and missed, or in fact Rachubka saved it. The American dived at full stretch to his left to stop and gather the penalty, much to the delight of the fans behind the goal.
An eventful start to the match was being missed by many supporters however, as pay on the gate fans had to queue up outside the ticket office to pay for their tickets, with many not witnessing the first 20 minutes.
Five minutes after the sending off, the management were forced into a change really, as Michael Jackson came on for Andy Morrell and slotted in alongside Gorkss at centre half, taking the captain's armband off Shaun Barker.
The pressure from The Blades kept coming unfortunately and it told after 22 minutes when a routine cross from Sharp wasn't dealt with by the Blackpool defence and James Beattie made amends for his early spot kick miss as he headed home the opening goal.
As a disgruntled co editor of the site, Jerry, trudged off for a coke in disgust (part timer), The Seasiders almost made an immediate response! A ball was knocked up to Burgess, who took a touch, allowed the ball to drop and fired a shot left footed from 25 yards which flew past Kenny but rattled the crossbar instead of breaking the net. In recent weeks, and reaching full fitness, the big target man has shown his skills on the deck as well as his prowess in the air, which has been a gradual improvement throughout his time at Bloomfield Road.
Just before the break, goalscorer Beattie limped off to be replaced by Rob Hulse, who received a standing ovation from the home support, which was the first time I'd heard them since Beattie's goal. To say they had over twenty thousand home fans inside Bramall Lane, they were incredibly quiet throughout the fixture, which seems to be the norm in this division. On the flip side of that, the travelling Blackpool fans sang all the way through the game, and as usual, were the extra man for the team who were not only down to ten, but had to contend against the referee also!
At the break, for all their endeavour, United had just a solitary goal to show for their efforts, and for all their defensive wall and grit, Blackpool had one shot to show for their 45 minutes.
No changes were made by either side at half time, but it was United who came out the stronger. Our midfield were finding it increasingly difficult to get hold of the ball and keep it for any length of time, so the home side kept coming at us, which was creating more and more pressure for the defence, who never once buckled under it.
Kaspars Gorkss and Jackson were certainly earning their wages as they continuingly won their headers, blocked shots and cleared danger almost every minute. What they are not (despite popular belief!) are super heroes though, and it was inevitable that the former Premiership side were to create gilt-edged chances a plenty. Wingers Gillespie and former 'Pool loanee Armstrong both had fantastic chances to extend the hosts' lead, but both smashed over when they should've at least made Rabs work.
The only way 'Pool were going to score was through a set piece or on a counter attack. Incidentally, on a counter attack Hoolahan - who hadn't been able to get into the game at all - won a freekick from Scotland international Gary Naymith around 25 yards from goal and pretty central. The ball was tapped to Flynn, whose shot was blocked as it riffled goalwards, which was a waste.
The midfield two of Jorgensen and Flynn both seem to compliment eachother really well with their energetic running and tough tackling, but also intelligent play, and whilst Southern remains injured, clearly are the best pairing for the middle of the park. However, we have no player in there who is able to get his foot on the ball and retain possession, which was almost our undoing yesterday. I believe a midfielder will be signed in January, which is imperative, but thinking of it so is a goalkeeper, defender and two strikers!
Back to the game and Blackpool were growing in confidence all the time, and from another counter attack, Gary Taylor-Fletcher seemed to be through on goal before he was hauled down by former PKE defender Chris Luketti, who was booked, and a freekick dead central was awarded about 20 yards from goal.
On 68 minutes, purposefully putting the ball down, Claus Jorgensen looked hungry to hit it, with Crainey also looking as if he fancied having a strike. It was Jorgi who was to hit it; and hit it he did as the ball rocketed through a ruck of bodies and past Paddy Kenny into the net. Dancing away to the fans, Claus performed his own rendition of Wes Hoolahan's Irish jig, or he was playing his harmonica for the fans - I'm not quite sure - but it was a fantastic moment as 'Pool fans were sent into raptures.
Changes were made by both sides, with Welsh and Fox coming on for us late in the game, and Welsh especially looked to put himself uncharacteristically 'about' which was good to see; maybe he's learnt from the other week?
Rob Hulse should have won the game for the home side late on with a couple of openings, whilst we could've scored on the counter if Flynn had looked up instead of shooting.
All in all, a point was probably fair in the context of the game, and a battling performance yet again by The Seasiders was a joy to watch. It might have been so much better though, but for the referee as he blew up for full time when we were in a crossing position and looked threatening, which summed up the day quite nicely really! What the result does do is leave Bryan Robson on the brink, as he was booed off by his own fans after an abject showing against 'little' Blackpool!
A point was fantastic, one in which we deserved. Saturday's game is huge when looking at our position in the league and to get a win there would make Christmas a very profitable period for the 'Pool, and who knows what 2008 could bring?
'United have got a superb squad of players but we worked hard, denied them space and got our reward for that.
'I thought the sending-off was a little bit harsh because Ian didn't seem to make too much contact. If he did it was minimal but it was a good save by Paul.
'We showed good composure though after going a man down and I thought we deserved to take something from the game because of that.'