1. Burnley in the derby mindset
This is by no means an all-star Burnley line-up – their stuttering form so far this season indicates their present mid-table position is about right, but they gave ‘Pool little opportunity to demonstrate any quality that the visitors may believe they have. Time on the ball was at a premium and Burnley’s constant pressure made Blackpool resemble a team of near strangers destined for a long old season.
It has been a bugbear of mine since last season, and eventually Blackpool’s lack of concentration from a corner kick has cost them a goal. Set-pieces seem to be a recurring frailty for the Seasiders, but incidents like this should be cut out altogether. The premise is simple, if the opposition goes to take a short corner involving two players, the defending side needs to send two players 10 yards from the corner flag, in order to successfully close down a one-two between the attacking players.
On this occasion, the corner that led to Burnley’s first goal, only Brett Ormerod was nearby as the hosts worked a short corner. On his own, Ormerod was unable to prevent the cross after Ross Wallace passed to Junior Stanislas for a short corner. The cross came in and Charlie Austin beat Craig Cathcart to the header – 1-0. In the stands, it was Cathcart who shouldered a fair amount of the blame. Cathcart was too easily shrugged off sure, but the cross should never have been allowed.
Had the corner been put in directly, it’s an easier ball to defend as it’s usually heading away from goal, meaning it’s more difficult for attackers to put a run on their marker. In this instance, the guilty party is surely Kevin Phillips, who as seen below is slowly wandering over to the corner, but only once it is too late. Phillips was surely tasked with being the second marker on the short corner, but a lack of concentration handed Burnley the initiative.
|Brett Ormerod is forced to track Ross Wallace’s run, allowing Junior Stanislas to cut back and deliver the killer cross. Kevin Phillips (top left) arrives on the scene too late.|
3. Change of shape, (slight) change of fortune
Back to the shape however, and the balance of the midfield hasn’t quite been right all season – it remains to be seen if Keith Southern and Barry Ferguson is viable in a three man midfield (or for that matter, a two man central midfield). Holloway’s decision to leave out Southern against Nottingham Forest indicates he too has concerns in this area. Having switched to a 4-4-2 midgame on a couple of occasions now, it may only be a matter of time before ‘Pool begin a game with that shape – rightly or wrongly.
Gary Taylor-Fletcher, while hardly an out-and-out target man himself, was a big loss for the Seasiders and his absence displayed what an influential player he is. Blackpool do have a tendency to go long with their passing using the diagonal ball, but without Taylor-Fletcher present, it was a thoroughly unrewarding tactic on Saturday. The resultant effect was conceding possession on a regular basis, with none of the forward line able to effectively hold the ball up.
In terms of Taylor-Fletcher’s own form this season, it has wavered, possibly down to the variety of roles he has been asked to fill, but he remains a key cog in the machine. Missing through injury, the loss of Taylor-Fletcher again highlighted a failing in Blackpool’s transfer policy this season. For all the players that have been signed – 17 in total – and the size of the squad, the loss of one player was too crucial and shows that despite the numbers it’s hard to make a case for genuine strength-in-depth.
There are too many similar players in the squad, and perhaps more alarmingly, too many who are unlikely to ever feature despite being signed only a few months ago. Comments made this week by the manager and his assistant indicate that they perhaps are now aware of mistakes made, but it will be interesting to see if they can rectify this situation to any great extent before January. A big target man may not be the Spanish way Holloway admires, but in a league such as the Championship it is a weapon that Blackpool need to have in their armoury. For the time being, a speedy recovery for Taylor-Fletcher is key.