Blues v Blackpool preview

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March 4, 2013 by Made In Brum

blackpool badgeMan United are playing Real Madrid Tuesday night? Whatever. Who cares about that when you can watch Blues versus Blackpool, eh? I’m going down to St. Andrews for the first of what must go down as back-to-back winnable home games. From those I would say 4pts is the aim, to take us a step closer to those 50 points we’re likely to need for survival. We’re 42 down, 8 to go…

Looking back…

I didn’t go to Hull myself, thankfully, as usual I watched the football league show until our game finished, and I also read some of the papers’ reports on the match. Although the first couple of goals came through the centre – surprisingly, given we had Spector, Elliott and Reilly in midfield – the general consensus from fans was that we were beaten too easily down their right flank. Colin Tattum said that Callum Reilly seemed indecisive, not knowing whether help match up Hull’s 3 man midfield and then leave the inexperienced Hancox vulnerable to Elmohammady on our left, or support Hancox but then create space for Hull through the middle.

I want to say that I’m always going to judge Clark completely fairly. I’ve defended him quite a bit in the past, not because I’m confident about his ability as a manager, but because we have limited alternatives to sticking with him. But he hasn’t escaped my criticisms this week. He said the goals “weren’t the formations or the tactics, it was decision making and individual errors”. I simultaneously agree and disagree with that. Firstly, his comment implies that the two are mutually exclusive, which I’m not sure they are. Mistakes can be reduced if there’s a thoroughly thought out and effective plan in place, in my opinion.

I’ll concede that having Reilly in limbo between the left and centre might have worked theoretically, due to his impressive energy when he hasn’t got the ball. In reality though, it created gaps for Hull to exploit, which they did with their numerical advantage in midfield. A better option for me, would have been to keep Spector, Elliott and Reilly tight together in midfield, and give Ferguson his debut out on the left. After all, what did he loan him in for? Because he already has some experience of playing left-back, Ferguson could have doubled up on Elmohammady when required and help Hancox out a bit. The drawback of that would have been we’d have needed to sacrifice a striker against a 3-man defence, but away from home against a top team – who were out to prove a point – we simply needed to be more solid. And we weren’t. Clark has to take some responsibility for that.

My starting XI

The other disappointment of Saturday was probably Butland’s performance. Maybe the expectation levels of him have risen since his transfer to Stoke, so it’s more noticeable when he makes mistakes, but seeing the goals, he could have kept out at least one of Hull’s strikes. On the other hand, apparently he made a good save. It’d be pretty harsh to have a dig at Butland after one poor game.

Caldwell came off after 38 minutes on Saturday and was replaced by Paul Robinson, who filled in at centre-back. I wonder if Caldwell is suffering from jadedness, as seems to have been the case with him for most of the season! Because he’s not the quickest player, I would probably move to criticize Clark for not giving him rests earlier in the season. He’s been practically an ever-present for us, but his performances from an athleticism point of view, have hardly merited that. I would have given Ibanez some game time now and again, because it would have meant Caldwell gets the rest he needs and if he got injured later on in the campaign, Ibanez would have been better prepared to come into the team and replace him. Perhaps Clark’s argument would be that Caldwell is captain, but I think it was a case of priorities- we need to keep our experienced players fit. If Caldwell has been bombarded with too many matches, I fail to see how it do much good to keep playing him. I personally would rotate Caldwell for this game, no matter how much he seems to have recovered from his illness, but whether Clark will do that is another question.

It’s unclear what formation their new manager, Paul Ince, will decide on. In his last two matches, he’s opted for a 4-4-1-1, but both of those were at home. In his first and only away match at Leeds, he’s gone for 4-5-1 with attacking wingers. Let’s not concern ourselves too much with who Ince will play though. Realistically, a home game against Blackpool is obviously one we should be looking to win, so it’s 4-4-2 for me whatever team Ince plays. I reckon it would be inadvisable to try and match them up, we should be looking to stamp our own authority on the game, and play to our own strengths.

I’d have Spector and Elliott in the middle, Burke and Ferguson on the flanks. This is a reasonably attacking team, the likes of Burke, Elliott and Ferguson can all make their mark going forward. It can be dangerous, with attacking wingers in a 4-4-2, to only have one defensive minded midfielder, in this case Spector. It means we’re potentially more susceptible to counter-attacks, but I think on balance it would be a gamble worth taking. Zigic has the most impact when he has a wide circle of players around him for support. That way, you can get the ball to his head from out wide or from midfield, he’ll always flick it on and if we get enough people in the box, we normally get a shot off in a matter of seconds. However, if there’s no support for Zigic, in some ways you may as well direct the ball into thin air, because he’ll get the flick on but the ball will just go to an opposing defender. For Zigic to cause any problems, we must gamble on getting bodies to surround him.

Seeing as Marlon King is out for the season, I’d controversially be inclined to partner the big Zig with Wes Thomas. Part of the problem at Hull, people have reported, was that there was little mobility up front. Lovenkrands has Premiership quality technical skills but he’s simply not fast enough. Thomas can form a good partnership with Zigic because he’s a little harder to mark, so Zigic can knock the ball down into the spaces, and with Thomas’s pace, he has more initiative to receive the ball. It takes longer for Lovenkrands to escape his marker.

So my team would be: Butland; Caddis, Davies, Robinson, Hancox; Burke, Spector, Elliott, Ferguson; Zigic, Thomas. Agree with me? Feel free to make your comments on what you think of my team and who you would pick.

Blackpool this season

Not many Blackpool fans would have believed me if I told them that this is where they’d be after the first 3 games of their season, because started their campaign dramatically well. They won their first 3 matches, before they had a dip in form and their treasured Ian Holloway left in favour of the Crystal Palace job. Since then, they’re onto their fourth manager of the season – fifth if you include Steve Thompson’s two stints as caretaker – and aren’t too far from the drop zone.

The latest man to take the hotseat by the seaside is Paul Ince. Ince is yet to see them score their first goal under his leadership, never mind first win! He’s played 3 matches, lost one, and seen two goalless draws.

My prediction

After predicting 3-0 to Hull last time, and actually being fairly close, I’m feeling distinctly optimistic for this game. I think Zigic can spearhead our attack to victory and provide a first goal for Wes Thomas, who I hope plays. I reject the notion that without King we’re powerless in front of goal, because if anything I believe Thomas will give us more work rate up front than King would, which is something we’ve actually lacked in recent weeks. And Lovenkrands, though he has underperformed this season, he has shown flashes of real quality. For some reason, I reckon we’ll get an early goal to break Blackpool’s resistance, and then hopefully then the rest of the evening will fall into place. Fighting talk. 3-1.

Other predictions

James Richmond- I’m going for a repeat of the reverse fixture at Bloomfield Road and a 1-1 draw. Burke on target for Blues.

Rob Wildey- Tough game for Blues as Paul Ince will have to claim his first win as Blackpool boss sooner or later, and I feel that Tom Ince will give us the runaround. I’m going for 2-1 to Blackpool.

@GreggCollet- Tough game I think, Blackpool will take the lead but I think we’ll hold out for a draw. 2-2 I’ll say, Elliott & Zigic.

@tiltonstruggler- Expecting 3 or 4 changes from the weekend. I fancy Blues to get something and I don’t think we’ll lose. I’ll go 1-1, maybe a 2-1 win.

@benlowe22- 1-1 Burke to put us ahead

@onlyonbcfcblues- Think Lovenkrands will start with Burke behind, Wes Thomas on the bench. Blues being blues will nick this 2-1, need 8 points to be safe.

Gabriel Sutton

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