Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tangerine dream nightmare

Blackpool 2 - 1 Newcastle Utd

It couldn't last. All good things must come to end. The honeymoon's over. Back to earth with a bump. Oh we don't like to be beside the seaside. And so on and so forth.

Blackpool had the temerity to breach our previously near-unbreachable defence not once but twice, wrecking our hopes of extending the new successive-wins-and-clean-sheets record, and in so doing coming from behind to inflict to our first ever Championship defeat.

I noted in the report on Sunday's game that we didn't play well, absorbed a fair amount of pressure, rode our luck and emerged victorious - but tonight our luck very definitely ran out. Whereas against Cardiff we nicked a slender advantage and then sat back, this time out we succumbed to a fatal complacency from the off, seemingly satisfied for the Seasiders to seize the initiative. Our midfield was particularly lacklustre, the absence of Alan Smith through suspension keenly felt.

That we didn't pay the price within the first half hour was due solely to a performance of agile defiance from Steve Harper, who denied David Vaughan, Brett Ormerod, Hameur Bouazza and Gateshead-born midfielder Keith Southern. Bouazza - instrumental in Birmingham's promotion to the Premier League last season and not so long ago a £3m signing for Fulham - was giving Danny Simpson a tough game, while Jose Enrique was up against his second tricky former Rangers right winger in three days, Charlie Adam.

So it was very much against the run of play when a move of real quality ended with Danny Guthrie's cross being headed powerfully home by Bigger Lad, who had recovered from injury to be restored to the starting XI at the expense of the very unfortunate Nile Ranger.

We then started to exert a measure of calm control and it seemed as though we might be primed for another 1-0 - but Blackpool had other ideas and equalised in first-half injury time when Harps was for once unable to keep hold of a shot and Ormerod pounced.

So, anyone's game at half-time - and in fairness to those in black and white we were the better side in the second period. It was just irritating, then, that the only goal of the half was scored by our hosts, Jason Euell taking advantage of some poor defending to blast home on 65 minutes.

While the Seasiders had opportunities to extend their lead, we continued to control possession and created the most and best chances - most noteably when Kevin Nolan wastefully headed substitute Geremi's header wide, shortly before the Cameroonian midfielder shot narrowly wide himself when he should have hit the target. Hughton switched to a 4-4-2 formation mystifyingly late, giving Ranger just five minutes to try and help rescue a point, but even still he came desperately close to doing so with a header that was cleared off the line.

We've been benefiting from poor finishing recently (particularly on our last two away trips), so it's probably karma that that's what ultimately cost us a point or even all three at Bloomfield Road. We can't have too many complaints - except, of course, about Mackem referee Jonathan Moss who not only waved away two penalty appeals (including one for a handball on the Blackpool line that denied Fabricio Coloccini a second goal in two games) but also saw fit to book Bigger Lad for his goal celebration. So, Mr Moss, if you can't celebrate in front of the away fans or your own fans, where CAN you celebrate?!

The result is a setback and a blow to pride, make no mistake - Blackpool may seem to be a slightly different prospect under Ian Holloway this season, but they struggled badly last year - but it's not the end of the world. The midweek fixtures may have left West Brom and the Smogs above us, but they play each other at the weekend, while we have an eminently winnable home game against the league's new basement boys Plymouth. With Smith available again there should be less complacency and more bite in midfield, while I sincerely hope Hughton recognises the value in very much going on the offensive against a side whose confidence is already brittle by dropping ASBO and pairing Ranger with Bigger Lad together up front.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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