The big news for the media at this game was the arrival as Crystal Palace manager of Neil Warnock, and indeed there were not one but two TV cameras positioned beside the away dugout, trained throughout the game on Warnock in the hope of seeing some wild outburst. In the event they saw him tumble backwards over some water bottles, a clip which will no doubt feature in future compilations, but none of the fireworks they will have hoped for. The game itself produced yet another draw for Blackpool, but of a very different type from the goalless encounter with Plymouth a fortnight ago. Each team enjoyed periods of strong dominance, and had great chances to increase their goal tally, so in the end once again this was probably a fair result. However the string of games without a win is growing for Blackpool, and the nerves are getting tighter.
Tony Craig (r) wins a header from Blackpool's Keith Southern.
The important news for Blackpool before the game was the failure of a fitness test by Andy Morell, which meant that they would have only two fit strikers, Vernon and Parker. Apart from this the only change to the side which drew with Plymouth was the return of Kaspars Gorkss, international goalscorer, replacing Matt Jackson at the centre of defence.
The game kicked off, and immediately you could see that Palace were a yard faster and more eager than Blackpool. Perhaps it was the familiar desire to impress the new manager, but whatever the reason, they were pressing all around the Blackpool area, while the home team were forced to rely on long balls to Vernon's head or up the wing for Parker. Indeed within the first minute a forward found a yard in the centre of the Blackpool box and met the dropping ball, but turned his shot well over the bar. Not long afterwards Palace had a series of three corners, and from the last a big defender rose well, but his header again went too high. A few minutes later there was a scramble with a loose ball in the Blackpool box, and Gorkss blocked a shot which fluttered uncomfortably close to the top corner of the goal.
Gary Taylor Fletcher wins a header from Crystal Palace's Tom Soares
Palace were running and tackling hard, and also hitting first time balls and layoffs with confidence and accuracy. By contrast Blackpool looked pedestrian, unable to put any linked moves together, always taking an extra touch before getting going in a new direction. Vernon was having a good game by his standards, winning a lot in the air and getting involved back into midfield, but there is no doubt that he does not have the quick thinking and instant movement of Morrell. However it was in midfield that the difference was most apparent, with only Hoolahan showing any composure, and it was a long time before Blackpool created a real chance. This came when Parker was fouled outside the area, and Crainey struck his free kick hard against the wall. Fox picked up the rebound and tried a shot from outside the area, but it was always sliding well wide of the left hand post.
As time went on Blackpool started to come back into things, upping the urgency and putting pressure on across the pitch. Vernon collected the box in front of the area, took the ball sideways a little and then unleashed a shot, but it was too close to the keeper and in the end was a comfortable save. Parker played a nice ball forward up the right wing, and Taylor-Fletcher jinked through three or four tackles into the area - an unusual display of ball control for him - but in the end was tackled for a corner. Hoolahan struck a very nice cross from the left wing, and Barker rose well but headed over. Palace were not out of the game by any means and won several more corners - from one of these a forward got his head to a low cross and deflected it, but fortunately just outside the post. Barker was booked for trying to pull back his winger after he had been beaten, and overall the referee seemed to be unable to spot fouls on Blackpool. The half ended with no score, and more evenly than it had started.
Gary Taylor Fletcher (L) holds off Crystal Palace's Danny Butterfield
After the break Blackpool were attacking the north end of the ground, and again Palace had the first chance inside a minute, with another shot which flew just wide. However Blackpool were at least equal to them in this spell, and they immediately began to create their own chances. Southern picked up the ball a few yards outside the area and had time to line up a shot - he struck it well, and for a moment it seemed to be heading for the top left corner, but with the keeper beaten it was just off target. Moments later though, and Blackpool were even closer. This time it was a ball into the centre of the box, Barker with a shot from about six yards, but the ball was just deflected onto the bar and over.
Unfortunately, with Blackpool at last looking the more likely team to score, it was Palace who finally broke the deadlock. Taylor-Fletcher was hurt after a poor pass by Southern, and he was still hobbling when the fullback on his side took the ball forward and struck a cross into the Blackpool area. A forward beyond the far post rose and headed it back and found another Palace player, unmarked and only a few yards out. He had the simplest of tasks to knock the ball into the waiting net, and Blackpool were one behind.
Tom Soares is sent off, as he walks from the field past Blackpool's manager Simon Grayson
To their credit, Blackpool reacted well, and came back stronger at Palace. Taylor-Fletcher was replaced by Andy Welsh, who was a little quiet at first, but Hoolahan was now getting involved everywhere, and Fox in particular was also doing good work in midfield. Blackpool probed all around the Palace area, looking for a break, but at first nothing would come. Then Parker was tumbled to the ground, about six yards outside the area, right of the centre line. Crainey stepped up and again his shot struck the wall, but this time it bounced out on the rear side, and Fox was the quickest to react. He was well out to the right of the goal, but he turned well and struck his shot hard, low and into the far corner of the goal.
After this it was almost all Blackpool, with Palace on the break. Welsh now began to show his skills, slipping past players and getting round the back up the left wing several times. On one occasion he was well past the defender who clearly put his hand on Welsh's shoulder and pulled him back, but nothing was given. With Hoolahan coming across almost all the action was now on the left wing, but when the crosses came over the final touch was just not there. Then came the moment which could have decided the game, with a corner on the right. Hoolahan and Welsh exchanged passes and then the ball was played into the goalmouth. Vernon tried a close range shot, and the keeper did very well to parry the ball, which bounced out to the left of goal, where Welsh was waiting. It seemed that he only had to hit the open goal, but somehow he struck it at a defender, and after a few more moments of panic, the ball was cleared.
There was still plenty of time for action and nerves, especially when Palace had several free kicks, most of them given when the Palace player clearly made a back for the defender. From one of these a very good cross came into the centre of goal and Rachubka made an excellent save, followed by a block from Barker to prevent a shot. Flynn came on for Fox, and on the Palace side Dickov was introduced, but both made little difference. For Blackpool it was still Hoolahan and Welsh making most of the running, and Hoolahan danced into the box once more, but put his shot just outside the left hand post, with the keeper beaten. There was time for Palace to have one more attack, and they were in the Blackpool area when the final whistle went.
Dougie Freedman (L) has a shot at goal
Once again it was a case of Blackpool proving that their spirit is good enough to allow them to match a more expensive and experienced team, but again there is only one point to show for it. It would be good to see them notching up some more victories, but they have a couple of tricky away games to come, and then the cup tie against Spurs.
Team (4-4-2): Rachubka, Barker, Michael Jackson (Capt), Gorkss, Crainey, Taylor-Fletcher (Welsh 60), Southern, Fox (Flynn 79), Hoolahan, Vernon, Parker
Subs not used: Coid, Matt Jackson, Jorgensen