Referee Woolmer Shafts Seasiders in Coventry Draw
September 27, 19:45
Ian Holloway could be facing a touchline ban after referee Andy Woolmer was at the centre of the 2-2 between Blackpool and Coventry City.
Gary Taylor-Fletcher had given the Seasiders the lead in the first half with a stunning strike, but the second period was all about decisions made by the man in black.
The official flabagasted Pool manager Ian Holloway by not allowing the away team to make a substitution when defending a corner with 10 men. Ian Evatt was injured and with Matt Phillips waiting in the wings to do his defensive duty, Woolmer denied the winger the opportunity to help out his back four. Naturally from that corner City equalised through Gary Deegan, with Lukas Jutkiewicz giving them the lead moments later to turn the game on its head.
After the equaliser, Ollie remonstrated with the linesman on the pitch and was promptly sent to the stands. A fine and a ban are seemingly pending.
Pool fought back through a 92nd minute Keith Southern header to take a share of the spoils in front of 12,822 at the Ricoh Arena (with 1,043 travelling from the Fylde Coast) but the night belonged to a poor refereeing decision that turned the game.
There were two changes to the side that lost in the last minute at Portsmouth. Angel Martinez and Craig Sutherland came in for their first starts in tangerine at the expense of Matt Phillips and the unfortunate Tom Ince.
That made a midfield three of Barry Ferguson, Keith Southern and Martinez - which on paper looked to lack creativity. In reality, it enabled Pool to keep the ball for long spells with Barry Ferguson given licence to roam from his starting position and get involved further up the pitch.
The team selection seemed to be centralised around pushing Gary Taylor-Fletcher into a more advanced role.
Coventry started the brighter as they dominating possession. Richard Keogh rising highest from am early corner but his effort was easily saved by Matt Gilks.
But the Seasiders gathered their composure and had the ball in the net inside eight minutes, only for Craig Sutherland's goal to be disallowed for offside. The 22-year-old took a pass from Gary Taylor-Fletcher beautifully and easily beat Joe Murphy in goal but the linesman made a tight call to chalk the effort off.
Sutherland was then put through again by Taylor-Fletcher, who flourished in his familiar role, but the striker's effort was well saved by the goalkeeper.
It wasn't long before that first goal came though as the away side took a deserved lead. Pool worked a throw-in level with the penalty spot towards GTF who mirrored his superb strike at Hull on the opening day with a stunning effort to put the Seasiders one up in the opening 20 minutes - nestling a fantastic volley into the top left hand corner of the City net.
The flow of the play stemmed slightly, but Coventry had a decent chance to get back on level terms with 10 minutes of the first half remaining but former Bloomfield Road loanee Roy O'Donovan headed over and maybe should've done better. Moments later midfielder David Bell picked up on a mistake by Alex Baptiste but fired his shot over Gilks' goal.
Pool seemed to switch off for five minutes when they presented two great chances to Lukas Jutkiewicz - the striker first headed a good opportunity wide before he saw a strong effort unable to beat the goalkeeper.
The home side enjoyed their best spell of the first half as the teams went in for half time, but weren't able to find a way back into the fixture before the break.
Shortly after the half time interval, Coventry could've equalised. Matt Gilks gave the ball away to former Norwich City man Bell but he fired over the top again from outside the area.
Then a big opportunity arose for Taylor-Fletcher but Joe Murphy kept him out after a good knock-down by Kevin Phillips.
Holloway made his first change of the night on the hour mark as Neal Eardley replaced Angel Martinez in the middle of midfield. The debutant was guilty of giving away possession after the break but had a solid game with neat touches, especially in the first half.
Although Martinez was taken off for his wasting of the ball, the Tangerines were persistently giving easy possession away at will without him. Barry Ferguson and GTF were the main culprits but the Sky Blues weren't able to capitalise on their gifted chances.
Coventry responded to the flow of the second half by making two substitutions - Hussey and Bell coming off, with Gary Deegan and Cyrus Christie entering the fray.
Andy Thorn's team were asking lots of questions of the Blackpool back two, with long balls having to be dealt with by Ian Evatt and Craig Cathcart to stave off home attacks.
They were clearing their lines, but it was noticeable that the team as a whole were dropping deeper and deeper as the game progessed.
Surprisingly there was another Pool change with goalscorer GTF coming off for Daniel Bogdanovic with Kevin Phillips continuing to lead the line despite not really finding his feet throughout.
However, Craig Cathcart should've made it 2-0 straight after the sub. The centre half caught a Stephen Crainey freekick on the volley but hit the post and out for a goalkick.
Fellow defender Ian Evatt twisted his ankle unopposed and attempted to struggle on. Unfortunately as he gallantly headed away for a home corner, Evo needed to be taken off - leaving the team a man short.
And with the Seasiders down to ten men, Coventry City equalised in farcical circumstances. Matt Phillips was waiting to come on but the referee didn't allow the substitute to take place, leaving Pool painfully light at the back. With Phillips waiting to come on, Gary Deegan rifled into the net to make it 1-1 from the corner Evatt had conceded beforehand.
Ian Holloway was ballistic and sent to the stands. The manager ran onto the field of play to remonstrate with the linesman at the decision by the man in black not to allow Phillips onto the pitch.
Noticeably, Andy Thorn was allowed to make a change in the same time frame - despite not having any injuries to contend with and highlighting the lack of consistency currently marring the Football League.
Blackpool were on the ropes and at sixes and sevens after the goal. Inevitably, 1-1 soon became 2-1.
Lukas Jutkiewicz slipped the ball past Craig Cathcart and comfortably beat Matt Gilks to send the home support into ecstacy but in totally unjust circumstances.
Following the minutes of madness, Pool had their chances after they composed themselves, with Sutherland and Matt Phillips going close to getting an equaliser.
The Seasiders though are never say die, and got themselves deservedly back on level terms in stoppage time. After a spell of corners, Stephen Crainey found Keith Southern from a deadball and the man in his testimonial year headed past Murphy to make it 2-2.
A 2-2 scoreline does not tell the story of what was a referee-induced draw. Other teams would've completely capitulated but it was a tremendous effort to get something from a game that Andy Woolmer tried his hardest to ruin.
Ramifications will ensue for Holloway but it is yet another fixture that his team have dominated but not got their just deserts from. What could've been (a probably deserved) six points in four days has turned into a solitary one.
His substitutions will undoubtedly be questioned but they were not the real reason Blackpool didn't come away from the Midlands with all three points and a playoff spot to boot.