Another new manager was introduced to the increasingly frustrated Blackpool fans on Saturday, but nothing happened to lift the gloom around Bloomfield Road.
Paul Ince took charge of his team for the second time against Leicester, having experience a loss in his first match against Leeds the previous Tuesday.
After waiting nearly two months to see a new man in the dugout, the Seasiders finally welcomes Ince, who has entered into a club suffering from a serious case of self pity. Right the way from the players, the staff, the fans and even the media; everyone associated with the club needs a lift. And everyone is hoping the self-styled ‘guvnor’ is the right man to inject a bit of pride and passion into the side.
Ince did make a few changes to the team for the visit of the Foxes, most notably changing the formation. Having played almost exclusively 4-3-3 over the last 3 years, Blackpool lined up with an unfamiliar 4-4-1-1 system. Whether this is Ince’s preferred formation, or just an experiment, will become clear in the coming weeks. What is already clear is that this set-up has some work to do to win over the Blackpool faithful. It produced a truly dull game, where no football was seen for the entirety of the contest.
Perhaps one of the problems was not the formation itself, but the positions certain players were deployed in. It seems simple to suggest that the main reason ‘Pool didn’t really create much is because they played two wingers through the middle of the pitch, a lazy forward on the wing, and two incredibly defensive midfielders in the centre of the pitch. And maybe it wouldn’t be outlandish to blame occasional defensive frailties on having a centre-half playing at right-back and a right-back playing on the wing.
The first half had very few noteworthy chances, with one opportunity falling to each side. Harry Kane hit a scorching volley after a terrible header from Taylor-Fletcher. Fortunately Gilks saved well to keep the game level. At the other end, Ince junior was sent through, only for his chipped effort to be saved in typical Shcmeichel fashion, before Eardley’s shot on the follow-up was also well saved. With those being the only real exchanges of a lacklustre first half, the teams went in level.
In the second half, Blackpool threatened occasionally, but only ever through Ince, who is beginning to carry the whole team on his still very young shoulders. In the space of six months, he has gone from being one of the stars flourishing in a good side, to the only star in a very poor side. He had three or four good efforts palmed away by the Leicester keeper, who never really looked too flustered.
At the other end though, Blackpool were holding on. A handful of chances were spurned by the visitors, including a pretty bad penalty miss by Wood, who crashed his effort off the top of the bar after Eardley and Baptiste had conspired to bring down Kane. A few headed chances, an easy chance put wide from inside the 6 yard box, and a great tip over the bar by Gilks kept a clean sheet for Blackpool for the first time in seven games.
A game that produced so little football did tremendously well to present as many chances as it did, but a 0-0 scoreline was probably a true reflection of a poor game, although the away fans will feel a little hard done by. Paul Ince seemed pleased with the result, and spouted the usual guff a manager does after picking up a point following two defeats.
There were some genuine positives to take from the game though. A clean sheet (just about), a good point against a side in a decent position, and finally some signs of fight. Although the game was scrappy, it was nice to see the Seasiders actually scrapping. The players looked bothered, even if they didn’t look talented. But after weeks and months of average football with no passion, it is nice to at least see some average football with a little bit of determination, because that is what is going to ensure Blackpool finish in a safe position now.
It has to be said that his first week has been a bit of a make-do-and-mend kind of week. Coming in with 2 games in the space of a few days, Ince has had no time to really get on the training ground with the players, but by Saturday he will have had chance to talk about how he wants to play.
If the 4-4-1-1 formation is seen again on Saturday, maybe that can be taken as a sign of things to come. It would be nice to see a striker played in that line-up though. With Derbyshire and Delfouneso sat on the bench, there are two players more capable of playing in the centre-forward role than Matt Phillips, who, despite feeding off scraps, looked a little confused by his new position.
The bench against Leicester also accommodated Sylvestre and Grandin, two players whose introduction could make a real difference. If fit, Sylvestre should be starting in this Blackpool side. He is a player who is willing to get on the ball and try something, and sometimes that is all it needs to give the team and the fans a bit of momentum. Similarly, Grandin has proven already this season that he is a quality player. Although his attitude is a little, well, French at times, he is a midfielder who can provide goals – something which is seriously lacking at the moment.
One thing that has seemed like a waste is the signings of Derbyshire and Wabara. It is yet to be seen whether either of these guys will feature for Blackpool before the end of the season, but one crucial thing that they both lacked was a losing mentality. When you aren’t doing well, and you bring new players in, they should be utilised straight away, before they pick up on the negativity around the place. How many times have we seen a debutant score, especially at Blackpool in recent years. Unfortunately, both players have been here long enough to realise we aren’t doing very well, so will have lost some of their naive confidence.
All things considers, it still seems a little premature to consider relegation for Blackpool as things stand, but a lot of Tangerine fans will be looking out for the Bristol and Barnsley results this week rather than Brighton and Burnley. Let’s just hope Ince can work some wonders on the training ground this week, and that his son can work yet more wonders on the pitch at the weekend.