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.
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It would surely have made more sense for Basham or Angel Martinez to be deployed in midfield if Sylvestre needed to be withdrawn.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.
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.