Finally, after five games of bad results and even worse football, the Seasiders took a big step in the right direction on Tuesday night, only for Dexter Blackstock to take the shine away with a last minute equaliser.
No, it wasn’t the best performance of the season and yes, it was only a draw, but the way in which Blackpool went about the game against Forest finally looked like the Blackpool team we have come to love so much. It is a massive step forwards and a giant leap away from the hopeless displays lately.
Holloway tinkered again, understandably after an abject showing at Turf Moor. Gomes and Sylvestre came into the midfield alongside Osbourne, and Taylor-Fletcher moved to a forward role between Matt Phillips and Ince. Due to there being no other options, the back four and keeper stayed the same, but there now looked to be a balance to the team. A midfield that can pass and create, and a forward line with a mix of pace, power and intelligence. Could this be the game where Holloway finally remembered his passing philosophy? We could only hope so after watching opposition centre halves heading out aimless long balls for the last few weeks.
Again, the pitch looked quite heavy and even seemed to have patches of water on it, but then there is simply not a lot that can be done about the recent weather. Thankfully though, it didn’t affect the game in the slightest and we witnessed a good, fast paced match between two talented attacking sides.
Blackpool started the game brightly with Ludovic Sylvestre showing why he had been rewarded with a start. Moving the ball around nicely and never letting it settle before trying to pick out an incisive pass, which he did more than once. It is play like this that has been missing recently for Blackpool.
A pass that misses out a few men and cuts through the opposition. But with Sylvestre on the pitch, Blackpool had an early chance after a lovely move put Crainey through against the keeper only for the left-back to put it wide, possibly hitting the post. The Seasiders were probably the better side for the opening 20 minutes as the game had a nice ebb and flow to it.
At this point, unfortunately, we have to introduce Mr Ilderton who put in an exceptionally bad refereeing display that managed to upset and anger both sets of fans, players and managers, to the point where every decision that was given was cheered like a goal. He took leniency beyond belief where you actually begun to wonder if he had genuinely forgotten his glasses or his whistle.
Billy Sharp raced through into the Blackpool box only to be bundled over by Osbourne. Perhaps it would have been soft, but it was certainly a decision you see given and was a clumsy challenge by Osbourne. Then, to continue his bizarre approach to refereeing, Mr Ilderton allowed play to go on after a blatant foul on Osbourne in the middle of the park. The resulting move ended in a corner for the visitors and we all know what happens when you get a corner against Blackpool. Some poor marking, and some poorly attempted clearances led to Billy Sharp flicking the ball past a hopeless Matt Gilkes.
Blackpool reacted well and kept knocking on the door, and seemed to have carved open the Forest defence when Sylvestre sent Ince through on goal, only for the winger to be brought down. Mr Hopeless though simply waved his hands and played on when it could and maybe should have put Forest down to 10 men. Some more nice play, but nothing of note happened before the referee found his whistle just in time to blow for the break.
The message at half time must have been more of the same, but take a few more shots, as the Tangerines came out and continued to pass, but this time unleashing wild shots from outside the area.
The match lost it’s spark during the second half and really needed a change. On the hour mark Elliot Grandin made a return in place of Gomes and really changed the game. In spite of the fact Holloway said his attitude in training isn’t right, the Frenchman certainly looked up for the match, injecting some pace into the middle of the pitch and causing problems. And, deservedly, it was him who made a good run to get on the end of a fantastic Matt Phillips cross and head home an equaliser.
With the crowd encouraged and a spring in the players’ step, Blackpool continued to press and Grandin was involved again as the ball was bouncing around the Forest box and fell to Taylor-Fletcher who bumbled a shot which beat the keeper.
It really looked as if Blackpool were going to hold on to all three points until panic struck at the back. The ball was floated over and Blackstock latched onto it. The whole back line stood still with their hand in the air, more in desperation than anything, as the sub slotted home a last minute heartbreaker. The panic was understandable considering the defensive record of late. Add to that Matt Phillips slotting in at right back for the final 20 minutes and it’s no wonder there was a little confusion.
A final little touch from the referee came as he gave Blackpool a throw-in because the Forest right back took the initial throw from a yard too far up the pitch. It’s nice to see that despite missing almost everything during the game, he was still up to the job, making sure he got the big decisions correct.
As horrible as it is conceding in the last minute, it will be encouraging to most Blackpool fans to have their team back. A good, passing, attacking side who create chances but can’t defend a cross. In all honesty, there is no shame in drawing with this Forest side, who played a great counter attacking game. When you looked through their team there was quality all the way through it and in Cox and Sharp they have one of the best strike partnerships in the division.
So, at last, we saw a good game of football at Bloomfield Road. Played with the ball on the floor. And now we can get back to trying to impose our style of play on the opposition and get back to winning ways. Next step, defending crosses. Then there will be no stopping us.