Finally, something to moan about.
After three near-flawless displays from Blackpool, we finally came unstuck away to Leicester at the weekend.
I don’t know whether Holloway still feels guilty for his time at Leicester (which ended in relegation) but since then, every time he has come up against them he feels the need to prove himself as a tactical mastermind. Unfortunately, it has always ended up with a lacklustre performance and Leicester walking away with a gift-wrapped 3 points. Alternatively, we could just say that it is that strange phenomenon of a bogey team. Not necessarily for Blackpool, but for Holloway. Whatever he tries, he just can’t seem to get one over on his former employers.
Blackpool went into this game on the back of a 6-0 mauling of Ipswich. Yet, rather than stick with a winning side, Holloway decided to make 2 changes. Veteran striker Kevin Phillips was replaced with raw pace in Nouha Dicko, a change that seemed fairly logical being away from home. The change that baffled everyone though, was the removal of Angel Martinez in favour of Barry Ferguson.
Martinez, who has been fantastic at the end of last season, and start of this, was the big loss. His interplay with Tiago Gomes had been something to behold in the last 2 home games. Taking him out didn’t just weaken that one position, but also meant Gomes had more work to do. It is no fault of Ferguson, who didn’t have a particularly bad game, but he just doesn’t move the ball as well as Martinez. Ferguson is fantastic when you are winning. He is sensible, covers the defence and keeps the ball ticking over. But he isn’t great when you need to force the issue and really attack.
Leicester came out flying in this game and kept Blackpool virtually in their own third in the opening stages. Blackpool lacked any cohesion and for some reason kept pumping it long and surrendering possession. It was a very shaky start by Blackpool who took nearly 25 minutes to settle down. But, for all Leicester had of the game, they never really looked like scoring. Vardy was sent through only to be denied by Gilkes, but that was about the extent of the Foxes’ real chances.
Although it was a poor first half display by ‘Pool, they created the best chance of the half when Taylor-Fletcher slid a ball though to the in-form Ince, who hit it straight at the ‘Keeper. Ferguson also had his annual jaunt into the opposition’s half, and hit the post with a cracking effort from the edge of the box.
The second half took on a different pattern with the game becoming stretched and Blackpool finally keeping the ball on the floor. Just as the game was hotting up a series of penalty claims changed the game. Firstly, Vardy threw himself into Crainey and took a tumble, but his appeals were rightly waved away.
Then as Dyer was about to get on the end of a cross, Eardley slid in (or slipped) and seemed to get the ball and man simultaneously. Certainly debatable, but again waved away. But now the fans were baying for blood, and almost gave themselves a penalty when Vardy again went down. Not much debate with this one, by all accounts, it never was, never has been and never will be a penalty. Ever. But Mike Jones gave in to the crowd and pointed to the spot. Marshall stepped up and although Gilkes was close he couldn’t keep it out.
After the goal Holloway then made some bizarre substitutions. With Blackpool crying out for some slick passing, Gomes was taken off for Matty Phillips. So now we had 4 strikers on and nobody to give them the ball. Then, Kevin Phillips and Delfouneso came on for Ferguson and Dicko. 5 strikers on, and only 1 midfielder. Considering our summer signings were almost exclusively midfielders, it seems odd that we ended with more on the bench than on the pitch. However, after a great goal-line block by Baptiste, again Blackpool created the best scoring chances, falling to Ince and Matty Phillips. Both fluffed the chance of an equaliser and, with Blackpool starting to go long again, the game ended with the Foxes seeing out any remaining Blackpool threat.
Despite a relatively poor showing, it was only a shocking penalty decision and some poor finishing that cost us. We created the better chances without ever having the better of the game. Maybe just a bad day at the office, and we can still be pleased that a sub-par performance resulted in a 1-0 loss, where previously it may have been more.
So how do we look heading into the international break?
Well, we still top the league having played superbly in 3 out of 4 games. We’ve scored 10 goals and have added more firepower in the transfer window, recruiting Nathan Delfouneso and Nathan Ecclestone. Hopefully both will settle into our system fairly quickly and prove themselves. Perhaps most importantly though, we have only conceded 2 in 4 games. Once from a corner, and once from a horrendous penalty decision. A leaky defence has been an issue of ours for a few years now, and if we can keep it this tight for long spells this season, we will surely see a promotion challenge. Not all that much to moan about then…