Blackpool 0-0 Stoke: Stalemate leaves Seasiders in relegation trouble
Published 17:18 30/04/11 By Derick Allsop
It was the perfect day for a trip to the seaside – as long as you were heading for the beach instead of Bloomfield Road.
Clear blue skies and warm sunshine provided a surreal backdrop for Blackpool’s grim struggle to avoid relegation.
By the end of this tedious ordeal they had a point that keeps their heads just above the bottom three and were thankful for that.
Stoke City, their Premier League status secure (they are sitting pretty in 10th) and an FA Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley on May 14 to come, could have been excused taking to the sands and deckchairs.
Morale has seldom been higher for the Potters. They thrashed Bolton 5-0 in their FA Cup semi-final and they have had a good run in the league as well.
They produced what little meaningful football there was – and fashioned the one glaring chance.
That opportunity fell to the recently prolific Kenwyne Jones and only he can explain how he missed the target by an embarrassing margin.
The fierce shooting of Glenn Whelan also threatened to reflect Stoke’s marginal second-half superiority as Charlie Adam and company toiled to find any fluency or conviction.
Adam’s inability to impose himself on this contest seriously undermined Blackpool’s prospects of forcing an unlikely victory, and ultimately a draw was something to cherish rather than scorn.
Blackpool’s first blank at home this season was an ominous sign of the times.
They rarely stretched or turned the Stoke defence and they were woefully short of ideas.
With trips to Tottenham and Manchester United to come, they will regard their last home match, against Bolton on Cup final day, as crucial.
Blackpool manager Ian Holloway insists that he and his team can stay up and is backing the club’s supporters to carry them to that improbable objective.
Holloway said: “We didn’t hurt them enough and weren’t quite flowing today, but we’ve come out of our doldrums and anybody would have taken this at the start of the season. Our fans will be up for it, especially at Man United.
“We’ve created a monster by giving the area a dream and now we could shatter those dreams, but I don’t think the people have ever had such an uplift.”
Stoke manager Tony Pulis echoed the rallying call on behalf of his old friend, Holloway.
Pulis said: “Blackpool are fighting for their lives and you’ve got to give them some credit.
“Their fans are great and they’ve got to take the roof off for Ian in their last home match.
“It was a tough game for us, the third in a week, but the attitude of our players was terrific. Great strikers can also miss chances and there will be no problem with Kenwyne.”
DJ Cambell, such an important attacking player for Blackpool, flashed an early warning to Stoke with an instinctive header that found the Jimmy Armfield Stand.
Rory Delap’s long throw provided Stoke with the familiar weapon of retaliation and Blackpool were grateful to clear with relatively little difficulty.
Jones threatened to present more of a problem as he surged towards goal, but Ian Evatt intervened with a perfectly timed tackle.
Matt Phillips resisted the clutches of Ryan Shawcross at the other end only to run out of momentum and angle.
Jones had another run behind the Blackpool defence on the stroke of half-time and he should have scored.
The striker evaded Matthew Gilks’ desperate reach and the covering Evatt obliged by falling over, yet incredibly Jones pushed his shot yards wide of an open goal.
Blackpool will need all the luck they can muster to stay up and just might have used up their ration in that one, bizarre moment.
Stoke were under pressure from Adam’s corner at the start of the second half and Asmir Begovic had to react smartly to repel the lurking Phillips.
Begovic was helpless minutes later, when Keith Southern’s speculative effort took a deflection off Campbell and veered inches wide.
Gilks had to respond to Whelan’s long-range drive and did so with an athletic save, while Jones had a header blocked as Stoke sensed a breakthrough.
Blackpool had to see off another blast from Whelan, a free-kick from Marc Wilson and yet another Whelan effort.
Holloway’s side were able to offer little in reply.
But this point might yet prove vital in the final reckoning.