Looking at the table below you can see that Blackpool are now on course for a play-off spot, based on the generally accepted 75 point threshold for the 6th place. The table below shows progress required at the end of each month to (probably) secure one of three end of season outcomes – survival, play-offs and automatic promotion – marginally weighted depending on the difficulty of fixtures within a given month.
In attach Lua Lua continues to do show his ability only in small doses – for every excellent moment there are six or seven occasions where he misplaces a pass without looking up or gets caught in possession. He seems to have acquired a starting berth almost by default and it maybe is time to look at fielding Kevin Phillips from the off in certain league games. It was also a rare quiet day for Matt Phillips, and with all the changes he didn’t see enough of the ball.
Perhaps it was only inevitable that a bad performance was on the cards at some point given the excellent run since the New Year, but too many had their bad day in the same game. In a match that had significant importance in terms of the automatic promotion race it was a slip up ‘Pool probably couldn’t afford. Sights probably now return to the more realistic goal of a top six finish, and bouncing back quickly is vital.
To have taken seven points from the last three games despite having a man sent off in each shows an ability to get results from difficult situations, and the ease with which they coasted to victory at Bloomfield Road demonstrated a difference in class of the two sides. Not only do West Ham boast a strong defensive unit, they also have a number of quick and skilful attacking players who were threatening on the counter-attack, often exposing Blackpool’s gung-ho approach in the final third of the game.
There is still a good chunk of the season remaining, but of all the teams in the race West Ham are possibly best placed to maintain their position until the end of the campaign. Allardyce may have bad memories of his final season on the Fylde coast, but at this point it’s difficult to imagine a similar collapse might be in store for those at the Boleyn Ground.
In terms of formation Allardyce has opted for a traditional 4-4-2 for significant chunks of the season, although West Ham have been known to set up in a 4-5-1 away from home which may well be the case for tonight’s game. The Hammers may be overloaded with the number of strikers on their books, but playing just one up front on the road has shown Allardyce’s reluctance to take many risks, going for functionality over aesthetics.
West Ham will be missing two of their bigger names for their trip to the Fylde coast, with both Kevin Nolan and Matt Taylor out due to suspension. Papa Boupa Diop is also unavailable through a hamstring injury. If Allardyce does choose to play a lone striker, then it is likely to be Carlton Cole, with Ricardo Vaz Te and Julien Faubert providing assistance from wide when West Ham go forward. Abdoulaye Faye or James Tomkins will act as a screen in front of the defence, which Blackpool will have to be at their best to break down. One perceived weakness is the lack of pace possessed by their full-backs, but on a bobbly pitch it will be difficult for ‘Pool’s wide players to run at them, as was the case against Portsmouth just over a week ago.
In recent weeks Baptiste, along with Matt Gilks, has been one of the few constants despite a number of changes being made for the cup games. Having assumed the captain’s armband for the 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park at the weekend, it is likely Baptiste will continue his run in the side (injury permitting), although in which position remains to be seen. If Baldock or Nicky Maynard feature heavily, then Baptiste may be required centrally, but it is probably more likely he will be deployed at right back to combat the aerial threat that West Ham can pose. In a ‘Pool side that generally lacks height Baptiste may be required alongside two traditional centre-backs, which means Neal Eardley will once more miss out.
West Ham – James Tomkins
A product of the West Ham youth system, Tomkins has been an important fixture in the Hammers this season. A versatile player, Tomkins has been utilised at both centre back and as a defensive midfielder in front of the back four. Tomkins was at the centre of transfer speculation in January and linked with £4m moves to Newcastle and QPR, but instead chose commit his future to West Ham by signing a new long-term deal. The Hammers possess one of the meanest defensive records in the Championship and Tomkins is a major part of that.
Blackpool – Barry Ferguson
The reasons behind Ian Holloway’s decision to change his team for cup matches are perfectly valid – utilise the breadth of his large squad, keep players fresh for league matches, etc. – but one man was most certainly missed away at Everton…Barry Ferguson. The former Scotland skipper’s performances have been understated but nonetheless vital as ‘Pool have climbed the table. Ferguson adds a presence and a steel to the midfield that is often only obvious when he doesn’t play. Against a team such as West Ham, the inclusion of Ferguson is a necessity, especially with the pitch in its current condition.
West Ham – Mark Noble
Noble made his 200th senior appearance for his boyhood club last week and marked it by wearing the captain’s armband in the absence of the suspended Nolan. The 24 year old midfielder has been a key component of the West Ham side in recent weeks including a man of the match display in the 2-1 win over fierce rivals Millwall. Noble also has responsibility for corners and penalties, scoring twice from the spot in one match when the Hammers beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 a couple of weeks ago.
- Blackpool currently sit in 3rd in the Championship form table based on the last six matches, winning four and drawing twice
- West Ham currently sit in 6th in the Championship form table based on the last six matches, winning four, drawing once and losing once
- Blackpool are unbeaten in the last eight league matches at Bloomfield Road
- West Ham have won only one of their last five away league matches
- West Ham have the best away record in the Championship, having lost only four times on the road
- West Ham score an average of 1.47 goals away from home, while conceding an average of 1.07
- 53% of West Ham’s away matches this season have seen fewer than 2.5 goals
- Blackpool have scored 10 goals after the 85th minute in league matches this season
- West Ham have conceded seven goals after the 85th minute in league matches this season
After previously unpicking two opposition goals in recent weeks this time the focus turns on to a goal scored by Blackpool.
The final goal in the 3-1 victory over Doncaster had points of interest from both an attacking and defending point of view. The first two goals scored on the night came from Gary Taylor-Fletcher, the first from a brilliant long curved pass over the Doncaster defence from Neal Eardley and the second self-created with quick feet and craft.
The goal was a product of two phases of play. The first phase being an attacking free kick for Blackpool and the second, reclaimed possession from the free kick resulting in the goal. The start of the first phase is pictured below.
Whilst Doncaster do win the header at the free kick they don’t clear the ball to safety and nor does the man on the edge of the box (highlighted) react quick enough to the loose ball. Not in the picture above is the man who is responsible for initiating phase two, Barry Ferguson.
Fergie Time & Again
Ferguson has been fantastic for Blackpool this season, his technique is of a very high standard which makes errors on his first touch very rare. His positional sense is superb and allied with great vision and leadership he is able to organise the team around his position. He is generally first to collect orders from Holloway and distribute them and at attacking set pieces you can see him pointing to his players advising them where to go. Such is his quality of positional work it often escapes notice. It takes a goal such as this to really appreciate his role in the Blackpool team. In attack, he supports the team and provides the back up when attacks either break down or fizzle out.
In the picture above you can see that he was perfectly positioned to pick up on the loose ball and in a split second Ferguson has possession of the ball and without any hassle the ball has started on its path towards the back of the net. It looks simple, but in reality that kind of play is hard to do, you need to be in the right position, you then need the required technique to secure the ball and move it on. Poorer players could have lost possession in such a situation and left their team open to a fast break.
The Blackpool goal then lends itself to three more excellent pieces of work.
- A brilliant through ball from Kevin Phillips allowing Alex Baptiste to advance.
- A hard and accurate shot from Baptiste. He knows he need to either shoot or cross. His run and position isn’t that dissimilar to the goal he scored against Crystal Palace earlier in the season and here he makes the keeper make a save.
- Nouha Dicko understands his position well and knows he needs to both make himself available for a cross and in position to poach any loose ball that may rebound. He does the latter superbly well to put the game beyond Doncaster.
Arguably, the key element of those three is the role that Baptiste plays. It has been said on this blog this season that Blackpool look their most potent when Baptiste steps in to attack. The main reasons for this is that at several points this season Blackpool have been stymied and tend to struggle for creative ideas around the final third, often slowing the tempo of the game too much and having poor movement ahead of the ball. In such cases it’s important for midfielders to make runs beyond the ball and if that doesn’t happen then the defence can do the same. In doing so, they can create overloading situations against the opposition defence and in turn get behind the defensive line which can be vital in any football match.
Turn & Face
It is that last sentence that leads to the final point to be made about the goal. It’s is a great example of why an attacking team needs to turn a defensive line around and get them running towards their goal. It pushes them closer to their own goal, but also only very good defenders can recover their awareness of the match situation to deal with the imminent threats. Here, Doncaster have only just turned to face their goal when the shot comes in from Baptiste and they have little time to understand where the Blackpool players are and react before the ball is in the net.
You can view this goal and the others from the match against Doncaster over on the BBC website through the link below
Overall this was a good team goal and a good three points for Blackpool as they move on to an FA Cup clash with Everton. A preview of that game can be found on the link below.
Everton v Blackpool – FA Cup 5th Round – 18th March 2012
Last week the goal conceded to Cardiff was scrutinised as Blackpool made a succession of errors to let Joe Mason score the opening goal. This week the focus turns to the goal that Erik Huseklepp scored to give Portsmouth the lead at Bloomfield Road. Two sides to the … Continue reading Ghosting The Concession
Tom Ince was the one who impressed on the South Coast making his first league start, appearing comfortable with the ball at his feet and always a threat for the Portsmouth defence. Yet whereas Phillips has gone from strength to strength since returning from his loan spell at Bramall Lane, Ince has gone backwards slightly and could drop out of the side for this weekend with a glut of other attacking options open to Ian Holloway.
Another curious difference from the last encounter between the two sides was the make up of Blackpool’s substitutes – Mark Halstead, James Hurst, Hill and Daniel Bogdanovic were all on the ‘Pool bench alongside Ludo Sylvestre. Ian Holloway has decided against having a goalkeeper on the bench since the departure of Mark Howard, James Hurst is currently involved in a relegation battle on loan at Chesterfield, Hill hasn’t been seen since his performance at West Ham, while Rochdale opted not to extend the loan of Bogdanovic. The strength of Blackpool’s bench for the return fixture will demonstrate just how far the Seasiders have come since then.
- Blackpool sit 3rd in the form table based on the last six games with four wins, one draw and one defeat
- Portsmouth lie 14th in the form table based on the last six games with two wins, one draw and three defeats
- Blackpool have won their last three home games and are unbeaten in the last seven
- Portsmouth have the fourth worst away record in the Championship, winning only twice away from Fratton Park
Expect Blackpool’s run to continue – 2-0 home win.