“And after all that possession!” An astute observation from Blackpool captain Sam Owen when, after dominating play for the opening 10 minutes, a small mistake allowed Cheetham Hill to launch a swift counter attack which was clinically finished by the Cheetham centre forward.
Ordinarily, Blackpool heads would have gone down, but immediately from the restart the home team upped the tempo and after some slick interplay, the ball broke to Sam Robinson whose fierce strike deflected past the flailing keeper into the Cheetham net. With honours even and the match perfectly balanced Cheetham we’re awarded a penalty corner which was to prove the game’s turning point. A deliberately deflected shot glanced off Atherton and Allen into the Blackpool goal. After several minutes of umpires consultation and heated argument, the “goal” was controversially disallowed. Cheetham converted their resultant anger into positive energy on the pitch and at the same time, Blackpool inexplicably lost all shape and we’re no longer playing as a functioning unit.
Cheetham’s deep lying centre half took full advantage. With his forwards and midfield making committed and unselfish runs he was able to distribute the ball through wide open channels and Blackpool we’re left chasing shadows. The next 15 minutes saw 4 unanswered Cheetham goals all of which were created by a long, direct pass, quick control turning the Blackpool centre backs and accurate finishing. The half time whistle came as a blessed relief and captain Owen was able to re-jig the team formation and commission Boyne and Lattimer with man marking duties in an attempt to shut down Cheetham’s supply line.
The next 35 minutes saw Blackpool regain control of the match and through the hardwork of Johnson and Owen on the flanks continue to ask questions of the Cheetham defence with Hayes, Sharp and Payne all coming close. Unfortunately, the story of Balckpool’s season continued as their midfield was unable to link up with forward play and help to create clear opportunities. A failure to clear lines allowed Cheetham to notch up their sixth goal. To their credit, Blackpool continued to press forward until the final whistle.
Although not yet halfway through the season, Blackpool are now in survival mode and need to find answers at both ends of the pitch. There is no doubt that the squad has the sprit and ability to compete at this level as is proven by the amount of possession generated but alternative team formations need to be created to get the best performance on both an individual and team basis.