So the winning run comes to an end, as it had to, and Blackpool were left to curse their luck. On the balance of play and chances they certainly had the best of this game, but the fortune which had favoured them at Leicester was on holiday today. Overall this was an excellent game between two teams promoted last May and eager to establish themselves - it was fast and furious but never bad-tempered, and always exciting. Bristol's £2 million team perhaps had the better of things in midfield, but when play approached the penalty area the Bristol defence always looked more fragile. It was good to see Blackpool pressing throughout with a lot of spirit, varying their style to suit the opposition and pressing to the end.
For their first home game in the Championship Blackpool made two changes to the team which played in the opening game at Leicester. Ian Evatt, who injured a hamstring in the cup game against Huddersfield, was replaced by Kaspars Gorkss, and Ben Burgess reaped the reward for his winning goal in that game by being given a start alongside Andy Morrell, with Keigan Parker on the bench. Midfield was unchanged, with Hoolahan and Taylor-Fletcher on the wings and Fox and Southern in the centre. Much had been made of the contrast in the spending by these two clubs over the summer, and in the early stages the Bristol midfield certainly looked very classy, pressing hard and harrying Blackpool, and passing quickly and effectively when they were in possession. With Ben Burgess up front Blackpool were playing tactics very different from those used when Parker is chasing, and it took them a little while to settle down. On a number of occasions in the early stages Burgess won the ball in the air, only to find that nobody was picking up his knock-downs. Taylor-Fletcher was guilty at least three times of reacting very late and allowing the ball to run out for a throw. Oddly enough Barker, also on the right flank, was also having a poor game - he looked slow and out of touch, and when Bristol attacked it was this wing that usually provided the danger. However in the centre Gorkss and Jackson were dealing well with most of what came their way, and there were no real chances.
In terms of goalmouth action there was more to see at the other end, where Blackpool repeatedly got the ball into the danger area, but without managing to create any clear shooting opportunities. In the very first move a header by Burgess and a neat pass by Morrell allowed Taylor-Fletcher to force a corner on the right. Hoolahan took it but with Burgess on the near post the kick was far too long and went over everyone. After that Fox took all the corners, and took them very well - either hard and flat to the near post, or swinging in high at the far post. Fox also took a free kick in the centre, chipping it forward nicely to Burgess' head, but a defender just got it away for another corner. When Blackpool won another free kick, closer this time, Crainey tried to blast it, but he is not Williams and it hit the wall tamely. At the other end it was Bristol City who had the first shot on target, from just outside the area, but it was very easy for Rachubka.
Blackpool were growing in confidence now, with Hoolahan and Fox starting to make some impression in midfield, and the chances began to come. Burgess was close to connecting with a Morrell knock-down, but could not quite get his foot on it. Hoolahan danced forward to try a shot but it was wide, and a Keith Southern effort from range was blocked by the crowd in the area. At the other end Lee Trundle went down under a challenge and looked for a penalty, but the referee gave it the other way. The referee was lenient all game on pushing in the air, and tackles from behind, but at least he was consistent - Gorkss was all over Trundle at times and would have been penalised by other officials.
Taylor-Fletcher went on a run up the right wing, fed by Barker, and he fired a low shot or cross diagonally into the area. Morrell, in front of goal, tried to twist and get a heel onto it, but it was just wide of him, and of the far post. Not long afterwards there was another Blackpool attack, up the left this time, and Southern had a shot blocked. The ball spun out to the right where Taylor-Fletcher tried a shot, which was parried by the keeper. The ball bounced away high to the left, where Morrell attempted a bicycle kick which lobbed over the keeper but unfortunately onto the roof of the net. Just before half time Southern chased forward to the edge of the box on the centre-right, and hit a low shot which beat the keeper's right hand, but clipped the outside of the post and went out for a goal kick. There was still time for Bristol to win a corner on their right, and a forward rose above the defence, but his glancing header went across the face of the goal and wide on the target.
After half time Blackpool were attacking the packed North Stand - the game was a sell-out for the home areas, with a total attendance of nearly 9,000. Blackpool were immediately on the attack again, and several thrusts had the defence struggling, without any more clear chances. Then a neat ball from Crainey put Morrell clear down the left flank - he beat a man and clipped over a very nice cross for Burgess, and a defender had to concede a corner on the far side. Fox took this short to Hoolahan, who in turn slid it to Southern, about ten yards outside the area. He hit a very good shot - low and powerful and on target. Whether the keeper would have saved it we will never know, because Morrell got a boot to it and deflected it towards the right hand side of the goal - the keeper did manage to get a hand to it even so, but he was unable to keep it out of the net.
Blackpool continued to press, and this time it was Hoolahan, beating players down the left and getting into the box to set up a nice cross, but the defence cleared it. Barker, who was better in the second half, made one thrusting run up the right, but again his cross was scrambled away. Several corners and crosses were pinged into the box, and Bristol never looked comfortable, but it was one of those days when the ball never lands quite right for a strike. At the other end Bristol managed to penetrate the Blackpool defence on the left, and a forward had a close range shot which he hit well, high and to Rachubka's left, but the Blackpool keeper did very well to turn it over.
With around 70 minutes gone Morrell indicated to the bench that he was tiring, and Parker was sent on in his place. The change almost had instant results, as he took the ball on the left, cut inside and hit a shot like his famous goal at Wembley - the Bristol keeper did very well diving high up to his left to touch it around for a corner.
For a few minutes Parker looked inspired, chasing everything and making life difficult for the visiting defence. However Bristol were always looking to makes chances, and they had made a double substitution soon after the Blackpool goal. Now they set up another attack, and Trundle did well on the left, turning and beating Crainey and making a chance for a shot at a sharp angle. It was well hit, but Rachubka made a good save. However the ball looped up and fell to another Bristol forward on the far post. He caught it well on the volley as it dropped, and struck it cleanly through the mass of defenders and into the net.
Neither team was prepared to settle for a point, though clearly Bristol were the happier of the two. Soon after the goal Jorgensen was brought on for Taylor-Fletcher, and he did some good work on the right. After a corner the ball fell to Gorkss, outside the far post, when he got there ahead of the keeper, but unfortunately he could not manage to turn and hit it towards goal and the chance was smothered. Another great chance came from a cross and a knock-down which fell to Jorgensen in the area - he struck the bouncing ball well and it was heading for the top corner, but again the Bristol keeper made a good save. There was more goal-mouth action from the resulting corner, but still Blackpool could not convert their chances. With only a couple of minutes left Blackpool sent on Vernon in place of Burgess, but he could not work the necessary magic either, and the game ended as a draw. Blackpool's winning run is ended, but they are still unbeaten, with four points from their first two Championship encounters, and who would not have taken that if offered before the start of the season?
Team (4-4-2): Rachubka, Barker, Jackson, Gorkss, Crainey, Taylor-Fletcher (Jorgensen 77), Southern, Fox, Hoolahan, Morrell (Parker 70), Burgess (Vernon 88)
Subs not used: Coid, Hills