Thursday, 26 December 2013

Away Days; Blackpool

Christmas is the best day of the year for me.  It is for most and I hope you all enjoyed yours. Its not the best day of the year for the Stone Island wearers who love to remind us every year on Twitter that they prefer Boxing Day because of the football. Strange, really strange but even I appreciate the existence of the full programme of football fixtures that welcomes us on December 26th - what better way to blow off the cobwebs left behind by a day of eating, drinking and being merry than football? With Leeds facing a trip to Bloomfield Road however, the eating and drinking was always going to continue. The "being merry" would have to be dependent on the final result. 
Me being arty.

Boxing Day is a special occasion in our household as, if Leeds are drawn away, its the only away game Mum makes every year. She loves it, bless her. I love it too, means I don't have to fork out on coach travel. It also means we never leave the house on time. After instructing Kez we'd be leaving at twelve, we were still watching Hull-Man United at half past one, before eventually leaving. The pre-planned pub stop en-route was delayed until we actually arrived in the crown jewel of Lancashire and located the Wetherspoons right on the Blackpool sea front. At this point, clearly still full of Christmas spirit I got excited and kindly took my Snapchat friends on a tour of my surroundings. Everyone has probably seen both Blackpool Tower and the sea before and they were all probably muttering for me to fuck off but it isn't my problem if they're playing the Grinch.

A £6.19 all-day brunch went down as nicely as it always does in a pub full of bald heads, Adidas suede trainers and Stone Island. If you can't tell already, this particular fad is one I aren't a fan of. Mum stuck out like a sore thumb sat sweetly doing her puzzle book and proudly announcing to us that she'd just remembered the Warwickshire town linked with writer George Eliot. Nuneaton, I think. I couldn't care, I was more bothered that Hartlepool had just equalised against Chesterfield, ruining my good-looking accumulator in the process.

Blackpool's Matt Smith
The team news filtered through as we made our way to the ground, with two changes being made from Saturday's draw with Barnsley. Luke Murphy was banned after picking up his fifth yellow card and was replaced with Michael Tonge, whilst Alex Mowatt was rested with Michael Brown also starting. No comment. Blackpool remained unchanged, starting as they always do with Tom Ince. I know, I'm hilarious.

To give Ince some credit he is an outstanding footballer, a shining light in a very average Blackpool side. He started brightly as both sides probed rather than penetrated, a recurring theme throughout. Another recurring theme is the lack of quality on Leeds' final ball, one that was reciprocated by both sides in an edgy opening. The only really highlight was Michael Brown being Michael Brown, somehow escaping a clear yellow card after scything down Basham in front of the Leeds faithful.

Of late, Leeds have been solid if not overly impressive and, if not for Ross McCormack, might have struggled for goals. Here they took the lead thanks to the most unlikely of sources as Lee Peltier notched his first for the club since his move from Leicester. Danny Pugh found space down the left before delivering a deep cross met by Peltier who's header looped over Gilks and into the far corner. Scenes. Limbs flying, lovebites everywhere.

Not a bad view for Bloomfield Road
Blackpool are on a shocking run and the goal ruined what had been a good performance so far. They threatened through a succession of corners and were unlucky not to be level as Kirk Broadfoot headed over the bar from a good position. Leeds were practically playing on the counter attack already and it nearly worked wonders, but after being sent through on goal, McCormack was crowded out well on the edge of the area. 

Chances were few and far between and fifteen minutes into the second half, Leeds were strangely rather comfortable, even coming closest to scoring next as Jason Pearce hooked a corner wide. Blackpool threatened with Jack Robinson firing just over from thirty yards, but otherwise a Leeds back five that had kept two consecutive clean sheets was again looking firm. It was eventually to be breached by who other than the talismanic Ince, but a helping hand was needed. Leeds could only half clear a free kick and were rewarded by a thumping drive from Ince that took a huge deflection before finding the back of Paddy Kenny's goal. 

The equaliser increased the tension stakes and preceded a moment of real controversy, with Blackpool again getting lucky. McCormack appeared to be clean through on Gilks' goal before being impeded by Broadfoot. A free-kick and yellow card was awarded by Scott Mathieson when everybody in the ground and watching on television expected red. Leeds felt hard done by and the resulting free kick was rushed and dumped into the wall. 

Blackpool had the last, golden opportunity in the 75th minute when Ince, who else, curled a delightful effort just wide. From then on, the home side pressed and looked the more likely to score but didn't produce a meaningful chance. They did succeed in something though as, for the sixth time in a matter of weeks, they managed to finish the game with less than eleven men. Justice was arguably done twenty minutes too late as Broadfoot received his marching orders for a horrific tackle on Mariusz Zaliukas. 

A point is a point and a point on the road is a good one. It would have been a very good one had we beaten Barnsley on Saturday. Its not a great one considering the poor performance and the fact we have to travel to Nottingham Forest on Sunday. But we're unpredictable - we might stick six past them. 

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