They don't know when they are beaten
The sun was shining, and there were 16,000 inside Turf Moor as Blackpool rolled up the M65 for their first visit in five years. They had their first choice team available, with Crainey on the left of defence, Southern and Fox in the centre of midfield, and Morrell and Parker in attack. There was a familiar face in the claret and blue, too, as Clarke Carlisle took his place at the centre of the home defence. Supporters on both sides were in good voice, and the game kicked off in a cauldron of noise.
In the first few minutes Burnley had all the attacking, probing up both flanks and keeping the pressure on the visitors, but they did not craft any clear shooting chances. After five minutes or so Blackpool found their feet, and began to push the play back into the Burnley half. They relied rather too much on the long ball, usually to Parker, and in these early stages he was caught offside several times, though when he did get his timing right he forced the first corner of the game from a Carlisle tackle. A short corner led to a cross into the box, which was cleared. Blackpool were now the better team for a while, although Burnley were very fast and dangerous on the break - Hoolahan had a shot deflected for a corner, and then Fox hit another shot from just outside the area which looked very dangerous, but hit a defender's head and went wide. Burnley were not idle during this time and they could have scored themselves - a forward should have done better with a great chance in front of goal, and from a corner a free header was directed over the bar.
Neither team was really able to take control of the game as it moved towards half time. Hoolahan was not as influential as usual - he was quickly closed down every time he received the ball by two or three big men who leaned on him and gave him no chance to turn and run. However he never stopped trying, and kept contributing throughout. Keith Southern, on the other hand, was having a very poor game, losing out in midfield and making a hash of several attempts to create an attacking pass.
In the final five minutes of the half there was a flurry of chances at both ends. First Parker found himself clear when a central defender stumbled trying to intercept a long ball, but his first touch took him too wide on the left, and he did not try a shot. Instead he turned back onto the wing, and tried to put over a telling cross, but it was cleared. Then as Blackpool attacked a dreadful pass by Southern gave the ball away, and Burnley swept forward, attacking up their left, and playing the ball low into the centre of the Blackpool box. A forward trapped it and had time to turn and shoot, but with Rachubka beaten the ball struck the underside of the bar and bounced down and away. Finally, in the last minute, Parker finally beat the offside trap, left of centre. With Carlisle on his heels he cut across and tried to beat the keeper, who saved a rather weak shot with his legs, and a defender on the line cleared the follow-up shot from Taylor-Fletcher. It looked as though Parker hesitated for a moment at first, expecting the offside flag, and if he had not done that he would have had a much better shooting chance.
Into the second half, and Blackpool were now attacking the end where their supporters were gathered. However right from the start Burnley were on top, and now looking a class better. They were fast in midfield, moving the ball about, and Blackpool were struggling to keep up. When they did win the ball it was generally given away by a poor pass or an aimless long ball upfield, and the pressure on the away defence was non-stop. After about five minutes Burnley were on the attack, but Blackpool managed to half clear the ball up the right wing towards the half-way line. Taylor-Fletcher and Barker were there, but a Burnley player won the ball, and it broke up the wing to another forward who was unmarked. Barker and Taylor-Fletcher both failed to chase back - perhaps they felt it was a foul, or offside, but the whistle did not go and they were stranded. The Burnley player took the ball into the area, and Blackpool were outnumbered. Jackson made a tackle, but the ball fell well for another Burnley player who drove a low shot towards goal. Rachubka might have saved it but he was given no chance as Crainey, sliding across to try to make a block, merely deflected the ball past his keeper and into the net.
If anything Burnley were lifted by the goal, and Blackpool got worse, because the home dominance of the game continued for ten minutes or more, with no chances and very little pressure on the home defence. Parker chased a few long balls but made nothing of them, and nobody else was able to get a foot on the ball and get the game under control.
About ten minutes after conceding, Blackpool made a substitution, taking off Taylor-Fletcher and replacing him with loan player Andy Welsh, making his debut. It was a straight swap, with Welsh going out to the right wing initially, and he made an immediate difference. He was able to run at players and beat them in a way which nobody else had managed for Blackpool, and from this point on the game began to swing back. Hoolahan started to get the ball more and make probing runs, and while he did not make any decisive breakthrough, the Burnley defence was suddenly having to work much harder to keep them out. A good ball released Parker behind the defence on the left, but he failed to get in a shot, and when he turned back and played in a cross it was headed away. A few minutes later Hoolahan played a nice ball which again gave Parker a chance, and this time his cross was better, low and hard, and Burnley scrambled it behind for a corner.
Blackpool now made another change, bringing on Ben Burgess. Instead of taking off Morrell, who was clearly tired, they withdrew Parker, who was still running but had been largely ineffective. From the corner the ball was partly cleared and came to Welsh on the right. He controlled it and then slid it forward to Morrell, who was just inside the area. Morrell took one touch and turned, and Carlisle, sliding in, took his legs from under him. There was no protest when the referee pointed to the spot and Hoolahan stepped up, waited until the keeper had committed himself and clipped the ball neatly into the other side of the goal.
The visiting supporters were delighted by this, but Blackpool were keen to do more, and for the rest of the game they looked the more likely team to score. Burgess was giving Burnley problems in the air, and he also showed some nice touches with the ball on the ground. Ironically at the higher level Burgess is looking a better player than he did last season. Southern had a long range shot, but it was just wide of the goal.
Burnley had brought on Adi Akinbiyi, and with five minutes left of the game it looked as though he had stolen it for the home team. Against the run of play Burnley broke upfield on their right, and the ball was pushed forward across field to Akinbiyi in the box. He did well to control it under pressure, turn and fire the ball past Rachubka. Akinbiyi was booked afterwards, either for his celebration or for his very slow walk back into his own half, delaying the kick-off. This was the only booking of the game - despite the derby passion the game was played in a very good spirit, with nothing nasty, and the referee did a good job.
The goal was a blow, but with time running out Blackpool pulled themselves together and pressed forward again. They tried down both flanks, but the ninety minutes had gone when they won a free kick on the left. The big men went forward, and Crainey floated a great cross towards Burgess at the far post. The keeper tried to reach over Burgess for the ball but only managed to drop it in front of Evatt, who was in yards of space near the penalty spot. With the goal at his mercy Evatt took a huge swipe at the ball and missed it entirely, falling over in the process. However he still had enough time to slide round and scoop the ball a few yards sideways to Morrell, who was also unmarked in front of goal. This time there was no mistake, and with what looked like an apologetic shrug he slotted the ball home.
Although we were already in added time Blackpool were still hoping for more, and a series of throws up the left led to another corner, but Burgess could not get his header on target, and the whistle went moments later. Honours even, and a fair reward for a fighting performance by Blackpool. They were a long way from their best for much of the game, but they never stopped trying and once again it paid off. Grayson has built a team with a spine of steel, and that is worth far more than fancy skills.
Team: (4-4-2): Rachubka, Barker, Jackson (Capt), Evatt, Crainey, Taylor-Fletcher (Welsh 62), Southern (Flynn 88), Fox, Hoolahan, Morrell, Parker (Burgess 72)
Subs not used: Gorkss, Vernon