Month: December 2011

Tangerine Dreaming – Championship Best Eleven (So far)

As the Championship season reaches it’s halfway stage, TD takes a quick look over the season so far to select a team of players that have impressed with their performances against Blackpool.

Blackpool players have been excluded and only players that TD witnessed playing against Blackpool are included. Given that TD has been close to being a part time fan in the last month or so then some good players may have missed out. Missing the home games against Watford and Birmingham may have taken away two contenders for the team. Watford’s Scott Loach and Birmingham’s Chris Burke both had strong games by all acounts. However, they don’t appear here for the reasons stated previously.

This is entirely subjective, without foundation in fact or deeper analysis, just the performance that was witnessed by TD. No players are in here due to reputation or achievement in other games. If that had been the case then TD’s favourite Championship player, Adam Lallana would have made the side comfortably. So without any further wiffle and waffle, here’s the side of the season so far.

The Best Eleven

1. Goalkeeper – David Marshall (Cardiff City)

A strong imposing ‘keeper and TD can’t add much more than that. He’s well known and is more than capable of playing at a higher level.

2. Right Back – Kieran Trippier (Burnley on loan from Manchester City)

A willing and energetic full back who will probably never make the grade at his parent club due to their ability to recruit world class players, but would be a decent acquisition for any club from the lower half of the Premier League down to the top rungs of the Championship.

3. Right Centre Back – Danny Collins (Ipswich Town on loan from Stoke City)

A basic defender, but you know what you’re getting from him. Decent pedigree and at the time of his game at Bloomfield Road, his first for Ipswich, he looked like he could bind a very weak Ipswich back line.

4. Left Centre Back – Jason Shackell (Derby County)

Similar to above, Shackell is a solid defender who does the basics well. At Bloomfield Road earlier this season he was the experience alongside the young Mark O’Brien helping to shut out Blackpool.

5. Left Back – Andrew Taylor (Cardiff City)

Not many left backs have caught the eye of TD, but Taylor looked tidy and willing to push on when space appeared in front of him.

6. Central Midfielder – Grant McCann (Peterborough United)

Sat in front of the Peterborough defence and looked very assured on the ball and disciplined off it.

7. Right Side Midfielder – Don Cowie (Cardiff City)

Excellent on the ball, can pick a pass and deliver a ball in to the box. As with his goalkeeping colleague (Marshall), really should be playing in the Premier League.

8. Left Side Midfielder – Craig Bryson (Derby County)

Energy personified and tactically disciplined. Functional rather than spectacular. He was at the heart of Derby’s game plan to stifle and frustrate Blackpool and chipped in with the winning goal too.

9. Central Striker – Rickie Lambert ( Southampton)

An excellent target man who is powerful, aggressive and strikes the ball with excellent technique as well as rising to score with powerful headers.

10. Right Forward – Marvin Emnes ( Middlesbrough)

Very lively if a little easy to read at times (let’s ball come on to him before rolling off the defender), very hard to handle when he is running either on or off the ball. Blackpool’s high defensive line was teetering on the brink of collapse on many an occasion he was involved in the attacking play.

11. Left Forward – Robbie Brady (Hull City on loan from Manchester United)

Tricky, pacey wide man. Double footed and hard to read his movement with the ball. He may well break through at his parent club should he get the chance (next season at the earliest), should he not, then he’d be in demand from a multitude of clubs. Questions currently centre on where he will spend the second half of the season.

Moving On

Some genuine quality in that side and talent that can play at a higher level and also three loan players, showing how important those players are to Championship sides. A lot is made of the gulf in class between Premier League and Championship, but it really isn’t that wide at all and there’s potentially a lot of overlap between the top Championship sides and lower Premier League side.

How many of these players will make the end of season side remains to be seen, with twenty three games to go it’s all to play for.

Four Thoughts on… Blackpool 0-0 Watford

In the hours before Saturday’s game, I saw a statistic that in all league meetings between Blackpool and Watford, there had never before been a 0-0 result. Therefore it was somewhat inevitable that the Bloomfield Road crowd witnessed a goalless draw. Here are my observations on the match:

1. Midfield – history repeats itself
In his pre-match press conference, Ian Holloway hinted that in order to combat the way Watford play, he may play an extra striker. In light of these comments, it was no surprise then that it was Chris Basham who was left out in order to accommodate the return of Lomana Lua Lua. Holloway was apologetic about this decision when announcing his team to the sponsor’s lounge before the game, stating that Basham was extremely unlucky to miss out after an impressive performance at Southampton last week. It was a big call, and in hindsight one that the manager got wrong.

Gary Taylor-Fletcher once more dropped deeper, as he has done many times this season with questionable levels of success. The idea is obviously to employ a 4-2-1-3 formation, but Taylor-Fletcher all too often finds himself too high up the pitch, resulting in the side often resembling a 4-2-4. The number of short passes in midfield was vastly reduced from the previous weekend, despite the best efforts of Ludo Sylvestre who needed more help in trying to pass through the visitors.

One even wonders whether Taylor-Fletcher is happy to play in this role, with body language at times on Saturday suggesting he would rather be playing as part of the forward three. Not only did Taylor-Fletcher drift forward to form a front four, he could regularly be seen pointing at others to drop in for him when he advanced. Some weeks a rotation of this makeshift front four is clearly visible, but it was less evident against Watford, giving the impression the front line were not asked to regularly rotate with Taylor-Fletcher. As a consequence, Blackpool often seemed outnumbered in midfield which led to a slightly longer passing game compared to what has been on offer during the last month or so.

Quite simply, the balance of the team with Taylor-Fletcher in the hole does not look right, and it is a little concering that ‘Pool are having to use the former Huddersfield man in this way as regularly as they do. The nigh-on 4-2-4 is not bringing the best out of the player or the team, and perhaps it is something that should be Plan B or C, rather than the way Holloway sets up his side as default.
2. Never assume, it makes an…
For all the disappointment at dropping two points on Saturday, Blackpool were unlucky not to go ahead on the back of their first half chances, hitting the post twice – firstly after a splendid run and shot from Matt Phillips, and again shortly afterwards through Lua Lua. Watford did have their moments too in the opening 45 minutes, but any neutral would likely have said that ‘Pool had done more of the two teams to forge a half-time advantage,

However, the massively disappointing aspect from a Blackpool perspective is that it seemed like there was too much complacency. It is almost as if it was expected that the goal would come, when the plan should have been to force it through changes in either tactics or personnel. As the largely dismal second half wore on, it wasn’t until the 67th minute that Holloway sought to alter his team. Even then, it was a fairly like-for-like substitution with Kevin Phillips replacing the frustrating Lua Lua.

With just over 10 minutes to go, the next change saw Billy Clarke replace a tiring Sylvestre, but this only served to weaken the midfield further. Clarke joined the action in the midfield, but at this point there were effectively ‘Pool five strikers on the pitch, regardless of where they were supposed to be playing. It would surely have made more sense for Basham or Angel Martinez to be deployed in midfield if Sylvestre needed to be withdrawn.

One wonders whether Holloway maybe backed himself into a corner with his team selection, and he was worried that bringing on an out-and-out midfielder may have seemed negative. Giving the team an extra dimension by reverting to a more orthodox 4-3-3 may have been the key to unlocking Watford, but the manager chose to stick with the same set-up, with which a resolute visiting side had got to grips with more easily in the second half.

3. Lomana Lua Lua – frustration reigns
Since joining on a free transfer in October, Lomana Lua Lua has quickly established himself as something of a fan favourite on the Fylde coast, mainly influenced perhaps by his breakthrough performance in the 5-0 victory at Elland Road. Personally though, I have yet to be convinced by his all-round game and Saturday was another example of how he can be such a frustrating player.
What lets Lua Lua down is this – while he can produce the odd moment of magic, he does not do the simple things well. Over the course of match, players are required to do many more simple things than complex ones, and it can be infuriating when a player repeatedly cedes possession by trying to be too clever when a more straightforward option is available.
Lua Lua did have his moment of excitement when he was denied by the post, but beyond that there was little he did to impress and should probably have been substituted earlier than he was. Currently there seems to be a mixture of players who aren’t in the team and possibly deserve to be, and others who are regulars in the team when they haven’t perhaps done enough to merit that right. I dare say Lua Lua belongs to that second category at the moment, and more concentration when asked to do the simple things would help him warrant his place.
4. Welcome back Matt Phillips

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments from the weekend was that the performance of Matt Phillips did not earn his team three points. Awarded the man of the match by the sponsors, his display against Watford was arguably his best 90 minute performance since joining the club in August 2010.

Phillips looked full of confidence, running at defenders time and time again – his major strength which puts fear into other teams and memorably tore apart the Manchester City left-back Aleksandar Kolarov almost a year ago. Phillips was also desperately unlucky not to open the scoring when his first half shot came back off the upright after running with the ball from his own half.

With so many players eager to stake their claim for a starting place, one did wonder how long Holloway would perservere with Matt Phillips, but it now looks like the extended run in side is paying off. Tom Ince should still feel aggrieved that he has had to wait, but the former Liverpool youngster will probably now have to bide his time until Callum McManaman returns to Wigan before winning his place back.

Four Thoughts on… Southampton 2-2 Blackpool

Blackpool drew 2-2 with Southampton on their third televised league outing of the season, making it won one, drawn one and lost one in front of the cameras. Here are my observations from Saturday’s match:
1. Defence narrow, and somewhat shaky
It was always likely to be a tough game for Blackpool’s back four at St Mary’s, coming up against a team who had won all their matches on home turf this season. The return of Rickie Lambert to the starting line-up after injury only served to ramp up the difficulty. The way Southampton sought to exploit Blackpool’s defence can be explained by the diagrams below.

Blackpool had the better of the first 10 minutes, but Southampton did find their feet and in the example below caused issues for the Seasiders. Notice how many white shirts are tightly packed, and Southampton use this to their advantage by passing out wide and delivering a dangerous cross.

Shortly afterwards, Southampton once again forced the Blackpool defence very narrow, creating huge swathes of space on the flanks to be exploited.

Not long after the hosts had taken the lead, Rickie Lambert almost made it 2-0, but for an excellent save from Matt Gilks. The image below shows Ian Evatt charging out of defence a little too rashly, with the Southampton forwards poised to pounce.

The effect of Evatt’s decision to rush to the ball is even more visible in the image below, showing the same situation from a side angle. On this image, you can see how Lambert has peeled off the back of Neal Eardley, with Lallana completely unmarked on the Saints’ left. Evatt’s movement towards the ball has seen the defence shift out of position, with ‘Pool fortunate not to concede a second and be out of the game with just half an hour or so on the clock.

Neal Eardley, who has been a target of a not insignificant section of Blackpool support in his time with the club, had a moment to forget for his part in the opening goal of the afternoon. Gilks played a regulation short ball out to him, but a poor first touch led to Eardley being too easily dispossessed before the ball found its way to Lambert who scored via a Cathcart deflection. It was sloppy play from the right-back, but at the same time one wonders if he received a shout of man-on from his teammates – if he did, he certainly didn’t react to it.

It wasn’t just Evatt and Eardley who had a bad day at the office – neither Cathcart nor Stephen Crainey will be satisfied with their performances either. Crainey struggled for much of the game to handle Morgan Schneiderlin, and for the last minute Lambert goal, Cathcart afforded the former ‘Pool trainee too much space for a player as good in the air as he is. Visiting top of the league, the Blackpool defence wobbled, but thankfully for them, it’s another away game at a top team out of the way.

2. Midfield pivot is back with Basham
Ludo Sylvestre finally broke into Ian Holloway’s team away at Leeds, and after the Millwall game which followed it I commented on how the flatter ‘Pool midfield was based around Barry Ferguson as a pivot point. With Keith Southern’s health concerns, Holloway reverted to using Gary Taylor-Fletcher at the tip of a midfield three in recent weeks, the success of which is up for debate. After the 1-0 win over Reading, I floated the idea of Chris Basham or Angel Martinez being brought in alongside Ferguson and Sylvestre, particularly for away games. Holloway did exactly that and Basham won his first midfield start of the season – his only other start came at right-back away at Brighton.

During his 15 month Blackpool career so far, Basham has suffered with a string of injuries, before being cast in the rather unfortunate role of utility man. On the few occasions Basham has got into the side, it has typically been as cover for an injury or suspension, which has seen the former Bolton man back out of the side when the player he replaced is available. Danny Coid proved over the course of a decade that being a utility man, while handy for the manager, is not always a blessing for the player himself. Coid too was no stranger to the treatment table, and when fit struggled to nail down any particular place for any length of time.

Chris Basham will be hoping he can avoid falling into the same trap, and his performance on Saturday lunchtime was a massive step in the right direction. Presumably brought in to give the Blackpool midfield more solidity, it was unexpected at just how well Basham got forward. Aside from his goal, Basham worked his way into the Southampton box on a number of other occasions and does appear an attacking aerial threat, as commented upon following the 2-0 defeat at Leicester. Until Southern or Elliot Grandin return to full fitness, Basham represents a genuine alternative in midfield, which before the weekend did not seem to be an option the manager was seriously considering.

3. …but doesn’t survive the substitutions.

With ‘Pool leading 2-1, Ian Holloway opted to make some changes in the closing stages of the game. Kevin Phillips joined the action to a chorus of boos from the home supporters, clearly not fondly remembered for his time at Southampton, replacing Callum McManaman. A few minutes later Chris Basham also departed the field for Lomana Lua Lua, which following some criticism has since been explained as the midfielder apparently carrying a knock, as well as Holloway being eager to take him off after his full-blooded challenge on Dan Harding, which on another day may have earned him more than just a yellow card.

At this point, the shape of the side did crumble a little. The first substitution looked like ‘Pool may have switched to a 4-4-2 with Kevin Phillips and Taylor-Fletcher up front, but then the second change saw Taylor-Fletcher drop a bit deeper, with ‘Pool then operating a 4-3-3-cum-4-2-4. Given how the Seasiders had closed out the game against Reading by going to a more compact midfield, it was more than a little surprising that the more defensively-minded Angel was not brought on to replace Basham.

This is not to say that Blackpool were completely overrun in the final 10 minutes or so. Southampton pushing for equaliser, combined with the Blackpool changes in both tactics and personnel, served to stretch the game, with the match turning into an end-to-end affair. Indeed, one could easily argue that the visitors should have killed off the game, spurning good chances on the break with Taylor-Fletcher one notable culprit. However, the puzzling decision to change tactics of how to hold onto a lead from one game to the next invites a few questions, and having done it successfully the previous week, it was disappointing in the end to drop two points with Lambert’s late goal.

4. Southampton good value for their point
The equalising goal was sickeningly late from a Blackpool point of view, but it’s hard to deny that Southampton deserved something for their part in an entertaining game. Once again Blackpool came to rely on Matt Gilks to bail them out of some dangerous situations, and the hosts kept going right until the final whistle, and may have been disappointed themselves not to take all three points, wasting a four-on-two overload just after scoring their late equaliser.

Nigel Adkins has done a sterling job since taking the reins at Southampton and has seemingly fully justified his decision to drop down a division when he swapped Scunthorpe for the south coast last year – the Iron now find themselves struggling at the wrong end of League One, 43 league places below Adkins’ current side. Southampton are a side filled with good footballers all over the pitch, although goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski starting his first league game for two years had a well-publicised afternoon to forget.

Saints may have surrendered some ground to their rivals in recent weeks, but with flexible wide players like Schneiderlin and Adam Lallana and a front two of Lambert and Guly do Prado, they look well placed to cement an automatic promotion place. Their strength at home was visible even when a defeat looked on the cards, and it is the teams that rescue results at the end of games that typically go on to do well.

Inviting the Inevitable – Southampton 2-2 Blackpool

Blackpool tried to hold on to a lead donated to them by a freak goalkeeping error, but in the end they invited a strong Southampton team on to them and who duly equalised to rescue a point.

Starting out

Ian Holloway made one change in dropping Lomana LuaLua to the bench and bringing in Chris Basham in to midfield. Whilst Nigel Adkins brought back Rickie Lambert from injury to lead the line and Bartosz Białkowski for the injured Kelvin Davis in goal.

Blackpool set up in their 4-3-3 with Basham adding extra bite and cover in the midfield. Southampton on paper looked like a rough 4-4-2 but with plenty of fluidity about it. Both their wide men cut in, their central midfielders sometimes split and Guly Do Prado dropped off Rickie Lambert to receive the ball in between Blackpool’s midfield and defence.

Strategically speaking

Blackpool appeared to set up to counter when under pressure and to assert themselves on the ball should they win it higher up the pitch. This was initially aided with pressure being applied high up the pitch, trying to throw out Southampton’s passing moves from defence.

Southampton appeared to be happy to allow Blackpool the centre ground and go around them and with a mixture of short and long passing. They were aggressive in attack and had plenty of drive from their midfield to run beyond attackers and in behind the defence. They focused their attacks on and around Lambert, using him to set plays up as well as to bully the Blackpool defence and force them deeper.

Swings and roundabouts

The first half swung from Blackpool to Southampton and then back to Blackpool again as both teams enjoyed periods of dominance. In truth, Southampton had the best of the chances in the first half, but their defensive work was unhinged by the mistakes being made by Białkowski in goal. His nerves or even lack of alertness caused gave Blackpool more joy than they perhaps should have had and Southampton’s back line seemed a little thrown off by that. The mistake by Białkowski for the second Blackpool goal seemed to throw the game in to a stunned state before Southampton started to chase the game.

Blackpool at times used the ball very wisely, however, as the game wore on the ball started to come back to them all too often as they lacked a genuine out ball to set up counter attacks or field position. When Blackpool enjoyed their best spells they were usually aided by strong running on and off the ball by Matthew Phillips and Callum McManaman which stretched the play, pushing the Southampton defence back, creating space for Blackpool’s midfielders to step in to and receive the ball.

Southampton looked more fluent when Adam Lallana stepped inside and forward to join the attack. However, to Blackpool’s credit that happened very little, however, when it did, he caused them a lot of problems. The first goal came from Lallana pressure and link up play. What was noticeable about Southampton off the ball was the inconsistency of their pressing. They didn’t seem to press with a consistent intensity or in consistent patterns. If this was intentional then fair enough, however, it would be strange if that was the case. When they stepped up their pressing before the first goal it really appeared to catch Blackpool out who found their space shut out and struggled to work in the tighter spaces.

Bringing it on

Holloway’s team conceded late on in the game, but in truth they invited it. If it was a conscious decision then it was only executed in part. The key in such situations is to do the basics well, blocking, tackling, keeping shape etc, but it’s vital that the pressure can be eased with ‘outballs’ that remain up the field of play for as long as possible. In this case Blackpool struggled to lock down their out balls, either through poor distribution or hold up play. The net effect was that Southampton were in receipt of the ball time and time again, giving Blackpool more and more pressure to handle.

Premier Bound

Southampton are a top Championship side and it showed in this game. Their goalkeeping issues aside (assuming Kelvin Davis isn’t out for too long) they have everything they need to be promoted. Defensively sound, but it’s their attacking options that sets them apart. Admittedly a lot of their plays hang off or come through Rickie Lambert, but they aren’t entirely dependent on him. They have excellent variety to their game. They can pass short and long in all areas, they can build play and have players to thread short balls in the final third, but will go long from front to back to exploit the aerial qualities of Lambert. They vary their player positions to suit themselves, in this game alone there was a lot of position switching within their framework.

As attacking plays go they have some great pre-set moves. As good example of this is the long ball from full back or centre back to the head of Lambert who will flick on to an oncoming wide midfielder cutting in. It’s hard to track the midfield runner and Blackpool struggled at times. When Lambert executes his flick well the opposition defence is turned around in an instant and the goal is exposed.

In this game they also had another element to their attacking play and that was the movement of Guly. He drops off deeper to receive the ball to feet which helps to vary their focus of attack and he can start short passing movements with support from the central midfielders, but also from Lallana who will drift inside to receive.

There may be questions over their dependency on a couple of players, but that is clearly a risk worth taking as they appear so strong in utilising them well. Should Lambert get an injury that keeps him out for a long time then perhaps they may struggle, but with such variety to their game they should cope.

Moving on

Blackpool will be happy with the point, even if they won’t be happy with allowing Southampton to attack them so frequently towards the end. They move in to the festive period with the potential to emerge in January in the play off positions. Nigel Adkins will be happy with the character shown by his team and should have little concern about where his team are heading.

Competition: Win a Savile Rogue scarf

In another first for the blog, I’m delighted to announce that Up The ‘Pool has teamed up with Savile Rogue to give you the chance to win one of the world’s finest cashmere football scarves in Blackpool colours.

Savile Rogue scarves give a nod to football terraces of yesteryear, shunning in-your-face logos and cheap nylon in favour of a traditional bar design and the comfort, quality and warmth of top grade wool. It’s the sort of scarf you would be happy to wear even when you’re not at the match.
To get your hands on a Blackpool scarf, all you have to do is answer the following question:
Who scored Blackpool’s goal in regular time in the 1992 Division Four play-off final against Scunthorpe United?
To be in with a chance of winning, simply email your answer to upthepoolblog@gmail.com with Savile Rogue Competition in the subject line. The closing deadline for entries is Wednesday 14th December. The winner will be drawn at random from all of the correct entrants. Unfortunately though, entries are limited to people based in the UK.
Good luck everyone!
You can follow Savile Rogue on Twitter or Facebook.

Four Thoughts on… Blackpool 1-0 Reading

All in all it was a rather forgettable afternoon by the seaside on Saturday, but a 1-0 win over Reading ensured Blackpool ended a run of three games without a victory to keep themselves on the fringes of the play-off places. Here are my thoughts on the weekend’s action:
1. Dreary day, but important outcome
The weather set the tone for the occasion on Saturday, with the damp and blustery conditions playing their part in a forgettable day. As part of a pre-match preview for the Reading blog The Tilehurst End, I tipped a narrow Blackpool win and advised Royals’ fans to brace themselves for inclement weather. If nothing else, I hope they at least followed my advice and wrapped up warm, as there was little other comfort to be taken from their long journey north.
The first half was particularly uneventful, as neither side really got going – stray passes were the norm and the main action centred on two refereeing decisions. Lomana Lua Lua’s through ball found Callum McManaman running through on goal, only for him to be felled outside the box. The referee gave no decision, when surely it was either a professional foul from the Reading defender or a bookable offence for a dive from McManaman. At the other end, Reading had a goal ruled out for offside – Matt Gilks saved well from a header following a free-kick, and although the rebound was poked in, the flag went up.

It was a marginally better second half, but still not enough to elevate the game above anything other than dull. One good five minute spell for ‘Pool brought the winning goal, when Matt Phillips charged down the left before finding McManaman in space just inside the Reading box. A sharp turn created just enough space for a shot and McManaman found the corner to hand ‘Pool all three points. It may not have been pretty, but in the end Blackpool did enough and once ahead never really looked like succumbing their advantage. Over the course of a successful season, victories like the one over Reading are vital, and winning in this fashion from time to time should be commended.

2. Reading disappointing
As one of the many teams aiming for a play-off finish this season, Reading’s trip to Bloomfield Road should have been an entertaining encounter between two teams vying for the same goal. However, without the injured Noel Hunt and the influential Jobi McAnuff, who was suspended having picked up his fifth booking in the 3-2 win over Peterborough, Reading were something of a let-down.

Reading may have a case to claim they had just about the better of the opening 45 minutes, but ultimately the visitors created very little. Attacking down the flanks appeared to be the most obvious gameplan, but with poor delivery from crosses, Blackpool were more often than not able to clear quite easily. Set-plays provided Reading with their most dangerous moments of the match though, with the disallowed goal coming from a free-kick in the first half – defending set-pieces can be a weakness for ‘Pool, but Reading were unable to make the breakthrough.

This is by no means a bid to write Reading off however, and it may simply be an off day for them, not helped by the absence of key players. Inconsistency is rife in the Championship and it’s entirely plausible that the return match will look like it’s being contested by two completely different teams. There is no doubt that Reading will play better this season, and even then they were only just edged out on Saturday.
3. Midfield questions remain
The starting line-up saw Gary Taylor-Fletcher restored to the midfield, with McManaman earning a recall in the front three alongside Lua Lua and Matt Phillips. Taylor-Fletcher has of course filled this role already this season with varying degrees of success, and it was another mixed display for the midfield as whole. The same fluency that appeared to accompany the trio of Barry Ferguson, Keith Southern and Ludo Sylvestre was not quite there against Reading.

A major reason for this, is that with Taylor-Fletcher in the midfield, he will often push forward to make it into a midfield two and forward four. It was often a similar story when Jonjo Shelvey occupied that role, and makes you wonder if it has been a conscious decision from the management. Having this option alongside a flatter midfield three makes ‘Pool flexible and a bit harder for other teams to predict, but does mean the short passing game of the midfield is a little more neglected.

As the second half wore on, Matt Phillips dropped into the midfield with Taylor-Fletcher swapping places, and while it was effective in one sense, with Phillips running from deep to provide an assist, it is not an arrangement that one can envisage being used very often. As the substitutions were made, both Chris Basham and Angel were used in a more defensive-minded midfield, and their presence helped close out the game. One wonders if Ian Holloway may use either of these two players alongside Ferguson and Sylvestre in a return to flat a midfield three in the coming weeks, particularly away from home. If not, then it is likely to be Taylor-Fletcher who will continue in what is becoming a more familiar role for him.
4. Get well soon Keith Southern
It has been a reflective week or so for football in light of the news of Gary Speed’s untimely passing, and Blackpool supporters had another reason to put things into perspective when Keith Southern’s troubles were revealed. It emerged before the Reading game that Southern had had an operation to remove a tumour from one of his testicles. Results from the biopsy are as yet unknown, but it is believed the operation went well and Southern himself is targeting a return to training in January.

The longest serving player at the club has a tremendous attitude towards the game, and despite not being blessed with an awful lot of on the ball talent, his work ethic and determination has seen him be an almost ever-present name in the Blackpool team for the best part of a decade. Even now his absence is keenly felt, the midfield losing a key ingredient without him in the side.

It is to be hoped his recovery is as successful as it is swift. Our thoughts are with Keith and his family and hopefully we will see him step back out at Bloomfield Road in the not too distant future.