March 6, 2013 by Made In Brum
I’m staying up late tonight, having foregone the Champions League highlights, to bring you a report of our disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Blackpool. Don’t say I don’t spoil you!
3 points had to be the target for us going into the game. It was a home match against a team in a similar position to ourselves, these are the sort of matches we should be winning 2 times out of 3. ‘Should’, of course, being the key word here. I was a little concerned about the threat of Tom Ince down their right side, but hoped Ferguson, having experience at playing left back in the past, could help out Hancox and nullify his threat.
For the first 30 minutes of the game, Blackpool impressed me. They passed the ball around quite simply, but with a constant sense of movement, tempo and purpose, and all of their play seemed to revolve around their much lauded whizzkid, Tom Ince.
Ince was Blackpool’s livewire tonight, and he signified his intentions early on. He found the side netting almost a matter of seconds into the game, and would have created a one-on-one opportunity for himself 15 minutes in, had it not been for a superbly-timed last ditch challenge from Hancox. Experienced heads Davies and Robinson – not for the only time tonight in Robinson’s case – were caught out of position to leave the young left-back exposed to Ince. It looked a worrying situation given the England U21 star’s explosive pace, and a mistimed tackle would have unquestionably led to a red card for Hancox. He seemed to have evidenced his growth in experience by timing it perfectly though, to leave a rather disgruntled Ince lying flat on his face.
Blues grew into it as the half went on. On the half-hour mark, Peter Lovenkrands found a chance. He latched onto Nikola Zigic’s trademark knock-down, and got to the ball ahead of keeper Matt Gilks, but could only flick it across the face of goal.
Before Blues got on top though, it was a case of one good, one bad for Butland. He uncharacteristically dropped a cross from deep, but he atoned for his error only two seconds later, by producing a fine reflex save to deny Gary Taylor-Fletcher his first goal for 8 games. It was a save you wouldn’t have needed to make if you’d have actually caught the ball though, Jack! No brownie points for you there…
Although Blues had more of the ball from then on, the half looked to end goalless before Curtis Davies powered home a cracking header, unchallenged, from Burke’s corner. And it could have got better just before the interval. Burke bombed down the right, something he’d done nothing of for most of the first half, but the shear force of his cross meant Zigic could only get vague contact at the near post, and was unable to direct the ball as he would have liked.
With the momentum very much swinging in our favour after the goal, I thought the interval had come at the wrong time for us, yet it didn’t seem to disrupt our rythym in the early stages of the second half. Lovenkrands ghosted in from the left with the ball, you could say was unlucky to hit the post, but he also had the earlier opportunity to square the ball to Zigic, who was well-placed to score.
On 70, Clark made a questionable decision, which is not exactly unheard of him. He took off Hancox and stuck Wade Elliott on the left side of midfield, and moving Ferguson to left-back. I think it was a poor substitution. Hancox, with Ferguson often tracking back, seemed to be holding his own against Ince, and wasn’t injured at all. At the time we were actually winning, so I fail to understand why Clark thought taking off a defender and put on a midfielder would help. Although Ferguson can play at left-back, when winning a game, you’ve surely got to apply the philosophy: ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix’. The substitution made little sense to me.
With 15 minutes to go, we lost our lead and Blackpool found themselves an equalizer against the run of play. Kirk Broadfoot, the man who left Rangers last summer (whoever replaces him there has got big shoes to fill), nodded home Neal Eardley’s corner to restore parity.
After that goal, Blues looked to try and find a winner from somewhere. Lovenkrands, who had had a bit of a hapless evening if not for lack of trying, came off and Wes Thomas was brought on. Chris Burke played a key part in the admittedly not-so grand finale of the match. Whenever he ran with the ball down the right, which he did several times, I had a genuine feeling that he could conjure something up for us out of nothing, because he was such a handful in the remaining minutes.
It was his cross from the right that picked out Wade Elliott. He was completely unmarked at the back post, the keeper was out of position, just 10 yards from goal, this was his big moment to take us that step closer to safety, he surely couldn’t miss, and Elliott… skied the ball into the stands. Opportunity wasted. People have been saying that the ball caught a big bobble before he hit it, which for me is a bit of an excuse. He’s a professional footballer and should be scoring such an easy chance in my book.
I left the ground with a feeling of missed opportunity, in more ways than one after Elliott’s miss. Our last two home games have been against Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool, both teams in the lower-reaches of the table, and at home those are the sort of matches we’ve got to be winning if we want to become a competent force in the Championship. Mixed with the positives of having just 2 defeats from our last 10 league games, are the negatives of only having won 1 home game from our last 9. Long gone are the days under Hughton when we could normally rely on a home game for 3 points, and in my opinion, our home form is what we need to sort out.
The draw keeps us both 5pts clear of the drop, and so frustratingly still a part of the relegation picture.
My player ratings
Butland- fumbled for the ball a couple of times, didn’t make too many saves. Only noticeably good one was making up for his error and Blackpool only had 4 shots on target. Will be tiny bit harsh and give him 4.
Caddis- most of Blackpool’s play down their right, Caddis didn’t do much. Made some decent forward runs to try and overlap Burke, just nudges him up to 6 for me.
Davies- have to rank him up for the goal, didn’t notice him make many mistakes apart from pressing too far up occassionally. 7.
Robinson- wasn’t happy with him at all. To be fair, not a natural centre-back, but caught out of position all too often. 3.
Hancox- unsure why taken off, made great last ditch challenge first half, probably didn’t play enough to get higher than 6.
Burke- terrible first half, awesome second. Lost ball far too much first, but got assist for Davies and after break his driving runs with the ball were constant threat. Would say 6 is about right.
*SPECTOR- just about my man of the match. Offered us solidity in the middle I thought, didn’t get out of position much, which kept positional structure of team in place. 7.
Reilly- didn’t see too much of him. If we’d won, I’d maybe appreciate more his ability to help his team, often be in space and play simple pass. But we haven’t, so I’m feeling less charitable towards him! 5.
Ferguson- quiet first half, but perhaps due to Clark’s instructions for him to track back and deal with Ince? That he did okay, but wasn’t so good when moved to left-back, so 4.
Zigic- his flick-ons up top found an orange shirt more often than blue, but in fairness he was tiny bit isolated. I’d say a 5, but he did get knock-down for Lovenkrand’s miss first half.
Lovenkrands- misplaced too many overly ambitious passes. Felt he did the hard work, but not the simple things well enough, plus his aforementioned misses. 4.
And the subs…
Elliott- has been poor last two games, would criticize Clark’s decision to put him on. His late miss, and fact he did nothing else, brings him down to 3 in my eyes.
Thomas- pressured keeper and back four looking for mistakes in final minutes, as we chased win. Thought his chasing down was worthy of a 6.
@kpaterso1875: I’ve seen more movement up front from Lovenkrands than I’ve seen King do all season. Why was Elliott brought on? Reilly man of the match, lost opportunities in front of goal first half, too many errors first half in defence, second half a lot better.
@Danny_B_1989: (on Elliott’s miss) if he puts his foot over the ball and plays it down he scores, he brought his foot to the ball and that’s why it went way over.
@andylorton: 2 extra points would have been gained with King tonight. Wolves might pick up after win. Worrying.
@AvrGraham: he had loads of time to put his foot on the ball then shoot. Mind you, he wasn’t the only one guilty of not scoring #zigic
By Gabriel Sutton