10 Yrs ago Pool 0 Reading 2

11 August 2011 10:18
Any hopes that Blackpool had for continuing their storming end to last season were dashed at Bloomfield Road this afternoon, as the visitors, tipped to be Champions, looked faster and hungrier, and took their chances better. There is no need for Blackpool to despair - we knew this was going to be a very stiff challenge, and they were by no means overwhelmed. The home side had chances to go ahead before Reading scored, and to equalise before the match was put beyond their reach, but they failed to take them. There were also tactical lessons to be learned, and some encouraging performances from the new players.Despite the eventual result, it is worth comparing the scene this afternoon with the same Saturday a year ago. Then we were settling down to watch Hull in the Third Division, in a stadium which was an embarrassing wreck, with no obvious hope of improvement. Today we were watching Second Division football again, and for the first time in two decades Blackpool Tower was virtually invisible from the South Stand. The new North and West Stands which are now half completed give a clear idea of how impressive the new stadium will be when it is done - the contrast with the roof of the East Paddock, looking like a battered toy by comparison, is quite striking.On a filthy afternoon, with rain sweeping across the ground in sheets, Blackpool lined up with Barnes in goal, Hughes and Reid in the centre of defence, and Parkinson and Jaszczun at fullback. Wellens and O'Kane were in the centre of midfield, Simpson to the right and Hills to the left, with Murphy and Ormerod up front. Only Coid from the first choice eleven was missing, with an injury which will keep him out for two or three games. On the bench were Clarkson, Collins, MacKenzie, Bullock and Pullen - four midfielders and an on loan keeper.In the first minute a pass back was made to Barnes, and the crowd held its breath, but he kicked it upfield with no trouble. The opening exchanges lacked shape, as you might have expected in the conditions, but Blackpool looked the more lively side in the first fifteen minutes. Most of the action was coming up the right wing - Hills simply couldn't get going down the left. Simpson and Parkinson swung crosses over, but the forwards could make nothing of them. The best chance in the early stages came when a half-shot was blocked and came back across to Ormerod, whose snap-shot was hit with venom towards the top corner, and was well saved. A ball was played across the edge of the area to Simpson, who controlled it and tried a low shot, but it went wide on the right. From a corner the ball came out to O'Kane, who took his time and lined up a shot for the far top corner, but it floated over.After about fifteen minutes, Reading started to become stronger and, although they never took complete control, they were the better team for most of the rest of the game. The problems basically stemmed from midfield, where O'Kane never looked totally comfortable, and Wellens was anonymous. In every area the Blackpool players were never given a moment to control the ball - everyone was under pressure as soon as they received a pass. By contrast the Reading players always had more time, and there was usually someone unmarked as an outlet. In defence Reid looked sluggish - how he won Man of the Match is a mystery to me, Hughes looked much sharper, making several good tackles, and would have been among my nominations. There was a lot of pressure up the Reading left wing, but Hughes and Parkinson handled this reasonably well, and the dangerous moments came when Reading broke up the middle. They were very fast to exploit a chance, and it looked as though they would score when they broke free, right of centre. The forward advanced on Barnes, and then slid the ball past him towards the far corner. Parkinson, sliding in along with an attacker, made a fine tackle and the ball rolled into the grateful arms of Barnes. Only then did we realise that the final pass had been judged offside, but it was a warning.The speed of Reading's breaks was in contrast to Blackpool, who still struggle to get bodies forward in the box to support an attack. This cost them dear when a short pass on the left allowed Ormerod to weave his way into the box. He rolled the ball past the keeper and across the goal, but there was no-one there to convert an easy chance. Soon afterwards Reading were on the attack - a ball was crossed from the left, it went beyond the far post where a forward turned quickly and fired in a fierce shot which Barnes did very well to turn around the post. However when the corner came over a Reading player ran in late, unmarked, and headed a simple goal from about eight yards out. Poor defence, and the heads went down. There were about fifteen minutes left to the break, and Blackpool did well to avoid conceding another.After half time we hoped to see a revival of Blackpool's fortunes, but McMahon had worked no magic, and Reading were still first to the ball nearly every time. One change whichwas very apparent, however, was the way John Hills came into the game up the left wing. Having done very little in the first half, he became more influential as the game went on, while Simpson dropped out of contention. However the Reading defence were well organised, and made it difficult to get a cross over, or to take advantage when one did come. The other thing which was noticeable was that we never saw balls played wide for Ormerod to chase - it may be that Blackpool felt the defence would be able to handle this, but I am surprised that we didn't see it attempted. Blackpool had a good chance when Murphy was fouled, just outside the area, but while Simpson lined up for a shot, someone else (O'Kane or Parkinson) tried a chip over the wall, which went limply over the bar.Just after the hour, Blackpool made a double change, bringing off Simpson and Wellens, replacing them with MacKenzie and Bullock. They immediately looked more dangerous, both playing up the right wing, working well together and with the forwards. Almost immediately Murphy won the ball and played it to Bullock, who released Ormerod on the right into the box. He reached the by-line and rolled the ball perfectly across the goal, but once again the cupboard was bare, no Blackpool shirts to be seen, and a wonderful chance went missing. Not long afterwards the roles were reversed, and Bullock took the ball, running past his man into the box, before crossing it to Ormerod, in the middle and only about six yards out. With an open goal gaping he stumbled, with the ball stuck beneath his feet, until eventually he took a wild swing and drove it well wide of the post. It was back to the bad old Brett of earlier last season - three months ago he would have swept the ball into the net without a thought.With about 75 minutes gone, Reid was injured in the centre of the pitch, and went off for a short while for treatment - it seemed to be his back which was the problem. He came back on, but this was a mistake which was cruelly exposed very quickly. Blackpool were on the attack, but it broke down and Reading played it up their right wing. Reid just couldn't get across to cover on half way, and a Reading player raced free, angling in on the goal from the right. He had three other forwards with him, but he didn't need them, driving a fierce shot past Barnes into the net. Note that Reading had three players racing forward in support of a breakaway, although they were away from home and in the lead - an important lesson for Blackpool.Now, too late, Reid came off, replaced by Collins, with O'Kane dropping back into defence, where he looked more comfortable. In fact Blackpool played their best football of the game in this final spell, with Hills running at the defence again and again. One of these, up the left of centre, led to him being brutally blocked just outside the area, with the defender lucky to receive only a yellow card. However the free kick was again wasted, with O'Kane hitting a poor chip. Another run from Hills, coming in across the front edge of the area, led to a pass to Ormerod, on the other side, from which he placed a shot into the net. However the flag was up, and it looked a fair decision. Reading were under pressure as the game came to and en, with six minutes added on, and they conceded two more yellow cards, one for time wasting and another for a foul. In the end, however, Blackpool were unable to crack the defence, and the whistle went on a 2-0 defeat.Again, it is important not to be too downhearted, but to learn some lessons. We have a lot of midfielders, and it does not seem to me that we need O'Kane in that area, not even in a defensive role. Clarkson did well in the last few games of last season, and deserves a chance. MacKenzie and Bullock looked good in the time they had on the pitch, and will provide competition for the others. There is a worrying shortage of cover for other parts of the team - O'Kane and Coid can cover in defence, and we can also look to Jones, Murphy, O'Connor and Thompson, though they are second strings. Up front, however, cover is absent altogether, and if Murphy or Ormerod is injured we will be looking at a makeshift formation to say the least. There are more difficult games coming up - we must hope Blackpool can find the net early and give themselves a chance to settle the nerves.Team (4-4-2): Barnes, Parkinson, Hughes, Reid (capt, Collins 75), Jaszczun, Simpson (Bullock 62), O'Kane, Wellens (MacKenzie 62), Hills, Ormerod, MurphySubs not used: Pullen, Clarkson