Date:Wednesday September 16 2009
16th September 2009 - 19:45
The 16th September in 2002 saw Bobby Robson's Newcastle United take a small break between games away at Chelsea in the Premiership and Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League. It was also the day before Steve McMahon's Blackpool travelled to Barnsley in League One; they lost 2-1.
Just seven years on, The Seasiders welcomed recently relegated United to Bloomfield Road in front of a sell out crowd in The Championship on a level playing field. With the visitors having not conceded a goal in five games before this encounter, many predicted a comfortable victory for the star-studded Toon.
However, 'Pool had others ideas, and came out deserved 2-1 winners thanks to goals from Brett Ormerod and Jason Euell.
Eardley - Baptiste - Evatt - Crainey
Ormerod - Southern - Vaughan - Adam - Bouazza
Simpson - Coloccini - Taylor - Enrique
Guthrie - Nolan - Butt - Barton - Taylor
If Ian Holloway's side had any chance of taking anything from the fixture, they had to play at a high tempo in order to ruffle some North-Eastern feathers. And that they did, with Charlie Adam and David Vaughan particularly getting in amongst it and dictating play from the middle of the park.
Adam showed his intent early on as his long range shot flashed over, and Vaughan himself also saw a shot well saved by Steve Harper - the goalkeeper's first save of many in the first period.
Hameur Bouazza had the ball in the Newcastle net but was well offside before Keith Southern also had a shot saved by Harper. The problem for 'Pool was that their shots were mainly from range as they found it tricky to get in behind the backline at regular intervals.
But Bouazza was fed in later on in the half and forced Harper - who has spent his whole career at Newcastle - into a super stop at his near post. This came after he and Jason Euell switched positions, which was a regular occurrence throughout the game and has become a fresh approach this campaign. It enables the two wingers to take a breather if need be and run the line up front with the wide men getting through as much work as an old fashion wing back.
The new formation also sees the fullbacks busting a gut up and down the touchline. Whilst Stephen Crainey's best physical days are probably behind him, he has shown that his judgement of when to go and when to stay is spot on. On the other side, young Neal Eardley can keep bombing on all day long and helped Brett Ormerod out especially down the right.
The away team had their moments, but didn't create chances, or indeed have a shot, until the 35th minute. Danny Guthrie and Joey Barton were proving to be decent outlets as they stretched the game on the counter attack. However, a lack of movement from the target man Andy Carroll saw the midfielders fighting a losing battle going forward.
From their first corner of the game Newcastle may have thought they were due a penalty. Defender Coloccini controlled (with a suspicious arm raised from where I was sitting) in the six yard box before sending a ball goalwards; Alex Baptiste came to the rescue for the home side as he blocked on the goaline although it did look as if he too had hands up. Naturally, the thugish nature of the United side saw them livid (with Barton, Nolan, Guthrie and Carroll surrounding referee Moss what else can I say?).
The choice of refereeing kit was very questionable with players getting the blue strip confused with the blue and black kit of Newcastle - a crazy decision!
With five minutes of the first period remaining United went ahead against the run of play. Danny Guthrie's cross was powerfully headed home by Carroll after Crainey was left for dead on the NU right hand side. The 1700 travelling fans went mental, crashing through the advertising hoardings.
And more could, and perhaps should have come for Chris Hughton's team: Nicky Butt somehow found the eighth row of the Kop with a free header right in front of goal from a Ryan Taylor corner.
But we weren't to be undone. Charlie Adam again powered his way through the midfield and saw his shot parried by Harper before Ormerod pounced and eased the ball over the keeper into the net on the stroke of half time to level the scores and send the 8000 home fans wild.
In past games we have seen 'Pool come out in the second half looking sluggish but not tonight. There was still that zip and passion about the midfield especially as they continued to press the stars of The Magpies.
What was apparent at the back was how much higher the back four defended. With Alex Baptiste coming in for Rob Edwards, Holloway was able to instruct his defenders to push higher up the pitch with the added pace Baptiste's inclusion brought. This meant that Carroll's knock downs didn't have a great deal of impact, and if we were a bit stretched AJB was able to cruise back to cover. A very shrewd tactical move and one worth pursuing in the future.
With The Seasiders pushing high, this enabled the two wingers to play almost as frontmen too. Hameur Bouazza benefited from this and has a number of chances to create opportunities but failed to find a killer ball. He definitely wasn't at his best tonight, but Bouazza's home debut wasn't a bad one. Even if he isn't on top form, the Algerian gives a pacey outlet and will prove to be a valuable asset in games against the so called 'bigger' teams ala Newcastle.
And the high tempo beginning to the second half paid off when a Bouazza corner was flicked on at the near post by Geordie Keith Southern and after a small scramble Jason Euell hit it a rebound into the roof of the net on 65 minutes and I swear the noise generated from the Kop and West stand made the new Jimmy Armfield South stand do a little victory jig as it bounced!
We didn't shut up shop as you might expect - a wise move with nearly half an hour left.
Having been previously unbeaten, Hughton perhaps panicked and brought on former Real Madrid starter Geremi and youngster Ranger to try and force an equaliser. In truth the two mentioned and Carroll were caught offside far too many times which allowed Blackpool to take regular breaks with indirect freekicks.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Al Bangura replaced Bouazza and the hobbling Charlie Adam with just under ten minutes remaining as we tucked in and attempted to hold on for the win. Moments before Adam saw a long range smash fly just wide of Harper's post.
But for all the good work, it might've been oh so different for 'Pool. A very very late Andy Carroll hit from a corner was heading goalwards into the corner but Stephen Crainey came from absolutely nowhere to clear on the line.
That was the final scare after a tense 20 minutes but nothing should be taken away from what a magnificent result that is for The Seasiders, who are now 11th after seven games - just two points away from the playoffs. Looking at our start to the season, we have some 'lesser' teams to play in the coming weeks so let's see what the next month and a half brings!
Bloomfield Road was jumping tonight with a fabulous atmosphere and if that continues the likes of Middlesborough and West Brom won't relish a trip to the seaside. We've just got to make sure that Peterborough and Plymouth are seen off in our next two home fixtures first though, which can certainly be trickier than it sounds...
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Date:Wednesday September 16 2009
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