'Pool Unfortunate Only to Draw With Cardiff
15th August - 15:00
The first home league game of the season is rarely kind to Blackpool. We've seen Bristol City (twice), Chesterfield, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday all come to Bloomfield Road at the beginning of August in the last few seasons; on four of those occasions the away team has come away with maximum points.
So, when promotion-tipped Cardiff City came to town for the home curtain raiser you would perhaps expect more of the same from The Seasiders, especially as the home form last campaign was nothing short of abysmal. Alas, the media predicted capitulation at the hands of The Bluebirds never came.
Baptiste - Edwards - Evatt - Crainey
GTF - Southern - Vaughan - Adam - Euell (c)
Quinn - Gerrard - Hudson (c) - Capaldi
McPhail - Ledley - Whittingham
McCormack - Bothroyd - Chopra
In complete contrast to last week, Pool started extremely brightly with a bundle of possession in the midfield. Intricate passing between Vaughan, Adam and Gary Taylor-Fletcher wasn't quite incisive enough to free Brett Ormerod from his shackles - or perhaps more poignantly Cardiff skipper Mark Hudson.
There were a number of corners in the opening ten minutes for the hosts, but a combination of under-hit and over-hit meant no real chances were carved out. The only one of note was a Charlie Adam cross which had to be tipped away for a corner by former Celtic keeper David Marshall.
But for all their possession, Pool were hit with City`s first real attack of the game on eleven minutes. Michael Chopra was set free alongside Rob Edwards with a throughball from midfield and the striker got half a yard ahead of the defender before seeing his shot sail over Paul Rachubka's head into the corner of the net via a deflection after Edwards had fought hard to gain ground back. The west stand were baying for offside but in all honesty Chopra was well onside. They continued to complain at the assistant referee on the far side for most of the first half - quite a chunk of it unjustly.
The goal didn't spark Ian Holloway`s outfit into life, largely because they had already been playing nice football anyway. Instead it woke the visitors up, who had been fairly sluggish up until that point. They were packing the midfield with Chopra and McCormack dropping back to make it a five which frustrated our midfield. It obviously led to congestion in there, but we weren't helped by the poor positioning of our central midfield three.
I wrote after the game at QPR last week that Holloway was yet to find the correct combination in the middle. He needs to find a way of getting the best out of both Adam and Vaughan without limiting the effectiveness of the normally reliable Southern. It has become apparent - although this judgement is only based on two league games - that as a three it is fairly impossible to get the best out of each of them - one in the long run has got to give way.
Charlie Adam and Southern were playing slightly ahead of David Vaughan who sat deeper, able to pick passes. However, this limited Southern, who fails to possess the passing skills needed to play higher up the pitch.
Likewise, playing Adam deeper would mean he couldn't run onto loose balls, so he needs to stay where he is. The only possible solution to this conundrum is to play both Vaughan and Southern in deeper roles whilst having Adam slightly ahead. Does this then give the advantage to the opposition who are playing two on one in the middle before reaching our other midfielders? It`s certainly something which needs a look at - but Pool wouldn't be able to function as well without Adam's drive, Southern's tenacity or Vaughan's guile. Perhaps trialist Al Bangura can provide different aspects which better suits a three.
Although we were finding it difficult to get in behind the Cardiff back four - mainly because nobody in tangerine was willing to bomb on beyond Ormerod - attacking opportunities were created. More corners were won (a whopping seventeen - yes 17 - by the end of the match) and we had the ball in and around the box a lot but no real chances were fashioned.
One half chance fell to Southern who ran onto a loose ball brilliantly and struck the ball on the angle just over the bar, and that was the brightest moment of the first half.
The brightest moment until the goal anyway. A decent ball in from a set play (yes, you did read that correctly) was won by Brett Ormerod who found Ian Evatt, and the big defender remarkably curled a right footed shot past Marshall right into the corner of the net before being mobbed by his team mates in front of the dugouts. It truly was a goal any striker would have been proud of.
But The Seasiders were incredibly lucky. Moments before the goal on the stroke of half time, Chris Burke - who had replaced Ross McCormack ten minutes before who looked to have done his hamstring - jinked past at least four defenders before waltzing into the box and being tugged back. Somewhat unbelievably referee Hegley waved away the penalty shouts.
After half time a fairly dour affair turned into a gripping contest, even though neither side were at their best. Peter Whittingham saw a freekick angle itself wide before Stephen Crainey forced Marshall into a routine tip over the bar from a similar position. Whittingham again had another effort just miss the target as his flying left-footed volley lashed itself over the bar and into the impressive-looking south stand.
Pool really upped the ante in the second period, with Crainey, Jason Euell and Adam all having good games going forward. Adam was taken down one too many times by McPhail for the refs liking and the Cardiff midfield saw yellow before being substituted seconds later. A good job really, as he saw red twice last season.
The onslaught came just after the hour mark. Brett Ormerod and Rob Edwards got in eachothers way from a corner six yards out and if either had got a decent connection (it looked as thought Brett got a small touch on it) David Marshall would have been in serious trouble. As it was, he flapped clear.
Charlie Adam went close, before a cheeky bit of skill by skipper Jason Euell - who had moved up front - almost made it 2-1. The former Charlton man lobbed the ball over Anthony Gerrard on the edge of the area, but found Marshall in defiant mood as his volley was superbly stopped by the keeper.
We kept pushing, and both wingers made way: Taylor-Fletcher for Nardiello and Ormerod for Demontagnac, the latter making his Bloomfield Road debut.
And Demontagnac made a decent impression as his trickery scared Tony Capaldi at left back. Personally I would`ve liked to have seen him play on the left wing and really drive at the touchline but he was effective on the right too.
Corners came and corners went, without a great deal of thought going into them and we again went mighty close to snatching victory minutes from time. But in a frantic last minute of three added on we may have seen a cruel end: Mark Hudson coming up for a corner connected onto a good knock down from Bothroyd but could only fire over from six yards out with the goal gaping. A huge let off for Blackpool, but they deserved their luck after a rousing second half performance.