The last time Blackpool were two goals ahead of anyone was at Wembley in May, but they finally achieved this in the second half today, when Mike Flynn fired in a fine shot to cap a good performance. So much did the team enjoy the sensation of having a gap between them and the opposition that they went on to complete a victory by four goals, a margin they have not achieved in the league since early December 2004, when Torquay were the victims. They have come a long way since. This was all the more satisfying since, in the reverse fixture at the Ricoh Stadium in October, Coventry looked much the better team. It would be easy to point to the sending-off as the reason for Blackpool's success, but in fact they had been on top all game up until that point, and the only time Coventry had a spell of sustained pressure was in the second half, when Blackpool sat back for a while. This was a good team performance, with a number of players putting in improved displays, and for once the goals came at the right time to reward their efforts. The referee was an idiot, of course, but fortunately his mistakes balanced each other out fairly well and the end result was correct.
Wes Hoolahan celebrates after scoring his penalty
Blackpool made just one change to the team which lost to Stoke last week, replacing Slusarski up front with Morrell, playing alongside Burgess and against his former club. This meant that the club captain, Jackson, was on the bench again, with Barker taking the arm band. Flynn and Jorgensen were retained in the centre of midfield, with Hoolahan and Taylor-Fletcher operating wide.
Kevin Kyle is shown the red card
Jackson's replacement, Evatt, was immediately in the wars as one of the Coventry forwards, Best, led with his elbow in a jump and left the big Blackpool defender on the floor. It should have been a yellow card, not red, but the referee contented himself with a lecture. Maybe he thought it was "too early" to bring out a card, but he would have saved himself more trouble later.
Only three or four minutes in, Blackpool could have taken the lead, as they won a free kick about 30 yards out, left of centre. It was touched sideways to Flynn who hit a hard, low shot. This took a major deflection, giving the keeper who was moving to his left no chance, but the ball struck the other post, bounced away towards the wing and was cleared. Not long afterwards Coventry won a free kick in a similar position, but blazed their shot far too high. However most of the pressure was coming from Blackpool, and Andy Morrell appeared to be back to full fitness, working like a demon all game. He found himself some space in the box, but headed against the post - it would not have counted as he was ruled offside, a close decision. Taylor-Fletcher and Flynn were both doing well in midfield, and Hoolahan, who had a poor game at the Ricoh, was giving Coventry a hard time around the edge of their box. He went on one run across the front of the area and then in towards goal, but once again his lack of a right foot meant that he could not get an effective shot in. Jorgensen took the ball in to the area on the right, but his attempted shot was smothered. Next Hoolahan did well up the left, swinging over a cross to Burgess. He tried to head for goal but he was too far out and did not have enough power to trouble the keeper - he would have been better to head it back across goal to Morrell and Taylor-Fletcher. A long ball up field nearly beat a big Coventry defender, who slipped and let it past him - Morrell would have been away but the defender did very well to get a saving tackle in from behind, perfectly legally.
At the other end Gorkss was penalised for a perfectly legal tackle, in which he took the ball cleanly. The free kick was dangerously close to the edge of the box, but fortunately it was driven straight at the wall and bounced clear. Soon afterwards Coventry had their best chance from a corner, when an attacker rose well and had a free header, but put it wide.
Michael Flynn scores Blackpool's second goal
Next the ball was played upfield by Blackpool to Morrell, who was just inside the corner of the area on the right. A defender behind him pushed him to the ground with both hands, sending him sprawling. A clearer penalty you could hardly hope to see, but the referee waved it firmly away. However three minutes later Blackpool won a corner, and Hoolahan swung it into the area. It was headed down and a defender got to it first, sweeping it away just ahead of Gorkss, who fell over his legs. A perfectly fair tackle, but this time the referee pointed to the spot. It is hard to avoid the thought that he had realised his mistake and compensated, but either way Hoolahan stepped forward, forgot the cheeky chip which he used against Preston, and this time hit a hard shot to the keeper's left and into the net.
A couple of minutes later and Coventry were pushing forward up their left, winning a throw around half way. Suddenly there was a shout and Barker was sprawling on the ground holding his face. The referee immediately showed the red card to Kevin Kyle, indicating that he had used the elbow. Coventry lost it for a while after this, with wild tackles flying in. Evatt was caught late as he cleared the ball from defence, resulting in a yellow card, probably the right punishment. Not so a couple of minutes later when Hoolahan, near the Coventry area, was clattered so hard from behind that one of his boots flew off, landing ten yards from its owner who also travelled a considerable distance in the air. This should have been a straight red, but only a yellow card was shown. The half ended a couple of minutes later, and a 1-0 lead was no more than Blackpool deserved.
Flynn celebrates with Kaspars Gorkss
Into the second half, with Blackpool attacking the north end of the ground. In the first half, even before the sending off, they had been playing a lot of passing and possession football, but now, for some reason, they started to rely on the long high ball. They wasted a lot of possession this way, with a number of offside decisions and defensive clearances, but the worst thing was that they were not making use of the extra man. This allowed Coventry back into the game, and for about ten minutes they were on top. Fox had replaced Taylor-Fletcher at half time, presumably because of some minor injury, and this deprived the midfield of a certain bite, as Fox took a long time to get into the game. Blackpool had to defend hard, with Crainey immense, and Gorkss and Evatt working well in the centre. Gorkss took an accidental blow around the eye in one tangle in the goalmouth, but was able to continue after some treatment.
Although they had a lot of pressure Coventry could not find any clear shooting chances, and Blackpool, who had been rather frantic, began to settle down and come back into the game. Burgess had time to line up a shot from outside the area, but he blasted it high. Then Barker won the ball in defence on the right. He stepped forward a few paces, and released a ball over the defence for Flynn, who had timed his run perfectly, and controlled the ball, then fired past the keeper.
Kaspars Gorkss heads Blackpool's third
Great celebration, and now Blackpool began to relax. They were passing the ball around in midfield with increasing confidence, and the tiring Coventry players were chasing shadows. Again Evatt was hit very late as he cleared the ball, and another yellow card was shown. The big man will be bruised and sore tonight, but the result, and a clean sheet, will be considerable comfort to him. Hoolahan was put clear up the left wing - he looked well offside, but play went on. He took it into the box and played a cross for Morrell who was bearing down on the goalmouth, but as the Blackpool striker began to dive forward for the header he was flattened from behind. Again a blatant penalty, and again the referee waved it away. Blackpool had a series of corners, and Fox took one from the right. His cross into the centre was good, and Gorkss rose and headed home. The ball seemed to flick off a head as it went in, probably a defender although Morrell was also in there.
With the game now secure, Blackpool took off some players who hard worked hard, first Flynn for Welsh, and then Morrell for Vernon. Morrell, who had his best game for some time, was applauded off the field by the visiting supporters as well as the home fans.
Blackpool continued to press for more goals, though Coventry, to give them credit, were also trying for a consolation. The game was nearly over when a long clearance from Rachubka came to a Coventry defender about ten yards inside his own half. Vernon tackled him, won the ball and pushed it past him, then raced into the box. He was left of centre, and he clipped the ball right footed, past the keeper and into the far corner. Vernon has sat on the bench for a long time in the last few months, and he deserved this goal, especially as he created and scored it entirely on his own.
Kaspars celebrates his goal
There was still time for Hoolahan to set up Burgess with a chance, running into the area to the right of the goal and shooting on the turn, but the ball struck the side netting. A goal for Burgess would have been reward for a hard-grafting performance, but the whistle went and Blackpool had to be content with four. A fine performance, and at last a game where all the pressure got the goals it deserved. The Christmas turkey will taste a lot better after this, though there are two tricky and important away games before Burnley come to Bloomfield in the New Year.
Team (4-4-2): Rachubka, Barker (Capt), Evatt, Gorkss, Crainey, Taylor-Fletcher (Fox 45), Jorgensen, Flynn (Welsh 74), Hoolahan, Burgess, Morrell (Vernon 84)
Subs not used: Jackson, Slusarski