Any hope that meek capitulation at Old Trafford would at least be followed by six home points was swept away in a torrent of missed chances against Blackpool. And, with the exception of Darren Bent’s well-struck free kick against the bar, badly missed chances (“my granddaughter would have saved most of them and she isn’t one yet,” said someone at the Blackcats list). Pete Sixsmith sees our supposedly sleek Mercedes of attacking power cut up by the Skodas of the Premier League …
As the teams were read out before this fiasco, I mentally scratched my head to try to remember something about those who made up our opponents. Taylor-Fletcher – former Huddersfield Town; Campbell – Yeading and Brentford; Vaughan – Crewe and Real Sociedad. None of them names that trip off the tongue. They do now.
What we sat through yesterday was a mixture of all that was good about football and all that makes me wonder why on earth I wonder to spend the neck end of £500 to watch it.
As this is a Sunderland site, let’s deal with our inadequacies first, and believe me there were plenty.
We rarely opened them up with incisive passing. Our game was based on strength and running and was seriously lacking in guile and craft. The midfield three were there to push the Blackpool midfield back and to get the ball to the £30m alleged strike force we turned out.
The plan failed. Cattermole, Henderson or Meyler were consistently unable to make a telling pass or dominate the midfield. Their game was based on physical strength and the perceived ability to bully opponents, who simply refused to bow down and just kept on playing their normal game
The three man strike force was, in theory, the best way to play against Blackpool. They don’t defend particularly well and they come at you leaving gaps that players of the ability of Bent, Gyan and Welbeck should be able take advantage of.
They left the gaps all right, but the three forwards showed that when it goes wrong, it goes wrong big time. Of the three, Welbeck did okay, but the other two were reminiscent of Wayne Entwistle and Bob Lee at their worst.
Both had gilt edged chances that were blasted wide or over the top. Richard Kingson, the Blackpool keeper, took an abundance of goal kicks as the Wasteful Two screwed up one great opportunity after another.
In the second half, the plan was to get the midfield coming through to shoot from outside the box. They did, but the number of shots that went straight at Kingson was ridiculous; he rarely had to move to save.
In the meantime, Blackpool played their usual game of neat passing, quick counter attacks and last ditch defending. Vaughan was the best player on the park, delivering a sublime exhibition of how not to give the ball away and how to move the ball from one side to the other without stopping or checking back – something which we seem incapable of doing.
They were like a Skoda – underrated, looked down on, but mightily efficient and loved by those who own them. Every player gave his best. Mistakes were made (the back four were horribly square at times), but the ethos and team spirit that Holloway has inculcated into them dragged them back into the game.
They scored two goals that should have been better defended, but by the time the first one came we should have been out of sight. The introduction of Malbranque gave us a little more craft and he did at least force Kingson into his only difficult save of the match. What would Andy Reid have done on a day like this? His touch and vision were missed.
So we go into a game with Blackburn Rovers with no points from the Christmas programme. They had a good win at West Brom last time out and will be confident of picking up another three points against a team who huff and puff but who rarely dominate. Lose this one and we are really looking over our shoulders again.