Wednesday 21 March 2018

Holloway praises rearguard action


Georgina Turner at Bloomfield Road

HOW IRONIC that Blackpool's first clean sheet at Bloomfield Road in 18 attempts in the Premier League should coincide with another first: their own failure to score.

A draw with Stoke, on their way to the FA Cup final and on course for a second successive top-half finish, is not exactly the stuff of nightmares but for Blackpool's fairytale, this feels like a step further in to Brothers Grimm territory. At least the late penalty that Wigan conceded to Everton keeps the Seasiders in sight of a more Disney-esque ending.

No crowd has seen more goals this season than those decked out in bright orange here, and Ian Holloway felt he had seen enough of the Blackpool of earlier glories against Newcastle last week to name an unchanged side. In the opening quarter of an hour DJ Campbell, Matt Phillips and Charlie Adam, shooting from the halfway line, all fashioned half-chances. Blackpool remained on the front foot for much of the first half, but neither side managed anything clear-cut in 45 minutes.

When Kenwyne Jones was put through in the 46th, he somehow contrived to miss an open goal. Carrying the ball in to the box after a mix-up from a Blackpool throw-in, he rounded goalkeeper Matthew Gilks as covering defender Ian Evatt slipped, but shot wide.

"I think this proves we've come out of our doldrums," Holloway said. "It's not easy to deal with the service Stoke get in to the box, but we managed to deal with everything they threw at us. And funny enough, their best chance, we threw at them."

Blackpool were forced to wait until just after half-time for their best chance, a close-range Matt Phillips effort that Asmir Begovic diverted around the near post after an Adam corner. The home side were largely restricted to shots from distance as their characteristic invention failed them.

"Their defence was better than our attacking options," admitted Holloway, who said that he had to be happy with the point. "We didn't hurt them enough."

Stoke ended the game with Jones, Jon Walters and John Carew on the pitch but it was Glenn Whelan who posed the greatest danger to Blackpool. Shortly before the hour mark his rasping shot, from 25 yards out, must have taken a layer of skin off Gilks's palms as he made a flying save to his left.

The 'keeper had to leap in the same direction when Whelan tried to do it again half an hour later, but the shot whistled just wide of the post.

"It was a tough game for us in a three-game week," said the Stoke manager Tony Pulis. This draw also made it a five-point week, but Pulis acknowledged that his side probably ought to have taken two more. In addition to Whelan's efforts, Jones had a powerful downward header blocked and Jermaine Pennant swung a free-kick not far over the bar.

"On another day the opportunities we had in the second half could have dropped for us," Pulis said. "But Blackpool are fighting for their lives, you've got to give them credit. Their supporters are fantastic."

Those fans will follow their side to White Hart Lane next week and Holloway is optimistic that the opposition will inspire them, and his players, to an improbable victory.

"We could have Wolves and West Ham away, but I'd rather take these games [Blackpool finish the season at Old Trafford]," Holloway said. "Our fans will be right up for this."


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