Date:Saturday March 17 2012
17 March, 2012, 15:00
Teams are a reflection on their managers. Many are consistent with the mood of him, his expression and his attitude. Blackpool, certainly during this campaign, have been an absolute constant to Ian Holloway's state of mind. At the beginning of the season, Pool were lifeless and struggled to get to grips with a tough division after relegation from the Premier League. But, as their manager began to pick himself up from disappointments, the team began to pick up points on a regular basis. That had, in general, drifted with playoff flirtation, until the yearly accounts were produced a fortnight ago.
Holloway's mood then changed drastically. No longer was he talking about whether the Seasiders could catch the top two, but his pre and post-match press conferences were almost exclusively based around the vindictive national media. His eyes were no longer on the prize. No, they were on his soapbox - full of yarns about bankers, media, absent-minded supporters and how the Oyston's can do no wrong. During this spell, he saw his side throw four points away from winning positions and be humiliated away at Peterborough. A reflection of his mood.
Ollie stayed on that soapbox until this Thursday. Slumped behind a polystyrene cup full of coffee, seemingly nursing a cold, he changed his tune. Fans were suddenly vindicated for venting their frustrations at the chairman, management and players. There was an acceptance to his tone that the pipe-dream of finishing in the top two was perhaps beyond the players, but that the playoffs were eminently achievable. A spring was back, to an extent. The Ian Holloway, that followers of Blackpool Football Club know so well, wasn't all there just yet, but he was getting closer.
And so, his team, battered and bruised from the crushing London Road defeat last week, responded to their manager's resurgence when they welcomed Brighton to Bloomfield Road in what was billed a must-win game if they were to get the promotion push back on track. Mirroring their manager's antics, they responded to an extent, coming from behind to win 3-1 and move back into that top six.
In true Blackpool fashion, they didn't have it all their own way. Albion, who had the lively Craig Mackail-Smith leading their line were in front inside nine minutes. The Scotland international had already had a shot superbly saved by Matt Gilks before he forced Alex Baptiste into giving a cheap corner away. Spanish midfielder Vicente whipped the ball in and Joe Mattack, up from left back, stole ahead of his marker to open the scoring.
Ollie slumped back into his chair, and so to, metaphorically, did his side.
After initially struggling to deal with the roaming attackers Gus Poyet has at his disposal, the home team found a head of steam. Peter Brezovan did brilliantly to save from Gary Taylor-Fletcher following good work by Stephen Crainey down the left. That was before Tom Ince was within inches of connecting to another superb cross from the left back and Kevin Phillips saw a shot saved.
The volume had been cranked up, and there was a sense that a goal was due. So it was, and from the most unlikeliest of sources. Yet another cross was swung in and after a bit of penalty box pinball, Ian Evatt was able to bundle home for the equaliser on 37 minutes. Holloway threw his arms in the air. Relief.
Adam El-Abd and Gordon Greer were looking like the lower league central defenders they have always been rather than the solid pairing that Brighton supporters have come to expect. The two of them were all over the place before the half time whistle and could not hold out.
Three minutes after Evatt's equaliser, Kevin Phillips got in and the act. Taylor-Fletcher, who linked the home attacks superbly with little credit, found Tom Ince down the right and the young winger intelligently crossed for Phillips to prod home from close range.
They continued their dominance after the break but really failed to exert pressure in the right areas of the Albion defence: focussing on the very able Mattock rather than the weary-looking and perhaps naive central two. Maybe targeting Gonzalo Jara would have been a wiser idea. The first time he was really called into action at right back in the second period, Jara saw red for the second successive time he has played at Bloomfield Road. Sent off for a rash challenge while at West Brom last year, Jara was about to be beaten by Keith Southern before diving in two-footed at the midfielder, catching him flush on the ankle in the process. It was cynically aggressive at worst and clumsy at best, but the Chilean had to go.
That, you would think, saw Pool boss the remainder of proceedings. Unfortunately not, as they demonstrated that playing two holding midfielders in Southern and Barry Ferguson means breaking down two rigid banks of four is extremely difficult.
They passed and probed but rarely threatened Brighton, who were insistent on biding their time and trying to hit Pool on the break. That failed to happen either, but it would have been interesting to see Ludovic Sylvestre attempt to unlock a sturdy defensive unit. Whether he was dropped after the defeat at Peterborough or injured, it is unclear.
Neither side really created any clear-cut chances but the Tangerines did manage to wrap up the game with 10 minutes remaining. Ince spun his man excellently and jinked into the box before lifting his head up to find Southern. He struck goalwards and Phillips added his second of the day - and remarkably his 15th of the season - to end proceedings as a contest and move Blackpool up into fifth - leapfrogging Brighton who, after impressive recent form, came up short when required to keep the ball for long periods of the game.
Never underestimate the importance of a pre-match press conference. Players listen. And when they listen to an upbeat gaffer, they'll turn in results.
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Date:Saturday March 17 2012
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