Ipswich Town 2-2 Blackpool
by Paddy Feeney
To say that Portman Road is not a happy hunting ground for Blackpool is a bit of an understatement. Before their efforts today, they have gleaned 3 points from 8 league visits to Suffolk, all of them coming in draws, and the winless run was not about to end. Ángel Martinez turned into his own goal before Tommy Smith made it 2-0 just before the hour, but inspired substitutions from Ian Holloway saw two replacements, Elliot Grandin and Kevin Phillips earned Blackpool a point.
Holloway kept faith in the majority of the side who dismantled Fleetwood 7 days before, with only Bob Harris missing out as Stephen Crainey returned to the back four, with Wilson and Baptiste retaining their places in the middle of the defence, with the latter keeping hold of the captain`s armband.
In a largely forgettable first half, Blackpool were sluggish out of the blocks, failing to get on the ball while the home side forced them onto the back foot, and the slow start was punished after 10 minutes. Martin found space on the left to deliver a dangerous cross which was turned in by Ángel under pressure from former Pool target Jason Scotland.
Hopes that Blackpool would mount an immediate fightback were not realised as they failed to test Ipswich`s home debutant Alex McCarthy in goal, only managing to force one or two corners which were both dealt with comfortably, and indeed it was the home side who came closest to adding to their lead, when a ball down the left caught Mark Howard in no man`s land, and the Pool keeper was relieved to see Josh Carson`s floated effort drift away from goal.
It took until the 38th minute for Blackpool to carve out a real opening, when Stephen Crainey fired a cross into the penalty area, finding LuaLua perfectly placed and all alone in the penalty area, but instead of taking a touch before shooting, he chose to take it first time on the half volley, and could only shoot wide.
The second half didn`t start much better for Pool, as Lee Martin threatened early on, and Gary Taylor-Fletcher was soon called from the bench as LuaLua pulled up while chasing the ball. Taylor-Fletcher was brought on ahead of Elliot Grandin and Kevin Phillips, and Phillips was then introduced on the hour, replacing the own goal scorer and overall ineffectual Ángel, as Blackpool looked to reshuffle to try and get back into the game.
A low, bending Carlos Edwards effort from distance caused Mark Howard problems, as he ended up having to palm the ball around the post, and from the resulting corner, Blackpool failed to clear, and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas weaved his way to the byline before cutting back to Tommy Smith, and the New Zealand centre back managed to nod the ball past Howard and into the corner.
Ian Holloway reacted by throwing his final change on, with Elliot Grandin replacing Tom Ince, but it was the other winger Matt Phillips who had the chance to bring Blackpool back into the game as Baptiste lofted the ball over a static Ipswich back four, only for Phillips` first touch to let him down which allowed McCarthy to smother the chance. Phillips was nearly clear again moments later, but his shot was high and wide.
Blackpool`s improvement after going further behind was rewarded soon after, when Eardley whipped a looping cross over, McCarthy came and flapped, but somehow managed to get back to claw Kevin Phillips` header off the line, only for Grandin to convert the rebound from close range with his first meaningful touch.
Soon after, Pool had Howard to thank for keeping the match alive, when a shot from distance took a huge deflection off Baptiste, only for the possibly departing keeper to make a brilliant reflex save. In the crucial part of the game, Ipswich made two changes, with Tamas Priskin coming on for the injured Scotland, and Jimmy Bullard replacing Josh Carson.
Taylor-Fletcher thought he should have had a penalty when he was apparently felled after a neat one-two with Grandin as Blackpool cranked up the pressure in the last 15 minutes, and they were rewarded by the veteran Phillips. A driving run into the penalty area was followed by a thumping drive into the near post which beat McCarthy to level the scores. It was his first goals in 9 since his wonder strike against Millwall, and was a timely reminder to Ian Holloway that he could step up with the inevitable loss of LuaLua to injury.
Kevin and Matt Phillips both had chances in the last ten minutes to put Blackpool into the most unlikely of leads as they benefitted from Neal Eardley moving into the midfield three with his increased range of passing, and what had been a poor game suddenly became a very open one as the game came close to the conclusion, though neither side could create a clear opening until the dying moments, when Blackpool failed to deal with the ball in, and Lee Martin had a glorious chance to convert the winner, only to stand on the ball, lose his footing, and Blackpool scrambled clear.
A 4th point taken from Portman Road in Blackpool`s history, one certainly well earned, and with two very winnable home games to come, it may turn out to be a crucial point earned.