A lot of snow and cold winds this week. An attempted hike ended in painfully numb cheeks and a (thankfully not broken) injured foot. Football again provided an exciting outlet for pent up, locked down emotion. So here’s my immediate reaction to yet another 2-2 draw.
Result: Lincoln City 2-2 Blackpool
Blackpool’s exhilarating dominance in possession failed to reap its rewards as 20 minutes of lax defending at the match’s death allowed Lincoln to scrape back to goals and win a draw.
They played so well for 70 minutes. Aside from a few Lincoln chances and some good work by Maxwell, the slick interplay between Pool’s lines ran rings around the Imps. Centre forward Yates frequently came back to get the ball, his fast feet and changes of direction creating space for the midfield to run onto. Simms built on his excellent performance in the last match and used his physique to even greater effecy to hold the ball up and in general give their defence a lesson in frustration. Central midfielders Ward and Dougall were as in control as they were in the previous match, imperiously moving the ball from the back line to the front two, getting forward or covering back when required. They also pressed in just the right moments, winning balls back, forcing mistakes and giving Blackpool the edge in both attack and defence.
Going forwards, each player seemed to know where each other was, timing runs and the passes to perfection. You can only put it down to work from the coaching team to gel the squad and get them performing as a unit. Kaikai’s goal was a real validation of this, each player executing their roles to a t, moving and playing the ball with dexterity and urgency. Yates’s backheel to for Kaikai to run onto was inspired. Kaikai finished excellently with pace, power and timing from distance.
The goals were excellently taken and testament to Blackpool’s pressing and winning of the ball across the width of the pitch.
A lot of Blackpool's recent goals have been easy to wax lyrical about but the sheer brilliance and footballing beauty that was today’s second goal was something else. It's moments like this that make football something bigger, that elevate it above just 22 blokes on a muddy pitch trying to kick a ball between two sticks of wood. It was sublime. Yates's interplay and drawing of the defenders had been excellent the whole match, and when Simms played a neat pass to him, he took two defenders with him to backheel it first time into the path of the on-running Sullay Kaikai who took a touch and placed the ball beyond the goalkeeper from 20 yards out. The synchronicity, balance and composure made it look as if they were running on air. It was footballing ballet. Such a miraculous move quickly provokes comparisons with Barcelona and cries for Blackpool to be recognised as the greatest footballing side of the century. Such is the reactionary passion of football fans. Of course, this is the third tier of English football and such superlative dexterity exists almost exclusively for the fans lucky enough to witness it.
Lincoln defended extremely well from set pieces and Blackpool showed their versatility, learning from attacking set backs to switch it up, playing to Yates on the far side of the 6 yard box from a corner and nearly finding a way through.
The majority of the match when they were on top, Blackpool looked intelligent, energetic and determined. They play as a team with real belief. Before the last 20 minutes they were honestly fantastic. Their performances consistently demonstrate their quality. But they also demonstrate their inability (and inexperience?) to grind out results and find a way to close the match out the way their efforts merit.
Lincoln were there for the taking, after a poor run of form and a 10-day training ground closure due to Covid. But still, they’re one of the best teams in the league and we just have to put the match’s last segment down to experience and work on it for the final 8 match’s of the season.
I did wonder if we needed a plan b. Demi Mitchell wasn’t on the bench, which would be such a perverse decision you’d have to put it down to injury. Otherwise there are 2 youngsters who almost certainly wouldn’t come on, as well as too many defenders. Taking Simms off after 70 minutes and brining on (the mysteriously absent) Mitchell to go 5 across the middle would have given us numbers in the control room and enabled us to keep the ball and produce a more settled finish to the match. As it was, when they came back into it, we had few answers.
One or two chances in the match went searching, Yates failing to put his foot through the ball in the box and Embleton running onto the ball in an excellent position and sending the ball into the atmosphere. Decisions didn’t quite go our way either with their forward lucky to not get sent off inside the opening 2 minutes and an obvious handball in the box in the dying seconds going unacknowledged by the referee. Kaikai also had a free kick brilliantly saved by their keeper. On another day it might have been different, though equally we might not have put away the chances we did. A draw against a team who have won 18 matches this season is not a bad result by any stretch.
That result might put the automatic spots beyond us, however. We would need to win every match of our last 8 and pray that Posh stop winning. 3 months ago I would have given everything to be in this position. Now though, with the way Blackpool play, they’re the best team in the division and need to find a way to convert it into results.