Blackpool 1 Lincoln City 0
John Seckers Match Report (17th February 2001)
His signing was particularly fortunate as Blackpool now have a very serious injury crisis in their defence, with five first choice players unavailable - this will make the two difficult games coming up into real challenges. Blackpool struggled to find any shape or form in this afternoon's match against Lincoln, but they managed to dig deep enough to grind out a good win and take three vital points which move them into the playoff places.
The team news on a foggy afternoon at Bloomfield Road was that Phil Thompson had joined Hills, Jaszczun and Reid on the injury list. Steve McMahon's response was to move Jon O'Connor to right back, and bring into the middle his new loan signing from Charlton, Daniel Shittu. The rest of the team was unchanged from the starting lineup against Cardiff, so we went again with a 4-3-3 formation.
Lincoln were not going to give Blackpool time to settle on the ball, or pass the ball around unchallenged, and they hustled throughout the match. Blackpool were having difficulty developing any attacking ideas - the injuries have deprived them of threats up both wings, with only Coid showing any desire to attack up the left side, but he was usually on his own. Ormerod was on the right of the attack all game, and a lot of the balls were simply hit up to him in the channel, but he did not make as much of them as he did on Tuesday night.
Lincoln had more attacking pressure than Blackpool for most of the first half, and this gave Shittu a chance to impress the home crowd. He took the opportunity with almost his first touch of the game. A Lincoln corner was headed out, and was dropping to an attacker on the edge of the box. Shittu covered the distance with a few long strides, and arrived at the same time as the ball. He smothered the shot and even managed to emerge with the ball at his feet, to great applause. He reminds me a little of Clark Carlisle in his early days, although he is a lot bigger. He has great natural ability, but often his inexperience leads him to make mistakes, which he then has to scramble to repair. He has the sort of legs which seem to extend a few inches when he needs to get the ball, and several times he made excellent saving tackles. He has the bustling enthusiasm and desire to get involved which always endears players to the crowd, and he is clearly already a favourite.
Blackpool were getting in their share of attacking moves, but in the early exchanges all that they managed were two crosses which shot across the Lincoln goalmouth without finding an attacker. The first really good chance fell to Ormerod; a ball into the centre was flicked on by Simpson and Ormerod was free and unmarked to have a shot on goal from the edge of the area - unfortunately he pulled it wide of the left hand post. At the other end the defence seemed much less sure of itself than it had been against Cardiff, with Barnes reluctant to come and claim crosses. On two or three occasions Lincoln attackers had free headers, but failed to make them count.
As the game moved towards half time, you felt that Blackpool would be happy to get into the changing room with the scores even, and come out with some new tactics. However this proved too pessimistic, and about five minutes before the break the home team went ahead. It started with a move up the left, which resulted in a foul near the corner flag. Simpson's free kick was headed away for a corner on the far side, which was also taken by Simpson. He put it long to the far post; it was headed back again across the goal to the other post, and there was Shittu rising to squeeze it past the keeper and into the net.
Not long before the break Hughes hurt himself, going for a high ball on the left touchline which was already being dealt with by Coid. Hughes basically landed on him, and appeared to strain his lower back. He carried on, but he was substituted at half time, with O'Connor moving to the centre and Bushell coming on at right back.
After half time Blackpool came out the stronger team, and for quite some time they dominated the game. During this period they really should have scored another goal or two, and put the game beyond doubt - they certainly had the chances to do so. The best opportunity of all came to Ormerod, after Murphy had done some good work in the box on the left. He rolled the ball across the goal, past the keeper and only about three yards out. Over at the far post Ormerod was running in; he only had to slide the ball in, but he leaned back and somehow managed to blast it high above the bar into the South Stand. Ormerod's pace was troubling the Lincoln defence, and several times he looked to be getting into a dangerous position either up the middle or on the right. However he did not seem to have the touch today, and too often he lost it or delayed too long.
Another good opportunity for the home team came on the left. Walker was chasing a ball which he appeared to have lost to a defender. He seemed to me to jump in front of the Lincoln player, but the referee awarded a free kick against Lincoln, just on the left hand corner of the box. Simpson and Wellens lined up, and in the end Wellens hit the ball, trying to swerve it into the far corner. The keeper was beaten, but unfortunately it did not curve in far enough and went wide.
As time went by, and Blackpool failed to capitalise on their pressure, we began to see an old familiar problem, as the team became anxious, and their defending started to fall apart. Lincoln were clearly heartened by this, and started to apply increasing pressure, while Blackpool struggled to get control. For the most part the two central defenders (O'Connor and Shittu) did well, but they were having to cope with more and more crosses. Collins was brought on for Milligan with about 15 minutes to go - in my view we could have taken off Walker, who did not seem very keen to get involved. In the last ten minutes Blackpool survived a heart stopping moment, as a harmless cross from deep somehow evaded Barnes and everyone else in the area. It was heading for goal, and O'Connor did well to get it off the line, but even so an attacker had a good chance to bury it; instead he put it onto the top of the bar and away.
Full time approached, with the home crowds nerves fully stretched, when Blackpool finally put the game beyond doubt. The goal demonstrated well the good and bad points about Brett Ormerod. Firstly he showed his pace, accelerating onto a nice ball up the middle, so that he was clean through with only the keeper to beat. Now we saw his weakest aspect; he hesitated, looked to shoot, then decided to take it round the keeper, going to his left. He got past the keeper, but by now the defence was getting back, and a tackle came in which blocked his attempt on goal. Now it was back to Brett's strengths - he battled on, winning the ball back and taking it out beyond the far post, turning with it and looking for help. In the middle John Murphy was racing in, and Brett played the ball back for him to ram it into the goal. There were four minutes of injury time to play, but the game was effectively over.
It was not a great Blackpool performance, far from it, and there was quite a contrast with the game against Cardiff. Lincoln were never going to allow it to be a pretty game, and the injuries have deprived Blackpool of key players, which meant that they needed to develop different tactics. I would say that today's result was a fair one, because Blackpool managed to create far more clear cut chances, but they were never in control. The trips to Brighton on Tuesday, and Chesterfield on Saturday, are going to provide a severe test of the makeshift defence.
Team (4-3-3): Barnes, O'Connor, Hughes (Bushell 45), Shittu, Coid, Milligan (Collins 77), Wellens, Simpson, Ormerod, Murphy, Walker (Clarkson 86)
Subs Not Used: Rachel, Newell