I’ve always said that the first win or loss under Appleton would have a huge bearing on the morale around the club, but it’s not just in relation to run since Appleton has been here.
After winning on Saturday Blackpool have now lost just once in the last nine outings. If we would have lost though, we would be talking about just one win in 11. The two statements sound nothing alike and it is why they say that one result can make a huge difference. In reality it just goes to show how many draws we’ve seen recently.
With the players heading down to Peterborough, there was a feeling among the fans that anything less than a win would be a poor result. After only drawing with then-bottom Bristol City, taking just a point or less away from London Road would leave a lot of Blackpool fans looking down rather than up.
Following a terrible showing against Birmingham, the Seasiders had some improving to do if they were to take anything from the game, and Appleton decided to make just one change. Wes Thomas came in for his full debut in place of Kevin Phillips which proved to be the right choice as the new boy got on the score sheet and won his team a penalty in a whole-hearted display.
Ian Evatt, Matt Philips and Gary Taylor-Fletcher are still all out with injury and the current starting XI need to start performing if they are to keep them out of the side when they do eventually return.
It didn’t get off the the best start on Saturday, as it hasn’t in any of Appleton’s games so far, with Blackpool starting like they were suffering from a bit of travel sickness. Peterborough weren’t much better though creating only one real chance, albeit a brilliant one from which Boyd should have opened the scoring. It seems as though Appleton’s aim is to make it to half time at 0-0 and so far it has been a tactic which has proven relentlessly boring and ultimately unsuccessful.
However this week it worked out, Blackpool went in at 0-0 and Appleton had the chance to deliver what must be an inspirational teamtalk. Against Watford we witnessed a total transformation from first to second half, and again against Peterborough they went from looking like total strangers to a team in total control. If he could just be half as motivating before kick-off we might see an exciting first half.
Blackpool finally got hold of the game and after Ince chipped a ball for Thomas to head in, they looked like they would cruise to an easy victory. Just 8 minutes later Thomas won a penalty which Ince converted to put some space between the two sides and it looked like we would finally see a win.
Although you can see that Appleton is doing his best to tighten up the defence, he isn’t being helped by Alex Baptiste who has gone from being the first name on the teamsheet to a total liability. From Vincent Kompany to Titus Bramble. And he displayed his very best Bramble impression to gift Peterborough an early christmas present and let them back into the game.
Thankfully, after a few substitutions, Blackpool regained their 2-goal lead following a Martinez assist and Dicko strike, before Ince finished the game with a fantastic goal from another Angel Martinez pass.
So a 4-1 win looks convincing on paper, and maybe was fairly convincing on the day, but the Posh defence was poor and Blackpool still haven’t produced an interesting first half with Appleton in charge. But it’s goals and results that breed confidence, no matter who they are against, and this could finally be the platform that the side has needed to build upon. It wasn’t a great game and it was against the basement side, but it could give the strikers some confidence and give everyone at the back (except Baptiste) a bit of a boost.
For me though, potentially the biggest positive from the game is Basham collecting his 5th yellow card and therefore missing the trip to Palace. It sounds harsh because Basham has done tremendously well since he has come back in and has been a rare bright spark, but it frees up a position in the middle that will surely be filled by Angel Martinez. Assuming Osbourne and Gomes keep their places it means we could be seeing the multi-cultural trio back in the middle of the park for the first time since they wiped the floor with Ipswich.
And how ironic it may be for them to return against the manager that tinkered with that side and sent the team into a downward spiral. It’s not guaranteed that these three will start, and it’s not guaranteed that they will inspire a win or even play well, but they have a chance to show the new manager what they can do, and show their old manager what a fool he was to break them up.
As for Saturday, it’s not a game I’m looking forwards to really. A game that should have meant absolutely nothing now has so many fans expecting something. If we lose, it isn’t just 3 points dropped but it will lead to more questions about Appleton’s credentials compared to Holloway’s.
On the other hand, if we do win Appleton will be a hero and it could provide a bit of closure on the Holloway era. Winning would say that it was the right time for him to move on and that we can perform without him. Everybody can get on with things and start looking forwards.
Hopefully Holloway will afford us the same luxury as he did with Leicester by telling his side not to perform against his former club. After getting Leicester relegated, whenever we played them you got the feeling that he was trying to rectify that by allowing them to win. After leaving Blackpool rather acrimoniously, he may be inclined to do the same thing. With any luck anyway.
Saturday also sees a clash between two of the hottest properties in the league with Ince and Zaha battling it out to show who really is worth their asking price. Ince, with 13 goals and 8 assists is being valued at £6m whilst Zaha, on 4 goals and 4 assists, is attracting talk of a £20m bid. Maybe it’s just my Blackpool bias that sees a flawed logic here, or maybe it’s because I’m not an idiot.
Ince has proven himself to be a good player in the last 2 years after leaving Liverpool and will cause problems for Palace, but I worry that at the other end Zaha may well be up against Broadfoot. Even facing Crainey, in his current form, I worry that Zaha and the equally impressive Bolasie will cause a lot of problems for our fullbacks. It’s unfortunate that we can’t see Ince and Phillips in action together on Saturday as that would be a great comparison.
No matter what happens, Saturday should provide a lot of talking points, both on and off the pitch and should make for very interesting viewing.