Blackpool edge it in televised thriller
Not a bad crowd on a Monday evening for the televised match against Hull City, and an important game before the international break next weekend. Blackpool had Ian Evatt returning alongside Jackson at the centre of defence, and played Gorkss, the hero of Pride Park, at left back. With Barker on the right this gave Blackpool a very tall defensive line, ready to deal with the million dollar man, Forlan. Otherwise this was the normal Blackpool starting eleven, with Morrell and Parker up front.
Blackpool could have taken the lead in the very first minute, when Fox took a quick free kick in the centre and the ball squeezed through to Andy Morrell inside the Hull box. He tried to hit a curling shot around the keeper but did not put it wide enough and it was an easy save.
In the early stages Blackpool were probably just ahead on points, and they made a couple of moderate chances - David Fox hit a shot which was deflected, and Parker was caught offside several times. Hoolahan was not having a great game - he was able to beat several players but the left back managed to put in several good saving tackles. Forlan was an immediate threat, tall and strong but also skilful, and the rest of the Hull attack worked well around him. The Blackpool defence had to be on their toes to keep the quick passes from finding a man in the box, and one or two chances from around the edge of the area were hit off target or straight at Rachubka. Hull also had a couple of free kicks near the Blackpool box, but they wasted them with high wide shots - something they were to do all game.
At the other end Blackpool were trying to apply the pressure, but they failed to build anything really solid, though there were a number of corners and free kicks. David Fox, who has been creating some really good dead ball threats this season, had a poor night in that respect, hitting free kicks straight to defenders, and too many corners were easy for the keeper. Southern too was having a quiet game, he did not seem to be able to get the pace of the game, and in general Hull were having the better of midfield, with some swift accurate passing and movement. However the Blackpool defence held out and Rachubka did not have to make any significant saves before half time.
In the second half Blackpool were attacking the south end, still open with no sign of any building work beginning. However within two minutes Blackpool had started laying some foundations of their own, although it took some poor defending to let them in. It started with a good ball from Taylor-Fletcher up the right wing. Parker, only a few yards inside the Hull half, clearly thought for a moment that he was offside, but defenders in the middle had played him on, and when he saw the flag was down he scampered onto the ball and took it up the wing to the by-line, just inside the area. He fired over a good cross, hard and low a few yards out from goal, but there was nobody there and it looked as though the ball would shoot harmlessly across to the far wing, when a defender on the far post made a huge error. He slid out his foot and intercepted the ball, sending it bouncing slowly back across the goalmouth. It was out of the reach of the keeper, but it was a simple chance for Taylor-Fletcher who had followed up and now, finding the ball rolling into his path with the goal open in front of him, he made no mistake.
Unfortunately Blackpool's lead was not destined to last long, just three minutes in fact. Hull continued to attack, and this time they played a diagonal cross in from the right to the front centre of the box. Forlan was there but he stepped over the ball and it ran through to another forward, completely free in front of goal. He took the ball first time, smashing it past Rachubka and into the net.
Blackpool stepped up their game a bit after this, and for a while they looked the more likely to score. Southern had a shot which produced a fine save from the Hull keeper, and on the follow-up Taylor-Fletcher was unlucky not to find room for a shot. Hoolahan tricked and dummied his way into the box in the middle, but as often happens he just could not set himself for the shot and he was eventually tackled. Hull also had their chances, one in particular where a forward found perfect space in front of goal, and Rachubka did very well to save with his legs.
The referee made some strange decisions, and he allowed Barker in particular to be the victim of several very bad challenges in the air, one of which left him needing treatment for several minutes. However there was no foul in the most significant clash of the night, as Gorkss and Forlan jumped together near the centre circle and their heads met. Forlan went down very heavily, while Gorkss staggered for a moment, and then lay down. He was soon on his feet and led off the pitch holding a bandage to his forehead, but Forlan was much more badly hurt. He was down for nearly ten minutes with medical attention all round him, and was eventually stretchered off wearing a neck brace, although happily he was conscious and talking as he went. Gorkss also could not continue, and Crainey came on in his place.
After this it was clear that Forlan had been the focus of the Hull attack, and the home defence were much more comfortable for the rest of the game. Dean Windass, whose experience had been a good foil for Forlan's skill, was now looking slow and isolated and was substituted. Blackpool began to attack more, and Parker ran into the box onto a through ball - the defender appeared to stumble but Parker put his shot wide. Only then did the referee award a free kick against him, apparently for tripping. With less than ten minutes of normal time to go Blackpool made a double change, bringing on Burgess and Forbes in place of Morrell and Taylor-Fletcher. However Hull could have gone ahead moments later when they had another clear shot at goal, and again Rachubka did very well to save.
The board showed eleven minutes of time to be added, and Blackpool were putting on more pressure, but still not getting the killer punch. A couple of free kicks brought the big men forward, but there was no end product - the best kick, a curving ball by Crainey to the far post, was just taken off Evatt's head by a defender. Evatt also had a chance on the edge of the box and tried to curl a left-footed shot for the top corner, but he was way off. Forbes appeared to have a chance on the right when a defender slipped, but he ran into the box and then hit a shot which was yards wide.
This was a good result achieved against an impressive team, much better than Bristol City. The loss of Forlan clearly affected Hull, but the game had been closely balanced even before that, and it was always likely that one more goal would decide it. A nice break now for most of the players, and then on to Turf Moor.
Team (4-4-2): Rachubka, Barker, Jackson (Capt), Evatt, Gorkss (Crainey 75), Taylor-Fletcher (Forbes 82), Southern, Fox, Hoolahan, Morrell (Burgess 82), Parker
Subs not used: Flynn, Vernon