Saturday, 12 December 2009

Middlesbrough vs Blackpool 8/12/2009

Blackpool 3 - Boro 0

By Tim Ketteringham

Before the game there was a renewed atmosphere around the Riverside stadium, Boro were back after the 5-1 mauling of fellow promotion hopefuls QPR the previous Saturday. If we could win this game we would be back in the playoff mix and then looking to reign in the top two over the festive period. Blackpool, with only 1 win away all season (back in early September against a disjointed Nott’s Forest), would provide the opposition.

The game started with Boro lining up 4-4-2, with Johnson returning at the expense of Yeates after a family illness prevented him from travelling to London to face QPR. Blackpool, like most teams who visit the Riverside set up 4-5-1, with the well travelled Gary Taylor Fletcher leading the line.

The early exchanges were in Boro’s favour, but Blackpool’s tight shape prevented Boro breaking through. On a rare attack Johnson got free on the right hand side, fed the ball back to Williams who swung a cross in, which Kitson headed downward only to be saved by the keeper’s legs and spin away to safety.

Blackpool worked hard to keep pace with Boro in the first 20 minutes and it paid dividends when a long ball caught Boro cold. A diagonal ball was played out to the diminutive Branan on the wing and he slipped in side Williams before sliding in Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Boro still had chance to deal with the threat when Sean St Ledger had chance to clear his lines but his weak tackle meant Taylor-Fletcher looked up with the ball at his feet and his simple finish easily beat the on rushing Jones.

The Boro crowd groaned with discontent, but we could get back in this, we had to get back in this. Only the crowd believed this though as the players began to press the self destruct button, Blackpool running riot for the 5 minutes after the goal with Ormerod and the excellent Branan pushing on to support the very mobile Taylor-Fletcher. The crowd were incensed, as was Brad Jones in the Boro goal, Williams bearing the brunt of his, and the crowds, frustration.

Just when it seemed we were getting a foot on the ball again we switched off. Taylor-Fletcher stood arm aloft between the two centre backs and Branan, simply lofted the ball into him. Again Boro had time to clear, but again we tried to nip it of his toes, and once again it was left at his feet for him to slide it home.

The away fans were ecstatic, the home fans enraged. They players stood looking at each other, both Wheater and StLedger looking sheepish as they knew they had cost us the two first half goals.

We simply never recovered from this in the first half and the half petered out with not a single shot on goal since Kitson’s early header.

Half time: Boo’s and MFC 0 – 2 Blackpool

The second half began with McMahon coming on for Williams. Williams it seemed had paid the price for the poor first half display but in reality it could have been anyone of Wheater/StLedger or him. The crowd still sensed we might be able to get back into it with an early goal, and as the first 20 min of the second half passed Boro became more and more confident, without creating that elusive chance. Kitson went close when a sharp cross from Lita was steered just wide and then when Arca was shaping to shoot the ball was nipped of his toes. Surely the goal was coming…..

…it was. Blackpool continued to be a threat on the break moving both with and without the ball and the captain Charlie Adam broke free from his midfield position and beat a couple of weak challenges before excellently steering his shot inside Jones’ left hand post. Game over.

Mass exodus followed with thousands heading for the exists with disgruntled mumblings under their breath. Blackpool celebrated and how they deserved it.

Boro made 2 more substitutions when Gary O’Neil had to be stretchered off in what looked like a bad fall and the Yeates replacing the disappointing Arca. Yeates showed a great work ethic in his time on the pitch and created a couple of decent balls but the game was lost and again Blackpool sat back and soaked up what little attacking threat boro caused.

The final whistle came with a small boo, only because most people had left some 15 minutes before the end!

In summary, individual mistakes cost us goals but until we learn to break teams down at home we will struggle. We need to force teams back, take a gamble. It was all to defensive.

Only a couple of Boro players came out of the game with any credit, Mark Yeates for his enthusiasm and direct approach and Emmanuel Pogatetz for his excellent defending and commitment.

Man of the match: Branan (Blackpool) – caused Boro problems all night long with close control and slick passing.

Player Ratings

Jones - 5
Pogatetz – 6
Wheater – 4
StLedger – 3
Williams – 3
Arca – 4
O’Neil – 5
Osbourne – 5
Johnson – 5
Kitson – 5
Lita – 5

McMahon – 6
Yeates – 6
Digard – 6

Boro Man of the Match - None! Blackpool MoM was Branan
Attendance - 18,089
Game Highlight - The final whistle

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