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Lancashire Red: View To Thrilling Finale

23 October 2012

No, Mr Bond. I expect you to never say die!  OK, that’s probably the best I can manage right now since this game coincided with the premiere showing of 007’s latest escapade.  Yes it might have been easier to play on the Bond theme if we’d managed to come away with the win we certainly deserved, but it’s still another hard-earned away point.  This being my nearest home from home fixture of the season (our second visit to the Fylde Coast this season, no less!) and as a result unmissable, my girlfriend was happy to play the role of Bond Girl and accompany me to the game.  Her reasoning, it turns out, was based on the fact that ‘lots of goals happen at Bloomfield Road.’ Fair enough, so long as they weren’t all at our expense, and she is, after all, a Latics fan where goals are something of a rarity.  And with confidence high after our magnificent win against Cardiff, it was game on! 

The omens were good as we set off, even providing a brief escort for the team coach joining the M55 at Preston.  I like the Blackpool away fixture, and so it seemed, did plenty of other Trickies, given the good turnout for a midweek game. 

This was yet another display of character where the scoreline followed an identical path to the game at The Reebok two months ago, though this was a much sterner test. The irony is that though we actually won this game last season, had we fallen behind like we did tonight with only 15 to go, I would say we would certainly have lost this one back then.  So far we’ve clawed back a precious goal in the dying minutes against Palace, Brum and Blackpool, when last season, a solitary goal conceded was usually enough to condemn us to defeat.

FLC, 23 October 2012, 2000hrs
Blackpool 2 – 2 Nottingham Forest
Bloomfield Road
Dry, wind light
Away fan experience
Despite being stuck on the back row of the so-called Executive block (where an extra pound entitles you to a padded seat) it was actually possible to watch the game sat down! It was a different story to my right, but right along the East Stand tonight’s show of support from the travelling fans was magnificent, with a full repertoire of songs throughout the game. Good acoustics offset by lousy PA system that pumped out the announcer’s fluent gibberish or some unrecognisable dirge for the home fans to perform some kind of synchronised arm-waving in celebration of their goals – oh, and a one-eyed scoreboard in the corner that only acknowledged home team goals.  Outside, plenty of watering holes within walking distance, though my favoured venue, The Auctioneer took the watering aspect a little too literally with a very dilute tasting Carlsberg to accompany an excellent value steak and chips. Most locals quite friendly, as long as you didn’t have to pass too many of them on the way out after the game.
Still the Spartan temporary stand with portakabin loos (my girlfriend commented on how luxurious the ladies’ was, considering!), its view-restricting pillars, and with only mesh behind the back row it was quite draughty. Refreshments not sampled here this time, though I expect a similar fare to last season’s visit. Parking charges as extortionate as ever (£7.50 if you exceed 3 hours) which probably explains why it was easy to get away from afterwards since the locals probably park in streets further away.
Of similar format to the one at Huddersfield, taking programmes to new heights of quality, and with plenty of interesting stuff about the visitors, though they did tend to overdo the four wins over us in their play-off season. Ancient history – did anyone tell them we’ve all moved on since then, and we did beat them last time out here?
The Match
It was the substitutions made between the 60th and 70th minutes that were to prove the main game changers, and barely a minute after the second of these came the equaliser after our Blackpool had practically bored our defence to sleep when a Matt Phillips cross was headed home by Grandin.  Five minutes later we were behind after Taylor-Fletcher’s long-range effort beat Camp, and at this stage it looked impossible to fathom out where a Forest goal might come from.  Enter Messrs Blackstock and Jenas in a truly bold throw of the dice which would either restore parity or see Blackpool kill the game off whilst they were in tails-up mode. At first it appeared to have little effect, but as the minutes ticked down we appeared to revert from the frantic throw-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink to the slick passing we dazzled Cardiff with on Saturday. Reidy sent a telling pass in from the left, the offside flag stayed down to the Tangerines’ dismay, and Blackstock was in perfect position for a clinical finish.  Mayhem in the East Stand whilst the atmosphere elsewhere collapsed like a pricked balloon, and so it stayed long after the final whistle.
It was however a 25th minute corner from which we broke the deadlock, and after Halford had lofted the ball into the box, Sharp was there to pounce by flicking it deftly past Gilks. My girlfriend thought it looked a little fluky, despite my explanation of Sharp’s tendency to poach goals like that. I don’t know – her first away game for well over a year and suddenly she’s an expert! Tails up, and for long periods thereafter we looked comfortable without creating much, and as half time came and went, the game looked like it might just turn into sessions of keep-ball, giving it away somewhere in that midfield quagmire.
Not that easy on the eye as Forest struggled to cope with Blackpool’s power and pace, not to mention seemingly everyone in a Forest shirt bar Alaya a good deal shorter than all the Tangerines.  The ball seemed to be stuck in midfield for long periods, but Crainey for Blackpool was a constant danger wide on the left, and it was a surprise that Forest seemed happy to give him acres of space to pick up the ball and put crosses in.  Clear-cut chances were few, with our most effective chances created on the counter, provided we could master their offside trap (which a lot of the time we couldn’t).
Our first half lead made for a good atmosphere in the away stand, but that was nothing compared with Blackstock’s leveller in stoppage time.
Ayala having to go off before the break was clearly not part of the plan, though Moloney proved more than capable of a positive contribution; Crainey given too much space; sloppy defending let Blackpool back in.
It is no secret that Reidy’s time with the Tangerines represents something of a career low, and his industry throughout the game but especially in setting up the equaliser tonight showed there was no better way in coming back to haunt his former employers.  Another superb performance by Camp, providing another reminder why efforts to secure his services for the longer term has to be a priority, and how the fans chanted his name to the rafters tonight!
You couldn’t single anyone out tonight.
Entertainment Value5/10 – With Blackpool playing it tight we looked stifled for lengthy periods, especially in midfield. All the same, Bloomfield Road lived up to its statistical reputation for plenty of goals.
Coincidence this game took place almost a year to the day since our last visit here, and to say there’s been a change or two since then would be understatement of the year.  So after roughly a quarter of the season gone, how do things look?  Against the same stage last season (during the Cotterill Honeymoon) we’re seven points ahead.  If we turn back the clock three years, we were in a more impressive run of form having won four on the bounce, but of course we started that season much more slowly.  Win at Barnsley and against Millwall and we’ll be back ahead of the 2009-10 tally thus far, which has to be our measuring stick in terms of promotion aspirations.

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