Blackpool ease through despite missed chances

Last updated : 15 August 2007 By John Secker

This was a more comfortable result than the bare scoreline suggests, though if Chris Brandon had taken a golden chance for Huddersfield late in the game, Blackpool might have been embarrassed. They would have had only themselves to blame in that case, because they had at least five clear opportunities to score before Ben Burgess finally put them ahead, and Huddersfield should have long been buried. To give them credit they kept battling throughout and contributed to a clean and enjoyable game of football. The only small cloud for Blackpool was the substitution during the first half of Ian Evatt, who appeared to have a hamstring problem - we must hope that it will not keep him out for long.

So it was back to Bloomfield Road after the close season, and very little has changed - the hotel beyond the south end is nearly ready, but in the space where the South Stand will one day appear, only the weeds had grown a little taller. The pitch, to be fair, looks to be in excellent condition, and held up well during the game despite a lot of rain. Blackpool's line-up had not changed much either - only Taylor-Fletcher on the right wing and Crainey at left back were not regular players in the promotion team. In fact there was just one change from the squad which defeated Leicester on Saturday - Wes Hoolahan was dropped to the bench with John Hills taking his place on the left side of midfield.

The game kicked off with Blackpool attacking the south end, and it took both teams a few minutes to settle into a rhythm. It was noticeable that without Hoolahan Blackpool lacked a playmaker in the centre, and while Fox did try to put his foot on the ball and control things a few times he does not have the instinctive control that Hoolahan brings. Blackpool were therefore looking to push the ball long up the wings or the middle, or to play it quickly in to the forwards and see if something might develop. Blackpool got into the box a number of times but the first real opportunity came when Morrell had the ball, about ten yards inside the Huddersfield half. A sudden flick of the heel released Taylor-Fletcher who had run through behind him and was now clean through. As the keeper came out Taylor-Fletcher tried to steer it past him on the left. It's not clear whether he scuffed his shot or deliberately hit it into the turf to beat the keeper, but in any event it bounced towards the goal but was easily blocked and cleared by a defender.

Not long afterwards Keith Southern picked up the ball as it came out of the Huddersfield area - he lined up a shot but it was too high, A few minutes after that Morrell, inside his own half, lifted a ball over the defence and this time it was Parker, who had timed his run between two defenders perfectly, who was through with only the keeper to beat. He dummied right but his shot for the other post was feeble and many yards wide. Soon afterwards a ball into the box from the right found Morrell winning the ball in the air, and it dropped to Parker, not far out from the left hand post. The ball just wouldn't drop for him to shoot, though a nudge towards the goal might well have been enough, and a defender cleared it.

Huddersfield were always looking to get forward, and while the Blackpool defence generally coped well, there were a couple of worrying moments. Evatt and Rachubka both hesitated to go for a through ball, allowing an attacker to nip through and win it, but a great tackle from Jackson smothered the danger. Later Huddersfield twice managed to break up the left wing into the box, giving them a chance to shoot, but both times they were comfortable for Rachubka. As half time neared Ian Evatt was starting to struggle, and he came off just before the interval, replaced by Kaspars Gorkss. Although he does not have the physical presence of Evatt, Gorkss had an excellent game, winning everything in the air and making a number of excellent tackles and clearances.

Into the second half, and quite early on Blackpool had a couple of chances through Morrell and Taylor-Fletcher, both blocked by the Huddersfield defence, who worked very hard in this period to keep Blackpool out. Morrell's chance came after a great surging run up the right wing by Barker, and it deserved to result in a goal. The same could be said a few minutes later, when a neat interchange on the left saw John Hills cut into the box and hit a lovely out-swinging cross to the far post. Taylor-Fletcher was there and it seemed he must score, but perhaps the pace of the cross fooled him, because the ball went wide. Hills also pushed forward into the box to try a shot himself, but he was off target. During this spell Blackpool were the only team making chances - all Huddersfield's efforts were smothered by the home defence. However with time starting to dribble away Grayson decided to changes things round, and he brought on Hoolahan and Burgess, withdrawing Hills and Parker.

The crowd were expecting something special and they were not disappointed. The change was immediate, as Hoolahan started to look for the ball at every opportunity and put pressure on the defence. A couple of times he got himself into shooting positions but did not get the ball on target. Two or three more chances came from his attacks, falling to Morrell, Taylor-Fletcher and Fox, but each time Huddersfield threw a body in the way and blocked the shot.

The breakthrough, however, was not directly caused by Hoolahan, but came from a move up the right flank. A fine ball forward to the middle of the area found Morrell in between two defenders. He drew them to him and then pushed the ball sideways to the right, where Burgess was running in and now found himself unmarked about twelve yards out. Happily, unlike the previous Blackpool players who had found themselves with gilt-edged chances, he made no mistake and struck the ball firmly along the ground past the keeper's right hand and into the net. It was set up by more clever work from Morrell, but Burgess took the chance when it was needed, and maybe he will have more luck and more confidence this season.

Blackpool were clearly on top, but Huddersfield kept pressing, and they could easily have equalised when an uncharacteristic error let Chris Brandon clean through on the left against Rachubka. The Blackpool keeper went down well but Brandon should have done better than to fire the shot straight at him. As time ran out Brandon had another chance to shoot from the left but this time did not hit the target. Blackpool pushed forward, passing the ball about to run time down, but Fox saw a chance and hit a shot which whistled just outside the right hand post. After that there was little more action and the final whistle went to send Blackpool into the next round. A good enough performance which could have been much more convincing if they had taken some more of their chances - they cannot afford to be so generous against their Championship opponents.

Team (4-2-2): Rachubka, Barker, Jackson (capt), Evatt (Gorkss 43), Crainey, Taylor-Fletcher, Southern, Fox, Hills (Hoolahan 66), Morrell, Parker (Burgess 66)

Subs not used: Jorgensen, Vernon