Blackpool drop two points to another late equaliser

Last updated : 22 September 2007 By John Secker
You certainly get your money's worth from the last ten minutes with Blackpool these days. In each of the past three games the home team has scored what looked like a winner in the closing stages, only to see the visitors equalise. However while in the games against Burnley and Sheffield you could say that a draw was probably a fair result, in today's match against Colchester it was very clearly two dropped points for Blackpool. And what hurt even more was the manner of the goals, identical free kicks which went over the wall and into the same spot in the corner of the goal. Conceding one was bad enough, but to allow the same player to do the same thing again was simply naïve. As so often happens, Blackpool were left to rue the opportunities they had missed to extend their lead, though it must be said that the Colchester keeper made three fine saves to keep his side in the game. Unfortunately, today, Rachubka could not say the same.

Blackpool were able to name an unchanged side for the visit of Colchester United, unbeaten away from home this season. Whatever the cause of that may be, it is not their massed travelling fans, who occupied just a quarter of the East stand, and sparsely at that - a change from the capacity crowd brought by Sheffield. So Ben Burgess and Andy Morrell were starting in attack again, and Taylor-Fletcher retained his right wing slot despite a good performance by Welsh coming on as substitute on Tuesday. The only change was on the bench where Coid, who had been there on Tuesday as cover for the doubtful Barker, was replaced by Mike Flynn.

The first half was, in all honesty, a rather dull affair. Burgess won most of the high balls sent his way, but this did not generate very much attacking action. Andy Morrell was the only one looking to work off Burgess, and Colchester had reserved their biggest defender, Virgo, to mark him, so that Morrell found it very difficult to make anything out of the half chances to control the ball - he was usually muscled off it. However the real problem was the Blackpool midfield, which seemed to have gone missing for much of the half. They were bypassed by the long ball forward, but they were not getting up in support of the attack, so many of Burgess' knock-downs were easy for the defence. The midfield were also failing to build anything useful along the ground or up the wings, where a serious challenge and a series of crosses could have allowed Burgess to put the defence under real pressure. The ball was given away in the centre again and again, and it was fortunate that Colchester did not have the striking power to make Blackpool pay. About mid-way through the half Blackpool suffered a blow when Ian Evatt had to go off with an ankle or knee problem, but Kaspars Gorkss was ready to come on and he filled the gap admirably.

Apart from a Burgess shot very early, which was weak and easy for the keeper, the first real chance came when Fox took a free kick, left of centre, but he struck it straight at the wall and it bounced away. This was from almost the exact spot where Colchester would succeed twice, later in the game. There was alarm when the Colchester right wing danced all the way around the back of the defence and well inside the box, but his cross was not great and it was hustled away. A little later a corner led to a shooting opportunity for a Colchester forward inside the area but he hit it straight at Rachubka.

As time went on, Hoolahan tried two or three runs forward through the defence, and one reached the edge of the area, but his shot was directly at the keeper. Later on a nice move saw him receive the ball on the edge of the area, and he ran in, always looking as though he was going to shoot but never pulling the trigger, until at last he was forced too wide and tackled for a corner. With minutes to go before the break Burgess had the best chance so far, as he received the ball on the left and ran into the box from the wing. Given far too much time he was able to line up a shot but it struck the outside of the post, high up.

The half time guest who draws the Golden Gamble is usually a Blackpool player from the past couple of decades, or occasionally Bill Perry, but today, to everyone's amazement, the announcer introduced Mr Blackpool himself, Jimmy Armfield. He has been in hospital since March being treated for cancer, but he looked fairly fit, and seems to be on the road to recovery. He was given an enormous standing ovation, and two or three other long rounds of applause as he said a few words. He is held in huge affection by the Blackpool faithful and it would be good if the club could build the stand which will bear his name while he is still around to appreciate it.

Into the second half, and Blackpool certainly looked more up for it this time. Taylor-Fletcher made some useful runs on the right, and Hoolahan was looking for the ball and starting to give the Colchester defence a hard time. Within five minutes good work up the right led to a ball to Burgess in the centre, but outside the area. He turned and fired a shot which the keeper had to be quick to get down to, though Burgess appeared to be in some discomfort after the shot. However Blackpool continued to press forward, with very little from Colchester during this period, and they forced a series of corners. One of these was taken by Fox on the right, and his ball was flicked on in the centre by Gorkss. It came to the far post where Morrell had dropped away, losing his marker, and he was able to fire home from close range past the helpless keeper.

The goal only inspired Blackpool to look for more, and they had one of their best spells of the game. A ball to the edge of the box just right of centre was touched on by Burgess to Southern, and he fired just wide of the left hand post with the keeper nowhere. Soon afterwards Hoolahan crossed from the left, and the ball was headed on to Burgess, again just outside the area. He took aim and struck a fine shot, low and hard towards the left hand corner, but the keeper did very well to get down and across and get a hand to it, turning it round for a corner. Fox came in from the other wing and tried another low shot for the right hand side - again it was on target and this time the keeper was a little slow, but while he made a meal of it once again it was only a corner.

So it was very much against the run of play when Colchester made a rare foray into Blackpool territory and won a free kick, left of centre and about 25 yards out. The defence was lined up carefully, but the shot was struck very well, looping past the end of the wall and dipping into the very corner of the goal, clipping the inside of the post.

This took the steam out of Blackpool a little, though they continued to have most of the attacking, and clear chances were fewer. Soon after the goal Andy Welsh came on in place of Taylor-Fletcher, and five minutes later Parker replaced a tiring Morrell. However only one really good shot was struck during this period, as Hoolahan again slipped and tricked his way into the area and fired a fierce drive for the top left hand corner, but once again the Colchester keeper was able to get it around the corner. Another beautiful ball from Hoolahan - a sort of chip shot with backspin over the defenders - very nearly put Parker in for a close range shot, but the keeper just smothered it. Several times Hoolahan made a cross from the left, or released Crainey or Gorkss to make the cross, but too many times there was no-one beyond the far post on the end of them - Welsh was lying far too deep, well outside the area, when he should have been pushing up hard on the shoulder of the full back.

And so we moved into the last ten minutes, and Blackpool began to press hard again, putting Colchester under constant pressure. Again there were a series of corners, and this time it was one from the left which led to the goal. It was taken long, beyond the far post, and Barker rose well, above all the defenders, and directed his header back across the goal, over the keeper and into the far corner.

This should have been the three points, but within a minute Colchester had won a soft free kick, in the same spot as the last one. Whether or not it was a foul is irrelevant, Blackpool should not have been caught out twice by the same free kick. They should simply have placed a defender on the post and left Rachubka to cover the long shot across goal. Instead he lined up closer to the danger spot than last time, but then shuffled back towards the middle of the goal as the ball was struck, so that once again he could not reach it as it bounced into the goal off precisely the same point on the inside of the post.
There was still time for a few flurries up and down the pitch - Blackpool had a corner but made nothing of it, and then Hoolahan was caught in possession and Colchester nearly won it on the break. In the end, though, it was another 2-2 draw, but this is a game that Blackpool may well wish that they had won, before the season is out.

Team (4-4-2): Rachubka, Barker, Jackson, Evatt (Gorkss 23), Crainey, Taylor-Fletcher (Welsh 67), Southern, Fox, Hoolahan, Morrell (Parker 72), Burgess

Subs not used: Flynn, Vernon