Date:Monday January 2 2012
January 2, 2012, 15:00
Some of the best managerial decisions are made not because of tactial plans above comprehension to the normal football fan, but through sheer necessity. The introduction of Chris Basham as a box-to-box midfielder was definitely the latter as Blackpool swept Middlesbrough aside 3-0.
Goals from Lomana Lua Lua, Matt Phillips and a Seb Hines own goal gave Pool a comfortable victory which puts them bang in the race for a playoff place once again.
Basham, who was signed from Bolton for close to a million pounds in the summer following promotion to the Premier League, hasn't had a run of games for the Seasiders as of yet. However, he looks set for a few starts on the spin as he put in a man of the match display against a well-drilled Boro midfield.
The 23-year-old joined up with Ludovic Sylvestre and Angel Martinez in the home trio as Barry Ferguson served a suspension for his straight red card against Birmingham City on New Years Eve.
Lua Lua was preferred to Gary Taylor-Fletcher while new signing Danny Wilson had to be content with a place on the bench.
Ian Holloway's Blackpool side have been hit and miss so far this Championship campaign but combined thrilling attacking football with a steel Bloomfield Road supporters haven't been used to recently to secure the three points.
Tom Ince and Phillips - both playing on the opposite wing to that they are used to - turned Tony McMahon and Joe Bennett inside out all afternoon as they were afforded as much freedom as they wished.
Having said that, Justin Hoyte, playing right wing instead of his usual full back, was allowed similar space as he caused Stephen Crainey countless problems in the opening 45.
And the sides, both intent to have a proper go at winning the game early on, traded chances with Scott McDonald and Lua Lua both going close.
But for all the attacking play on display, the emergence of Basham as the game's key player was both surprising and fairly obvious.
Up against the experienced Barry Robson, who was later to become the villian of the piece, Basham not only added some much needed height into the tangerine midfield but he showed the anticipation, nouse and the drive of Ferguson and Southern combined - making him a very valuable commodity looking forward.
Athough the game was an exciting affair, the teams went into the break all square at 0-0 with referee Scott Mathieson taking centre stage as he and his officials made several laughable decisions at the expense of both teams.
The home side had been playing well but lacked the killer instinct in the first half but found it straight away in the second. Robson hit Mark Howard's post very early on before the first goal came.
Phillips, who increasingly looks at home cutting in from the left hand side, collected a ball 30 yards from goal. Much like the first of his three strikes at Barnsley, the winger headed for the opposition box and unleashed a powerful stop past the despairing Jason Steele to open the scoring.
The former Wycombe man has finally embraced his purple patch, showing all the tricks and guile needed to unlock defences at this level.
That was after 50 minutes and the Seasiders doubled their lead seven minutes later. Alex Baptiste pressurised Boro high up the pitch and forced an error from Bennett before lashing an effort to Steele's left. The goalkeeper made a smart save but could only find Lua Lua with the parry and the striker pounced on the rebound before summersaulting his way to the North-West corner flag.
From thereon in Pool oozed class - keeping the ball brilliantly inside Boro territory and making the away team work hard for possession. Their arrogance going forward was refreshing and summed up by the third goal. Phillips was at the heart of it again, waltzing around defenders before stopping to pick out the unfortunate Hines who diverted into his own goal with 20 minutes left.
After the third goal they took their foot off the gas considerably and almost paid for it as Faris Haroun had the ball in the net but he was correctly ruled offside after Pool failed to clear.
Tom Ince however remained a threat and might have added a fourth had he chosen to head for goal instead of keeping possession.
The win shows the rest of the division that Holloway's team can beat anyone on their day. Tony Mowbray said after the game 'I don't have any complaints to be honest. Their front three gave them some individuality,' proving that Pool's youth and experience can be a force to be reckoned with. But they need to be able to string a number of results together if they are to be taken seriously as promotion candidates.
Consistency stems from a solid backbone. Ollie may have stumbled across someone who is able to provide consistent performances with direct box-to-box running while knowing his defensive duties and possessing decent ability on the ball and having the height to compete with the biggest central midfielders.
He might just stumble across his best central defensive pairing soon, too. Ian Evatt is one booking away from a two-game suspension and with Danny Wilson waiting in the wings, it could be tricky for Evo to regain his place alongside Craig Cathcart. As I wrote the other day after the defeat at Birmingham, 2012 should be full of optimism - especially with the young flying wingers and midfielder stamping their authority on big Championship names.
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Date:Monday January 2 2012
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