Still unbeaten under a new manager after seven games.
Not a bad start, though it is only 11 points from a possible 21. But then again, it’s all about keeping the momentum going and you can start to see signs of confidence returning to the players in all areas of the pitch.
After a string of draws to kick off the new era, Blackpool have now won 2 of the last 3 games and are still yet to experience a loss. And despite the football not being quite as free-flowing, The Seasiders have scored 14 goals in the last 7 outings, which is something not to be sniffed at. That stat is even more encouraging when you consider that Appleton’s main objective was to sort out a leaky defence.
Coming off the back of a positive result against their former manager, the players were full of confidence for the visit of Blackburn, who were suffering from a bit of bad form / bad management / bad ownership. And the Rovers fans saw little to cheer them up during their visit to the coast, which ended with their fans chanting “You’re not fit to wear the shirt”.
Blackpool went into the game with just the one enforced change, with Crainey having to serve his one match suspension and Bob Harris stepping in. I’ve been critical of Crainey in recent weeks and was delighted to see Harris put in a barnstorming display, performing steadily at the back whilst finding time to race up the wing and help out at the front. Bar one moment when he was caught out by a long diagonal ball, ‘Wee Bob’ put in a superb afternoon’s work which will hopefully see him retain the left-back spot.
The game itself was far from brilliant, but some football shone through occasionally despite a badly cut-up pitch and an archaic approach to the game by Blackburn who, having been relegated playing the long-ball way, continue to play the same way in the hope that things will change. It seems Einstein’s definition of insanity applies to football too. “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
However, this approach did set them off on the front foot as they started the game on top, even if they didn’t create much. It took the home side about 15 minutes to settle down, but when they did they really took control of the game and dominated the midfield area. The trio of Martinez, Osbourne and Gomes have just the right mix of backbone, tenacity and creativity and they were showing why so many fans had been calling for this combination to be selected again.
It was a nice pass from Martinez into Wes Thomas that led to the opening goal. Thomas collected the ball and gave it wide to Delfouneso before taking up a position in the box to head in from the cross. A free header is a normality at Bloomfield Road, but for it to land on a Blackpool head is unheard of. It looked as if the visitors had been reading from the ‘Blackpool Book of Defending’ considering their frailty in the box, especially from crosses.
However, Blackburn almost managed to go into the break level following some panicky defending from Blackpool. Twice in as many minutes they breached the back line only to be denied once by the post and once by Gilks’ ‘go-go-gadget’ arm when he managed to gather the ball before Vukcevic Poked home.
After the break Blackburn showed no real urgency or desire to get back into the game and Blackpool were trying to press home their advantage. Harris was doing his best to create something as he sent a beautiful ball through to Ince who squandered a great opportunity before the left-back later connected well with a freekick that was saved by Kean.
From the resulting corner Blackburn switched off again to allow Broadfoot a free header, but what a header it was. A Shearer-esque, diving header that flew into the net and really sealed the victory for ‘Pool.
The ungainly Broadfoot seems to have settled into the side now after looking horrendously out of his depth in his first few appearances. His move into the middle of defence has helped as he isn’t facing pacy wingers anymore and doesn’t see as much as the ball. Similarly, Baptiste has benefitted from the move to fullback following some average performances in the middle. At fullback he isn’t as severely punished for diving in or for poor control. The switch has been beneficial all round.
Rovers had a late push for a goal but just couldn’t break through. The best of their chances fell to King but his finish was saved by another appearance by Gilks’ telescopic arm and Blackpool managed to see the game out. The ease in which the game was concluded was down to intelligent defending from the front. Blackpool’s strikers worked tirelessly to harry the Blackburn players, but then cleverly ushered them into crowded areas where Osbourne or Martinez could snatch the ball off them. It was really heartening to see that the team had a gameplan and were able to execute it.
Another reassuring aspect was that after a shaky start Appleton made a few tweaks to the midfield in order to get a foothold in the game. You could see messages being sent to the players and they took one look over, nodded and got on with things. Appleton is showing that he is tactically astute and he can deliver instructions clearly and concisely. The players knew what they were doing and adapted quickly to any changes, which is very important. We have been caught floundering too often in the past when players haven’t understood directions.
So a great result from an average game, but the points are starting to come in now and we can start to look upwards again. With Wolves up next we can expect another attritional game. They aren’t in great shape and have been disappointing on the road. Having seen them against Birmingham last week, I can’t see them coming here and trying to pass their way through us, but in Sako they have a player who, when firing, can be really dangerous and the Doyle/Blake partnership will no doubt cause problems.
From our point of view though, we have players coming into form in the likes of Delfouneso and Thomas, the midfield is starting to gel and the defence is getting stronger. Ince hasn’t been as effective as we know he can be, but with teams doubling up on him it frees up space for others around him.
The return of Taylor-Flecther is timely just as we enter into the busy Christmas period and I’m sure other players are chomping at the bit, ready to show Appleton what they can do before the January transfer window.
Just 4 points off the playoffs and unlucky not to move up the table on Saturday, things are starting to look very nice again at Blackpool. If they can make it to the New Year in touching distance of the top lot, then it will be really interesting to see who Appleton tries to bring in and see if we can kick on in the second half of the season.