For a long time it looked as though this was going to be another "Blackpool dominate the opposition but just cannot score" story, and then when Kaspars Gorkss finally broke the deadlock it looked like another "Blackpool go ahead but then let the opposition back in for a draw". However they managed to hang on for a torrid final ten minutes, and recorded their first victory since the televised game against Hull more than two months ago. This was a deserved win, Blackpool were clearly the better side and dominated for most of the game, but they made it much harder than it should have been. In the end the only regret was the ludicrous decision to award the Man of the Match to Hoolahan instead of Gorkss, who would have been the only possible recipient even before his goal. I have never before seen the crowd respond with boos and jeers to a choice - I can only assume that the person who made the decision was the brother of the referee, because they were both watching a different game from the rest of us.
In response to the defensive crisis caused by injury to Crainey and the suspension of Michael Jackson, Blackpool made the last-minute loan signing of Tony McMahon from Middlesbrough, and he was played at right back, with Coid on the left, which allowed Shaun Barker to play in the centre alongside Gorkss. David Fox was dropped to the bench, replaced by Klaus Jorgensen, and the rest of the team had a familiar look with Hoolahan, Southern and Taylor-Fletcher making up the midfield and Morrell and Parker in attack.
From the first whistle Blackpool were on the front foot, and stayed there, indeed I do not recall a serious shot from the visitors in the first half. While not as successful as Bristol City, Scunthorpe have made quite an impact on the Championship since their promotion, but it was difficult to see how from this performance - they were clearly the poorest team to have visited Bloomfield Road this season. After a number of probes forward which went nowhere, Blackpool should have gone ahead after five minutes when a lovely ball by Hoolahan up the right wing broke the offside trap and Parker ran clear of the defence with the ball at his feet. He had only the keeper to beat, but his shot was weak and not well placed, and it was easily saved. Again moments later he was given the ball to run forward up the right wing - this time Morrell had found space running up the middle and a simple ball along the ground behind the fullback would have given him a golden chance. However Parker took one touch too many, was forced wide, and eventually put in a poor cross which was cleared.
The next chance fell to Morrell, and was created by Taylor-Fletcher who was operating at the time on the left, and playing some very nice football, beating several players and showing nice acceleration. He set up a move which led to a pass to Morrell, who had found space in the area, about twelve yards out and a little left of centre. He had time to shape his shot, but he blasted it over the bar. A few minutes later it was Morrell who sent Parker free with a nice ball from midfield, but this meant that as Parker raced up the right there was no-one in the centre, until Morrell managed to catch up. The cross was good but Morrell, jumping with three defenders, was unable to get a header on target, and the ball flicked on beyond the far post and was eventually cleared.
The referee, who had started well, began making some bizarre decisions. Initially these went against Blackpool, but in the second half several mistakes went the way of the home team so he was presumably incompetent rather than biased. Morrell was the victim of most of these mistakes - he was clearly hauled down twice with nothing given, and more than once he was penalised for a perfectly fair challenge. However the big decision of the half came when Parker was once again given a ball to chase up the right. He won it near the corner, then beat his man and nipped along the goal-line into the area. He was clearly fouled from behind as he released the ball, but he still got a pass into the centre where Jorgensen scrambled the ball into the net. The referee appeared to give the goal but the linesman was flagging, and after a discussion the referee gave a free kick to Scunthorpe in the area, apparently for handball. Assuming that he was going to disallow the goal, then the referee should have given advantage and awarded Blackpool a penalty for the foul on Parker, but that didn't happen.
Blackpool continued to attack and to make chances. A move up the left was transferred to Hoolahan in the centre, and he played a lovely angled pass just outside the fullback for Parker who was running in from the right. He should simply have had a shot across the keeper but instead he controlled it, tried to go around his man and then had to come back inside, and eventually put over a weak cross. Another move in which Hoolahan took the ball into the box on the left led to Jorgensen playing a short pass inside the area to Parker near the far post - his snap shot was inside the post but about head high and the keeper beat it away. Then from a corner the ball bounced out to Gorkss on the edge of the box - he did very well to get his foot over it and hit a shot on target, but it was straight at the keeper who caught it comfortably. Throughout all this the Blackpool defence, especially the central pair, dealt efficiently with everything that came their way, and the half ended without Rachubka having to make anything like a serious save.
After the break Blackpool were attacking the north end, and initially they picked up where they left off, with continuous pressure on the visiting defence. Hoolahan had switched to the left flank, and he made several dazzling dribbles both outside and inside the Scunthorpe area. Unfortunately today the final touch was usually missing - inside the area he never found a telling shot, and too many of his moves in midfield ended up with a poor pass which was intercepted. Not that he had a poor game, but he is involved in so much and he tries so many clever moves that when he is slightly out with his touches it really shows. To his credit though he never hides from the ball and is always ready to step up and try again.
Perhaps Parker and Morrell were tiring slightly, or maybe the defence was figuring out how to deal with them, but in this half there were fewer clear-cut chances and Parker rarely got away from his fullback. There were more crosses into the Scunthorpe area from deep positions, but these rarely caused very much trouble. After going on a run into the box on the left, Hoolahan rolled a square pass across for Jorgensen to shoot from twenty yards; his fierce shot was on target but it was blocked by a defender for a corner.
As time went by Blackpool began to run down, and while they were still having almost all the possession, there was much less pressure and very few chances coming. Scunthorpe took off their two attackers and started to play with just one up front, though ironically they began to have more sights of goal and there was one shot from the edge of the area which was only just wide. However in general it looked as though they were happy to settle for the draw, while Blackpool started to feel time running out for them to secure a desperately needed victory.
With 70 minutes gone Blackpool took off Taylor-Fletcher, who had played pretty well, and introduced Andy Welsh. Only a couple of minutes later they won a corner on the right, which was swung over to the far post by Hoolahan. It was headed down into the goalmouth and the Scunthorpe keeper palmed it away, but as it bounced Gorkss ran in and headed it firmly into the net.
The goal was no more than he and Blackpool had deserved, but it woke Scunthorpe up, and they finally began to show some signs of wanting to make a game of it. As they rallied Blackpool stood off a little, and that only encouraged the visitors to press forward more. Barker was adjudged to have fouled a player in the centre, and booked. It did not look like a foul to me but if the referee had decided that it was then Barker should have been shown red - he was clearly the last man. As Scunthorpe attacked up the right Parker lost out in a tackle, and then lunged in as the ball was crossed - he was (rightly) booked and then persisted in little niggling fouls which could easily have seen him sent off as well. Barker was penalised for a perfectly fair jump just outside the box - from the free kick the shot over the wall was on target but Rachubka was right behind it and caught it well.
After being penalised for not jumping - the incident was the mirror of Barker's previous foul but given the opposite way - Morrell went down with cramp and soon afterwards was substituted, limping off with a wry grin. He is clearly still not quite fit, but he gave everything today and was applauded off. Vernon, who replaced him, should have played the final fifteen minutes like a whirlwind in midfield, but instead he seemed almost to be sleepwalking. With five minutes left Crainey, also only partly fit, came on to replace Hoolahan and shore up the defence, which he did effectively, with Coid pushing forward up the wing a little. Coid found a chance for a snap shot just inside the box, but he put it wide, and most of the action was at the other end now as Scunthorpe pushed into injury time looking for the equaliser. Several times the ball was played into the box and there were a few mad scrambles, but mostly Barker or Gorkss got it away and the two shots which Scunthorpe managed - a low drive and a stooping header - were both off target. At last Blackpool cleared it up the right for Welsh to chase, and the action was still in the Scunthorpe end when the whistle finally went.
This game showed all that is best and worst about Blackpool at the moment. With two first-choice defenders unavailable they still had a splendid pairing at the centre of defence, and they worked hard through midfield and up the wings, creating numerous chances. However they failed to put these away, and they were fortunate that this time it did not come back to bite them. The other recurring fault is that having gone ahead they let Scunthorpe get back into the game - never yet this season have Blackpool managed to get a two-goal lead, and losing or drawing games where they have scored first has cost them many points. However it all had a happy ending today, and they can look forward to the two-week break in better spirits.
Team: (4-4-2): Rachubka, McMahon, Barker (Capt), Gorkss, Coid, Taylor-Fletcher (Welsh 70), Southern, Jorgensen, Hoolahan (Crainey 86), Morrell (Vernon 78), Parker
Subs not used: Fox, Flynn