It always sounds like a sorry excuse, and it is really, but it wouldn’t be totally untrue to say that Blackpool have been down on their luck recently. There have been a hatful of games (most notably at home to Wolves) where The Seasiders have done everything they can, but still come up short. Countless chances missed or saved, suspect refereeing decisions and goals conceded at crucial times have certainly contributed to the recent loss of confidence at Blackpool.
You can’t help but sound bitter and naïve when you talk about bad luck, and it is by no means the only problem at Blackpool, not by a long way; but it has been a factor in an extraordinary fall from title-challengers to bottom-half-and-going-nowhere-ers.
On Saturday however, the players in Tangerine certainly saw luck fall in their favour. And boy did they need it.
On a day where the pitch was looking even worse for wear (if that’s possible) and chants against the chairman were starting to spread to double-figured participants, Blackpool desperately needed something to lift the spirits.
The match started in a similar vain to recent weeks, with Blackpool carving out a few opportunities rather than clear chances, but failing to capitalise. The defence looked far from comfortable dealing with the long ball to Hulse, who won absolutely everything. In truth, neither team looked very good, and the scoring was opened in the only way appropriate, with a total fluke of a goal.
Direct from a corner, you’d have to suspect a massive slice of luck was involved. But when you see it again, you begin to question physics. Taken from the right, by a right footer, with the inside of his foot, the only possible outcome is an out-swinging delivery. Or so you’d think. Somehow, the ball went right down the goal line, over the man on the front post and past a scrambling goalkeeper. Bad luck, bad goalkeeping, bad defending… Whatever it was, it was bizarre, and it summed things up.
Again, after going behind, Blackpool reacted badly and lost their shape and desire, with Millwall creating the best chances of the half. Following on from earlier hitting the post when he should have scored, Hulse then struck the bar with a brilliant effort that lobbed Halstead and left everyone in the stadium waiting to see it nestle in the net. It didn’t, and Blackpool managed to go into the break within touching distance.
The second half started with just as little gusto as the first half, and it wasn’t until Thompson introduced Derbyshire that anything started to happen. Although he wasn’t directly involved in any of the goals, he looked lively again and must surely be due a start. In exactly the opposite way, despite being involved in both goals, Taylor-Fletcher was relatively poor. He wasn’t helped by the service he was given, and he actually did a good job in his battle with two huge centre halves. But he never has been, and never will be a striker. And when we have Derbyshire and Delfouneso in the squad, I think one of them should be starting.
On a similar note, I thought Matt Phillips was poor, and still looks like he isn’t sharp after his long lay-off, but I feel that he suffers from playing without a striker. His pace would be such an asset if he were able to use it, but every time he has the chance to take it past his man; he knows there will be nobody in the middle anyway.
I don’t think Taylor-Fletcher is our worst player, but I think he is the biggest problem. He needs to be played out wide, or not at all. In my opinion of course.
Back to the game, and just 2 minutes after Derbyshire came on, Ince was sent through by Taylor-Fletcher and, fresh from his brace for England in midweek, Ince took only a couple of touches to settle himself and drill it past the Millwall ‘keeper.
After this goal, I said “We’ll go and win this now”, but I had not one iota of confidence that this would actually happen. And it looked for all the world that it would end in a draw until Delfouneso got a chance, which he took down well and dispatched very calmly.
The Millwall players, protested for handball, which looks possible after a second viewing, but the referee waved them away, sending the Blackpool fans into rapture.
That bit of luck that had been so lacking had finally arrived. And if you needed any proof that this was going to be Blackpool’s day, it came just 3 minutes later, with virtually the last kick of the game, when Shane Lowry’s vicious volley hit the bar with Halstead beaten.
The final whistle went, the three points belonged to Blackpool, and we all had something to smile about.
Some say it is better to be lucky than good, and at the moment I can’t disagree, but it would be premature to think this result will be some sort of turning point. We have already had two or three false dawns, and I will wait until we have at least back-to-back wins before I start getting excited.
With trips to Ipswich and Leeds coming up, where we might be able to play some nice football on some nice grass, it could be the time to start pushing on. In fact, the match at Elland Road last season was a pivotal game, with the team reacting to a bad run of form and thrashing Leeds 5-0. Anything close to that in the next couple of outings would be fantastic, for what may still be a managerless Blackpool side. When that particular issue will be resolved is anyone’s guess…