Pilgrims Counter Good 'Pool Run
4th April 2009 - 15:00
So, we sit just five points ahead of Nottingham Forest in the last relegation place after a dismal 1-0 home defeat against Plymouth Argyle condemned The Seasiders to their tenth loss at Bloomfield Road this campaign.
However, it could've been much worse, as Forest themselves only managed to draw against Barnsley and Southampton (who occupy 23rd spot) lost at home to Charlton. But it was a day for sitting bolt upright in your chair, as a Blackpool team who were perceived as 'nearly safe' were beaten comfortably by a poor Plymouth side, which now puts Tony Parkes' side back into the relegation shake up.
Ben Burgess, Stephen McPhee and Ian Evatt all returned from injury to take their place on the substitutes bench, whilst new loan signing Lee Hughes (who got an admirable seaside welcome pre match) was thrown in at the deep end as he partnered DJ Campbell up front. Wade Small was missing through injury, so Brett Ormerod filled in on the right hand side, with David Vaughan returning on the left.
Baptiste - Barker - Edwards © - Crainey
Ormerod - Adam - Southern - Vaughan
Campbell - Hughes
Gray - Cathcart - Seip - Sawyer
Judge - Fletcher - Duguid - Gallagher
Barnes - Mackie
I`m not sure if it`s an understatement to say that the first half was a total write off, but 'Pool were struggling to keep the ball on the deck throughout whilst the visitors made hay (up to a point) on the counter attack; Charlie Adam and Keith Southern were both finding it challenging work against the industrious but not overly effective Duguid and Fletcher - both with limited abilities. Our central midfield pairing were playing on top of the back four and lacked the basic principal of a duo - in that one 'goes' and one 'stays'. Both were caught advancing at the same time, and dropping back at the same time, which signalled a lack of communication on the pitch and poor direction off it.
And this lack of the basics was all too apparent all over the pitch; the most obvious being that Vaughan and Ormerod were both playing far too narrow, and with no width, the midfield was too congested and allowed for no inventive play from the unusually quiet Adam.
The pattern of the game did resemble a relegation scrap. Dogged, determined but eventually devoid of quality.
Plymouth came for a point and were happy to release Paul Gallagher down the left hand side at any opportunity, but other than that rarely threatened. Gallagher himself was a handful for Baptiste - who, understandably, wasn`t given much support by Ormerod - leading to a handful of Argyle corners, two of which Paul Rachubka flapped at remarkably but thankfully to no consequence.
Lee Hughes did show that he is capable of scoring goals at this level once again on his debut for the 'Pool as the former West Brom frontman took up intelligent positions in the box, but his couple of headed chances were difficult to take and tamely found goalkeeper Larrieu.
But most opportunities came from outside the box for both sides, and the half ended 0-0.
The second period wasn't much better. Blackpool were forced into an early change as DJ Campbell's injury he picked up in the opening half hadn't healed properly, so he was replaced by Claus Jorgensen, who slotted in on the right - allowing Ormerod to join Hughes up top.
And it was that combination which almost opened the scoring as Ormerod found Hughes in the penalty area but the new boy - despite doing brilliantly to shift the ball into a yard of space - could only curl wide.
Moments later another injury victim had to leave proceedings, as Plymouth centre back Craig Cathcart was taken off for Chris Barker.
Brett Ormerod saw a goal chalked off quite rightly for offside. Lee Hughes linked up well with David Vaughan, but the Welshman was too keen to carry on his run and ended up being three yards beyond the last Argyle defender before supplying the cross for Ormerod to thrash home.
Vaughan's performance was a strange one (granted, he wasn't alone); was the money spent on him in the summer justified? He seems to do most of his best work in our own half and lacks cutting edge when in the final third, and for someone who was hailed as the replacement for Wes Hoolahan, I think he has vastly underperformed all campaign.
Not long after the disallowed goal, 'Pool lost a second player to an injury, (was the pitch too hard? There was a distinct lack of sand today!) as Keith Southern looked to have jarred his knee and hobbled off, to be replaced by Stephen McPhee - who became the third player to take up the right hand side berth - with Jorgensen moving inside.
A second disallowed goal would occur, when Charlie Adam latched onto a throughball which unfortunately for him was bouncing, and so he took it with his arm on the way through, before lashing home confidently. The frustration levels in the North and West stands were rising, whilst the healthy contingent from the South-West supporting the away side began to make more noise.
Stephen McPhee didn't make a difference. Infact he was a serious hindrance down the right. For a man of his alleged speed, he failed to beat his marker on every occasion, didn't have a trick in him, and when pouncing at the back post, didn't react to incoming ball nearly quick enough.
Ben Burgess came on for Lee Hughes - who got a great reception when he left the pitch - but didn't look match fit and the game was going stale.
But whilst The Seasiders were giving away silly corners at an alarming rate, The Pilgrims always looked as if they had a way to win the fixture. So it proved, as with just four minutes left, Gary Sawyer ghosted towards the near post and glanced past Paul Rachubka's left arm and into the corner of the net to send the travelling fans absolutely mad.
The goal left the whole ground deflated, with a mass exodus from the stands, and the players did seem to give up the chase. Shaun Barker was unfortunate not to carve open a chance for himself in the dying minutes, but alas it wasn't to be and Plymouth are the tenth team to leave Blackpool with maximum points this term.