'Pool Nick Crucial Derby Day Win
11th April 2009 - 13:00
Three points away at our closest rivals whilst shattering their playoff dreams, coupled with near-safety from the dreaded Championship drop and even a bit of sunshine all adds up to being not a bad afternoon out for The Seasiders!
A pinpoint strike moments before the half time whistle from Charlie Adam was enough to seal the derby against Preston in front of an impressive 21273 at Deepdale - over 5000 of which made the short trip down the M55.
Tony Parkes was blessed before the game with news that both injury doubts DJ Campbell and Keith Southern were fit enough to start the game, along with the return of Roy O'Donovan on the right hand side of midfield. Ben Burgess came in for his first start since January, which saw Lee Hughes drop to the bench.
Baptiste - Edwards © - Barker - Crainey
O'Donovan - Southern - Adam - Vaughan
Burgess - Campbell
Subs: Gilks, Jorgensen, Walton, Ormerod, Hughes.
Jones - Mawene - St. Ledger - Nolan
Sedgwick - McKenna © - Williamson - Wallace
Parkin - Elliot
Subs: Neal, Whalley, Mellor, Carter, Chilvers.
'Pool started at a high tempo, kicking towards the Town End, which stunned their opponents, and led to a number of early corners. Ben Burgess had an effort saved by the PNE goalkeeper from a Vaughan set play.
That early chance for the visitors seemed to calm the hosts down as they began to try and pick big Jon Parkin out at every opportunity. The big striker - who has an unfortunate look about his style of play - worked Rob Edwards especially hard, and the skipper was finding it difficult to pick up the flight of each long ball - allowing Parkin to bring his midfield into the game.
And come into the game they did, as Blackpool backed off North End which saw Paul McKenna get on the ball in the middle of the park and spread the play. Luckily from a 'Pool point of view, a lot of ball was being sprayed out to the ineffectual Richard Sedgwick, with the former Rotherham man finding it hard to overcome Stephen Crainey.
Parkin was causing difficulty at corners, in which PNE had plenty, as he shrugged free of his marker at an early dead ball, only to glance his header wide whilst alone at the back post.
After some early pressure, The Seasiders were penned back in their own half for large spells in the opening period. Ross Wallace was menacing down the left hand side and although Alex John-Baptiste was sticking to his task well, he was lacking in help from the man in front of him Roy O'Donovan who looked woefully off the pace on his come back.
It was persistent running and a lay off to Eddie Nolan by Wallace which saw Stephen Elliot flick a header wide of Paul Rachubka's goal a third of the way through the first half, and the warning signs were there for the men in tangerine to get tighter to their men and press higher up the pitch.
But they didn't heed these warnings, and allowed PNE to build through midfield at alarming ease. A passage of play where no 'Pool player got near a home shirt, Charlie Adam was adjudged (probably unfairly) to have barged Sedgwick off the ball about 25 yards from goal. Ross Wallace stepped up and curled the freekick flush onto the right hand post, although it is likely that the 'keeper had it covered.
I hope that the group of 200 or so knob enders in the corner of the new stand are reading this match report, because their memory of the game must be a little hazy as after 20 or so minutes Lee Hughes began to warm up in front of them - which saw their attention turn to chanting at him rather than watching the game. This was greeted with chants from the Kop end, which later ended with Brett Ormerod being booed by the home support after they'd initially clapped him!
It certainly wasn't a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but the two teams were trading deadball blows - finally amounting to 11 corners each by the end - and both were troubling each others' defence without any real guilt edge chances; until Burgess saw a point blank header brilliantly saved by Lonergan and Elliot fired a short wide.
The game started to stretch with the visitors happy to let PNE have the ball in good areas, all the time ready to pounce on a loose ball and launch a counter attack.
And that they did - on a frequent basis. Charlie Adam twice broke free of the opposing midfield only to pick the wrong option when in the final third and DJ Campbell was continuingly threatening to get in behind the back four.
The only trouble with the first half display was the lack of width we offered. Both O`Donovan and Vaughan tucked inside to pack the midfield but this proved counter-productive when attacking.
However, that was all forgotten about with just two minutes remaining in the first half…
Charlie Adam, who had in fact struggled to grab the game by the scruff of the neck before now, won the ball close to the halfway line and caught several attackers out of position. He drove with the ball, looking both left and right for options, but this time decided that he would go it alone and seeked not to find a team mate. Adam finally reached around 25 yards out before unleashing an absolute bullet rocketing towards Andy Lonergan's left hand post; the ball hit the post a quarter of the way up before pinging into the back of the net, sending the travelling support wild. As he calmly pointed up to the sky in celebration, the scenes and noise on the Bill Shankly kop were of jubilation.
Unfortunately for Adam, he was on a tight rope from then on after he was booked five minutes beforehand for a lunge at Chris Sedgwick, again slightly harshly as he won the ball cleanly with one boot.
But it was all smiles at the break as Blackpool led 1-0 and in what proved to be a very even fixture, Adam's strike made all the difference.
The second half continued in the same vain as the first; 'Pool were happy to let the PNE midfield have the ball in areas where they could see them and dropped so deep that any ball in behind to Stephen Elliot was nullified.
Of course there is a downside to every tactic, and as we backed off and sat deep, Parkin was able to spin and shoot at Rachubka from inside the area after a fairly tame ball into his feet, but the American made a safe stop.
There was now a real sense that 'Pool needed to keep hold of possession for longer periods and they did attempt to do this. Charlie Adam - who by this time was totally running the show - was switching balls left and right, bringing fullbacks into play and trying to feed DJ Campbell in behind as the number of options available to him was growing all the time.
Unfortunately Campbell was again struggling with his offside problem. The loan man was flagged off four or five times in the second half - all pretty needlessly. And the one time he did look onside (although it seemed tight), the linesman flagged him off anyway, purely based on his previous misgivings.
The Seasiders just after the hour mark nearly put the game to bed twice in a matter of minutes. Firstly Charlie Adam (again… I'm sick of typing his name!) sent a freekick from around 30 yards out flying just wide, and then Ben Burgess was wriggled free of Mawene before the Frenchman toed the ball away, only as far as David Vaughan who fired wide from eight yards.
That sparked Alan Irvine into action. The Preston boss hauled off both Stephen Elliot and Chris Sedgwick for Neil Mellor and Simon Whalley. Mellor had only been on the pitch a matter of moments before he sent a wonderfully crafted Wallace cross high and wide from just six yards - it really was a guilt edge chance and for perhaps the first time that the home support felt it just wasn't to be their day.
Just prior to that chance Roy O'Donovan was taken off and replaced with Brett Ormerod - making his first appearance back at Deepdale since leaving in January for Bloomfield Road.
The Seasiders were beginning to look much more confident and composed as the game progressed, but Preston did have the majority of ball; Ross Wallace's menacing run down the left ended with a crunching tackle by Baptiste which signalled the end of the fullback's day as he was hurt whilst throwing himself at the wingers feet - to be replaced by debutant Simon Walton at right back.
Shaun Barker was a man mountain in defence for The Tangerines. The club captain headed away every ball and was also chief communicator back there for the team with Rob Edwards severely off the pace. Man of the match yet again for me, and since his move to centre back Barker has been far and away our best performer.
With just four minutes remaining Blackpool hearts were in mouths as Preston scored a late equaliser. Or so third sides of Deepdale thought! A corner whipped in from the right hand side wasn't dealt with by 'Pool and the second ball fell to Sean St. Ledger who forced home the ball past Rachubka in goal. In fairness, Deepdale erupted. Only for the defender to be punching the floor seconds later when he found that Andy D'Urso had blown for a foul on Shaun Barker.
The collective 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah' and sigh of relief from the away end was deafening!
But the game wasn't over, not by a long shot, as Preston's hopes of reaching the playoffs hung in the balance. Cross after cross was headed clear by a tangerine (mostly a blonde one in fairness) head and one final corner saw Andy Lonergan charge up from his penalty area but he couldn't prise open a chance and the referee blew for full time much to the delight of the 'Pool support, team and management who all joined eachother in unison with the hand clapping and punch waving.
It is a result which further strengthens out position at the bottom of the table - seven points clear of the drop zone with just four games to play (which, by the way, is the same margin PNE are away from the playoffs). Surely we are safe now?