The last time Bristol Rovers faced Blackpool at home, they were coming off a victory over Oxford, last weekend they were defeated at home by Oxford. As the Tangerines were beating the U’s Rovers were being thumped by promotion bound and recently relegated Wigan. What happened to Rovers last weekend?
There is no doubt there was a sense of disappointment at the Mem as seemingly promotion bound Sunderland gave a very efficient and effective performance to take all 3 points and Rovers were never really a threat. Graham Coughlan will be looking for a more penetrating performance from his team this weekend.
The big news from the Fylde coast this week has come off the field, with Owen Oysten and his daughter both being thrown off the Board of the Lancashire Club. With the financial strains affecting everyone from the players to the tea-lady, Manager Terry McPhillips says he can already feel the buzz and excitement around the town, as thousands of Blackpool fans prepare to return home to Bloomfield Road next weekend.
Speaking at his press conference to preview this weekend’s game, he also revealed that the Court Appointed Receiver Paul Cooper and new Executive and Managing Director Ben Hatton had now addressed the first-team squad about the club's current situation.
“We’ve been expecting something to happen and it sort of has happened this week. We’ve met with the receivers and the new board members and they’ve met the players. The receiver is in to do his job and he’s very professional and good. He’s told us to just carry on doing what we do, so we have. They spoke to the players and said pretty much the same.”
“There is obviously an excitement around the place. People are buzzing in the street and all gearing towards a big crowd here against Southend.”
Bizarrely Oysten’s daughter Natalie Christopher attended a Football League quarterly meeting in Derby on Thursday despite being removed from the club's board on Monday. Christopher was meant to be prevented from joining the meeting, as she no longer has any role with the club her father Owen Oyston controlled from 1988 to last week.
That was when receiver Paul Cooper took the reins after being appointed by a judge to sell the club in order to settle the Oyston family's £25million debt to former club president Valeri Belokon.
Cooper sent club secretary Steve Edwards to Derby to represent Blackpool and Press Association Sport understands there is now considerable annoyance at Bloomfield Road about Christopher's involvement in the meeting. There is still a matter of a possible 12 point deduction hanging over the club.
In the game at Bloomfield Road, Oxford threatened early on when Rob Dickie nodded Luke Garbutt's floated free kick into the side netting before the half hour. Then the home team’s Mark Howard diverted Mark Sykes' dipping effort behind, 10 minutes from half time, with the Blackpool stopper later denying the Oxford man from distance.
Howard was powerless to stop Graham's sublime curling free kick, which flew over the wall and nestled in the top corner five minutes from the break to give Oxford a surprise lead.
As the second-half got underway, Josh Ruffels headed Nick Anderton's dangerous 53rd minute cross to safety with Armand Gnanduillet poised to draw Blackpool level.
Curtis Tilt went close to levelling the scores before the hour after rising highest to meet Harry Pritchard's free-kick as Blackpool pressed, while substitute Jordan Thompson nearly took advantage of some uncertain Oxford defending with less than 20 minutes left.
Garbutt tested Howard with a low drive and Blackpool's Joe Dodoo stung Eastwood's palms at the other end with a powerful strike as Oxford managed to hang on and
Inflict Blackpool's first League One loss since New Year's Day.
Speaking after the game Blackpool Boss Terry McPhillips said, “It was one of those days. They came here to defend their half which you expect. In training the last couple of days the lads have done brilliantly, patterns of play and all that and we looked dangerous. But we didn’t do enough.”
“They’re desperate for the points where they are in the table and it’s a great win for them. They haven’t got bad players, they’ve got good players that’s for sure, it’s an expensive team and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
“We didn’t play as well as we know we can play and it’s disappointing not to back up the two draws away from home with a win here. But today, we’ll have to take it on the chin because we haven’t done well enough.”
There have been a total of 35 meetings between the clubs over the years and 32 0f those games came in the years between 1974-2000. The first game took place at Eastville on 28 September 1974, after Rovers promotion to Division Two and the away team came away with both points (just two for a win in those days). Paul Hart, Micky Walsh and substitute Stuart Parker scoring for Blackpool and Bruce Bannister scoring a penalty for Rovers. The return match at Bloomfield Road on 15 March 1975 saw a battling 0-0 draw.
Things were better for Rovers the following season as they won 4-1 in Lancashire on 25 October 1975, Wilf Smith, Gordon Fearnely (2) and Bruce Bannister with another penalty for Rovers and Alan Suddick for Blackpool.
The biggest margin in these games came on 21 February 1987 when goals by Paul Stewart (2), Mark Taylor (2), Craig Madden and Mike Davis saw Blackpool notch 6 to Rovers single goal from David Mehew.
Possibly GasHeads all tie favourite game would have taken place on 5 May 1990 as Rovers secured the 1989-90 Third Division Championship with a 3-0 win at Bloomfield Road David Mehew, Phil Purnell and Paul Nixon all scored to score a famous victory.
Prior to last season the teams crossed paths in Bristol was on 2 October 1999 as Rovers won a Division 2 game 3-1 Jamie Cureton (2) and Jason Roberts scored for Rovers and John Murphy for Blackpool.
In last season’s game at the Mem, Blackpool took an early lead when Jimmy Ryan's long ball put Kyle Vassell in behind Rovers' back-line and the striker fired a low shot in off the foot of a post.
Rovers hit back five minutes before the break when Billy Bodin buried a left-footed drive from a narrow angle, having been put in by a Chris Lines through ball.
Ryan Sweeney, who replaced Joe Partington at the start of the second half, stooped to nod home Billy Bodin's in-swinging cross from the right with six minutes left.
The points were made safe in added time when Ellis Harrison’s ran at the Blackpool defence before netting with a low shot from 15 yards.
There have been long spells of each club dominating the points in these fixtures. Between February 1976 and September 1977; Rovers Won 3 and Drew 1 of the 4 games. Even better between April 1988 and March 1995 they Won 6 and Drew 3 of the 9 games. Immediately a lean spell started, and between October 1995 and November 1998 it was Blackpool who Won 5 and Drew 2 of the 7 games. Of the last 6 games played Rovers have Won 4, Drawn 1 and Lost 1.
Tangerine’s defender Donervon Daniels believes his team were set up wrong against Oxford United and suffered as a consequence, but is looking to Saturday’s game to bounce right back, “We’ve had a few good runs throughout the season and when they come to an end you just get your head back up and keep going.”
“I think everybody knows the mental strength we have as a squad, so this isn’t really going to faze us. It’s frustrating for everyone involved but we’re a strong bunch on and off the pitch and we’ll just dust ourselves down, talk about it collectively and go again.”
The Seasiders stuck with the diamond formation that had proved successful at Charlton Athletic, where they drew 0-0. But it didn’t prove as effective against Oxford, who boosted their survival hopes with a first win on the road since April 2018.
Prior to the match, Boss McPhillips had identified that Oxford were susceptible from crosses, yet he still put his faith in the narrow diamond system. This left the full-backs Daniels and Nick Anderton as the only outlets out wide, resulting in a lot of Blackpool’s attacking play coming through the middle.
“It was a frustrating game and a frustrating result, not the one we were looking for and hoping for. There were some good bits, though. They put an amazing free-kick into our net but I don’t think they did anything to really challenge us.”
“We were probably a little bit off our game in terms of moving the ball and how quickly we did it compared to normal. We had waves of pressure and put some balls in the box, but we never brought the best out of their keeper and that was frustrating.”
“I think a lack of creativity is a strong way of putting it. We had a lot of the ball if you check the stats, and I think the way we went out there to play almost played into their hands by playing through the middle. It felt like our best chances would come from the outside. But our system, the diamond, almost played into their hands, in the first half especially.”
“When we realised second half we started to hit the diagonals from Tilty (Curtis Tilt) or Ben (Heneghan), or when (Harry) Pritchard dropped to get the ball from deep. That opened up the midfield. While I thought we had a lot of the ball, we never had that cutting-edge clinical-ness.”