With the loss of the statistics and chalkboards that go with top flight status, my ‘Seaside Strategy’ series of posts will be taking a back seat this season. Instead I’ll be analysing the Hull game, and many other games this campaign, by picking out four key themes. I’ll still be looking at tactics, but they might not always be the primary focus. As ever, your feedback is always appreciated.
1. Four distinct spells
|Defensive line a mess, arms aloft for offside, but Baptiste recovers well with last ditch challenge.|
|Evatt, Baptiste and Cathcart all taken out of the game – Ferguson and Crainey having to cover. Crainey does enough to put off striker as Gilks collects ball on edge of area.|
|Baptiste and Cathcart with their arms in the air this time, deflection off Evatt setting Fryatt clear. Gilks saves well after Fryatt delays shot.|
|Starting to wonder if the defence has woken up with aching arms today. Cathcart recovers well to prevent Fryatt equalising in stoppage time.|
|Sounding like a broken record now, but Baptiste again appeals in vain for offside. Jay Simpson wastes a glorious one-on-one opportunity with two minutes remaining and ‘Pool hang on to all three points.|
When the starting line-up was announced before yesterday’s game, there were few surprises. Craig Cathcart was the obvious choice in defence once it had emerged Neal Eardley would not be making the trip for off-the-field reasons, and one of Elliot Grandin or Ludovic Sylvestre was likely to slot into the midfield alongside Barry Ferguson and Keith Southern. Up front Taylor-Fletcher and Kevin Phillips were always going to start, but it came as a shock to some that it was Brett Ormerod, not Billy Clarke, filling the final spot in the XI.
I had speculated on twitter that Holloway may go down this route, favouring Ormerod’s experience, but it was not a move I or many other ‘Pool fans would have preferred. It goes without saying that in years to come Ormerod will always hold a special place in the memories of Blackpool fans, from the way he broke through as a youngster following his move from Accrington Stanley to the winning goal at Wembley in the 2010 Championship play-off final. There is however only so much room for sentiment in modern football and while Ormerod will always give 100% effort, one can’t help but think that the club has better options available.
When Clarke replaced Ormerod midway through the second half, the contrast was there for all to see. Where Ormerod had strained and stumbled, Clarke was vibrant and full of energy. The age disparity would suggest this is obvious, but the even more mature Phillips looked sharper than Ormerod throughout, despite playing the full 90 minutes. With Clarke, Tom Ince and Gerardo Bruna all able to occupy that spot on the left of the front three, it’s hard to see how Ormerod can successfully compete for his place this season – even before any potential new signings are taken into account.
Now back in the Championship, and with the names of Adam, Vaughan and Campbell confined to the past, Taylor-Fletcher has come to the fore. A clever footballer, last night was another strong display from the man who began in non-league, showing good vision to lay the ball off for Phillips towards the end of the first half, the veteran striker seeing his shot denied by the woodwork. Taylor-Fletcher sought to combine with Phillips again early in the second half, intercepting the ball in the Hull half before trying to quickly release Phillips – the finely cut grass meant the pass did not hold up as he might have wished and proved a little too heavy for Phillips to collect.
The quality of Taylor-Fletcher however was best illustrated by his fine winning goal. Turning on the ball, Taylor-Fletcher looked inside to Clarke before searching for the return ball. The technique on the strike cannot be understated – it was sweetly hit despite having to watch it over his shoulder. Taylor-Fletcher will be expected to take up some of the slack in the goals department left behind by Adam and Campbell. On this showing, he is more than up to the task and is a player who Blackpool should tie down on a new contract as soon as possible.