Sloppy Display Adds to Last Gasp Birmingham Defeat
4th January 2011; 20:00
Blackpool were victims of their own downfall as a late Scott Dann goal gave Birmingham City the points at Bloomfield Road.
The defender struck with minutes to go to seal a 2-1 win after Alex Hleb had given the visitors the lead before DJ Campbell levelled up after the break.
Ian Holloway's side failed to turn up in the opening 45 with lapses in their normally fluent passing game evident throughout. The back four - particularly Craig Cathcart and Stephen Crainey - looked shaky in possession early on, which seemed to seep its way to the midfield.
In a uncharacteristically nervous showing, Birmingham were allowed time and space to create chances. Matt Derbyshire was guilty of missing an early guilt-edge opportunity for the Blues, who perhaps could have been a couple of goals up in the opening 20 minutes on another day.
It wasn't long before the Seasiders were one down, and it was all their own undoing. Firstly left back Crainey misjudged the flight of a bouncing ball, allowing the impressive Cameron Jerome time to turn. But the striker lost out again to the Pool man, before Crainey himself slipped a suicidal sidewards pass into the path of Hleb on the 18 yard line. The former Arsenal midfielder needed no second invitation and took the ball on before scrambling past Richard Kingson on 24 minutes.
And in truth, despite some direct running by Matt Phillips and the fantastic Neal Eardley, Pool offered little and looked lost in possession.
The right back did have a couple of rasping drives - one of which well stopped by Ben Foster - but no clear-cut situations were created.
Credit has to go to Alec McLeish for the way he set up the City team; they harried and pressed the tangerine midfield specifically at all times and played high up the pitch. That, along with a lack of movement from the home front three, meant defending was bread and butter to the Birmingham backline.
After half time Blackpool perked up somewhat, with a rocket up their behind from the manager no doubt. There was still little fluency but Charlie Adam, Luke Varney and David Vaughan were able to pick the game up by the scruff of the neck which amounted to decent territory for large spells of the second period.
DJ Campbell was looking more lively and ran the line well with support from the inconsistent Phillips. It was the former Wycombe winger who was being looked for the most and he had partial success against Liam Ridgewell.
His right back Eardley had better joy though, as was seen on 68 minutes. The defender got the ball on the touchline before skinning Ridgewell on the byline and standing a brilliant ball up for Gary Taylor-Fletcher whose clever cushion header found Campbell who volleyed home well to bring the roof off Bloomfield Road.
Unfortunately, Ollie had already committed to two changes before the goal. Phillips and the uninspiring GTF were brought off with Brett Ormerod and Jason Euell replacing them. It would`ve been nice to keep the same eleven on when the team got a head of steam but in fairness chances were still being created.
Both substitutes had decent situations to notch a second but crucial away blocks stifled that. And in what became a fascinating end-to-end game, Ollie tried to stiffen the midfield up by bringing Keith Southern on to plug gaps on the break.
Cameron Jerome hit the post when put clean through and Charlie Adam replied by waltzing through the away defence before his long range effort rebounded off the woodwork as well.
However, the Southern change only served to give the visitors a second wind and they controlled the game from then on. They kept pressing high up the pitch and whilst Campbell was being starved of service, found it easy to carve openings.
Seb Larsson also hit the post from a free kick whilst Kevin Phillips nearly fashioned a chance at the back post. Pool fans will have hounding memories of Phillips' exploits when coming off the bench in the past; perhaps the players did too who were more interested in marking him than Scott Dann who beat the offside trap to dispatch a one-on-one after being found by Roger Johnson in the final moments.
Another sickening defeat at home and without wanting to sound too doom and gloom I have a few observations: Holloway was out-foxed by McLeish tactically; the team seem to find it difficult to break opposition down at home and a total lack of concentration at the death (Craig Cathcart was stood with his arm raised instead of dealing with the ball) cost us points again.
A real shame, especially after a rousing second half display. If only we could start games well...