Half time, advantage Blackpool!

Cohen gave the Reds a short-lived lead...

Blackpool – 2
Nottingham Forest – 1

It was a case of third time unlucky for the Reds as Blackpool had the beating of them over ninety minutes for the third time this season – setting up a tense return leg at the City Ground on Tuesday.  The Reds must beat Blackpool over ninety minutes, and by two or more goals if they want to avoid extra time.

A thousand or so Reds fans once again struggled to make any noise in the open stand, but were given early cheer with a sublime Chris Cohen goal to put Forest in to the lead, but unfortunately for the travelling Red Army they had to bear witness to – for the first time – Forest falling behind in a fixture having taken the lead.  Since this fixture is two-legged, I’m sticking with it being half time so the stat still stands!

A surprise (ish) return for Paul McKenna saw Billy opt for the cautious approach I predicted – but with the likes of Raddy, Anderson, Tys and Cohen to support lone striker Dexter up front.  I wasn’t sure whether he’d do the Gunter-Perch exchange at fullback or stick with Lynch who had a couple of decent enough games at the end of the season.

Perch    Morgan    Wilson    Gunter
Tyson    Cohen    McKenna    Majewski     Anderson

The midfield was pretty fluid so I’ve put them in a flat  formation – but generally as you’d expect McKenna was sitting, Raddy was often supporting attack, Cohen was everywhere and Tys and Ando weren’t adverse to cutting in (when on their ‘wrong’ side) and also swapping wings occasionally.

It was a positive start for the Reds, after swapping ends it took less than five minutes for us to attempt an assault on the Tangerine goal.  Nathan Tyson did well to lose a couple of defenders but will be ruing the inaccuracy of his shot which was comfortably over!  The home side weren’t adverse to attacking either, Camp punching away a cross from Charlie Adam.

Phil Dowd issued his first yellow card early doors too, after Evatt was unable to deal with Tys without fouling.  Certainly those of you who watched with the benefit of TV replays will be better placed to advise me, but I thought the referee had a pretty awful game in both directions – but the balance of his decisions definitely tended to making him a bit of a ‘homer’.

Before we get onto referee moaning though, the Reds took the lead seemingly out of the blue just shy of the quarter of an hour mark.  The home side failed to clear a ball direct from Camp, Baptiste only got the ball as far as Raddy who found Chris Cohen on the edge of the box who looked up and took the opportunity to curl and dip a wonderful shot beyond Gilks into the top corner with the outside of his left foot.

Moments later we were close to doubling our lead, Cohen whipped in a freekick from the right and Wes looked close to getting something on it at the back post which could’ve at least been a shot hopefully on target.  But the home side, dangerous as we well know, took around as long as Forest had from kick-off to fashion their equaliser.

It was reminiscent in some ways to the goal they scored at the City Ground all that time ago – because our defence just fell asleep for a moment.  That doesn’t detract from the decent build-up for the goal though – Coleman was the architect really with a great run from the right, finding Evatt who scuffed a cross in to Southern who scuffed his shot to beat Camp, and Wils on the line.

The Reds were doubly unlucky not to re-take the lead shortly after, Raddy broke well and found Anderson bursting down the left – he put in an excellent cross which Dex met with a looping header that beat the ‘keeper, but hit the bar and fell for Tys whose ambitious acrobatic volley was bloody close to finding the net too, ending up just over.

As the half closed Forest mounted further pressure – a couple of corners culminated in an Anderson flick-on to Morgan who composed himself to strike powerfully at goal but found his effort cleared off the line.  Blackpool defended resolutely though and were able to weather the storm to half time with the scores level.

Blackpool were immediately on the front foot in the second half, and Wes needed to be alert to deny Ormerod with a deflection.  Ten minutes into the half they got handed a great lifeline by Phil Dowd, a tangle between Perch and Campbell resulted in a penalty I was convinced wasn’t warranted at the time – watching the replay, I’d have been annoyed if that happened to us and wasn’t given.

It was duly despatched by Charlie Adam in confident style, striking firmly into the bottom left corner and sending Camp the wrong way in the process.  A rare decision in our favour (as it seemed!) from Dowd gave us a quick opportunity to equalise with a free-kick, but Cohen’s chipped effort to the near post was over (and probably covered by the goalkeeper even if it wasn’t over).

The Reds were struggling to pass the ball, and the home side were looking dangerous at times.  DJ Campbell will be probably still kicking himself that he spooned the ball over when he had time and space to do so much better.  Shortly after Dowd continued his incompetence by awarding the home side a freekick in a dangerous position after Wils cleanly took the ball from Taylor-Flecter who went down like a sack of spuds.  He got booked for it too.

Adam struck the ball firmly into the wall, and shortly after Billy tried to freshen things up by replacing Blackstock and Majewski with McGoldrick and Earnshaw.  Whilst I’d never dream of suggesting I know better than Billy, because I don’t, I thought we could’ve done with some change prior to this – with less than fifteen minutes to go.

McGugan was the last throw of the dice for this leg, coming on for Tys pretty much at the death.  He did have a couple of nice touches but little time to impact the match, a pity as he looked up for it and we know how effective he can be as an impact sub.  Chris Cohen offered the last notable action of the game with an excellent shot from range in the final moments, with Gilks making a cracking save to deny him his second goal.

All in all, ignoring my referee moaning (there was a moment when I thought there was a handball in their area which naturally he didn’t see), it’s hard to feel too hard done by in terms of the result.  Forest were excellent at times in the first half but struggled in the second whilst Blackpool were fairly consistent throughout – so maybe they deserve the edge they have.

In terms of match previews – there’s not much point in doing one beyond a paragraph here.  For Forest, our mandate has to be to win – quite a simple objective.  Ian Holloway is left with the conundrum of whether to come to the City Ground to defend their slender advantage or play their natural game and work on extending it.

Certainly I’ve never considered Blackpool the underdogs they like to portray themselves as in the media.  As they’ve demonstrated a frustrating number of times they are capable of getting results against Forest by hook or by crook – and also a worrying propensity to get penalties awarded against us whilst we never do against them!

It promises to be a tense evening but hopefully the Reds fans – in numbers and in more suitable environs – will be able to better play their part in the game.  Credit to the Blackpool supporters, ignoring the tacking clap-assisting things many had, they certainly made plenty of noise at Bloomfield Road to get behind their team.  We should follow that lead at the City Ground.