Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Not quite Samba football... - Queen of the South vs Cove Rangers

I know I'm not driving to Bloomfield
because I've seen 6 red kites hung up above the road like giant feathered bin bags caught on the breeze. I know I'm in Scotland because the builders around here seem to have a bungalow fetish. In the Nith valley nestles Dumfries and in Dumfries is Palmerston Park, hame (home) of the Doon'hamers. Queen of the South are a grand old name. Cove Rangers are relative newcomers. It's kind of like us playing Stevenage. 


The Portland Drive terrace is a thing of majestic wonder. It's kind of unchanged since forever. It might only have three rows of crush barriers but it's got a proper roof, with rusting metal work and a square serving hatch at the back dispensing tea, coffee and pies. It's wee compared to the great terraces of yesteryear but it's big enough to evoke a feeling that were it heaving and Queens flying high, it could be a thrilling place to be. 

The action on the pitch isn't so thrilling. Despite the 4g pitch encouraging a passing game (as is often the case in Scotland's lower leagues these days) it's a stodgy midfield battle with Cove having the better of the first 20 mins. By 'the better' I mean 'having both a shot and a cross' 

I wonder why Scottish towns feature so many turrets. I can see 6 from here, over the low and overgrown Terragles St terracing. Two belong to grand houses and four to the prison whose castellated design is a bigger curiosity than the football (fitba) so far. 

Cove add a corner to their achievements. It's not the best set piece to have ever graced a football (fitba) pitch. 

I like to attend Scottish games when opportunity arises. It has to be noted that most Scottish lower league games seem to feature a youthful drummer. The drummer is often seemingly in the process of learning how to drum and hasn't quite got to the section on 'keeping rhythm' and today is no exception. It's like listening to a record player with a dodgy motor. Faster.... Slower... 

Queens have a half chance, the ball worked down the left by sheer effort and squeezed just wide at the far post. Queens create an oooh as they whip the ball across goal. Cove break and Efe Ambrose (who is the only player on the pitch to have beaten Barcelona in the Champions League and won the African Cup of Nations and is thus, somewhat predictably, the player who has caught my eye so far) stops him in his tracks. 

Queens square up the corner count and Ambrose wins a far post header but no one can make anything of it. Ambrose generally strolls about, slightly pigeon toed and keeps it very simple. Cove dance down the right, he trots across and puts it into the stand, like an old fella going to kick away some leaves that have fallen on his lawn. 

The sky at kick off was like a kids paint pallet. White, black and blue all smudged together. As the first half grinds by, its as if the celestial child has mixed it all up with a splash of water. It's all grey now and it's cold. Queens give the ball away to a groan. Cove cross it miles over anyone. My fingers are a bit numb. There's kids in t- shirt and shorts below me. Just as I'm getting a bit bored, Queens put their best move together and the whole ground makes a sound as one for the first time, a kind of groan of encouraging disappointment as a quick three touch move ends in a shot just past the post. 


It has not been an all time classic so far


The second half burts into life. Queens show first, ball through, a slip from Cove a great turn and run, they're in a shot, a good save, a follow up header blocked, the ball slashed away but then a third effort crashed towards goal and blocked, behind the line?! We play on. No goal. 

Queens are playing towards us now. Reilly looks skillful but not quite quick enough. His partner is big and rural looking but is isolated. 

Cove have a spell and hit the side netting. Queens keeper has been immaculate but a poor clearance gives Cove a chance. They work it so slowly that by the time th shot comes in it feels like everyone in blue is camped on the goal line to block, which they do. 

The drummer drums on. A slow clap chant has stand on edge of joining in a little bit but the rhythm changes manically to a sort of amphetamine heart attack style samba beat and more songs about hatred of Annan are sung. 

Shouts for a handball as Queens raid down the left and whip a good cross in yield only an offside flag. 

Cove send on a sub, He instantly pulls out a brilliant turn on the edge of box and a brilliant jinking run, flowing like a raindrop down glass and finishing with drive, it's well saved, and the follow up is filled by a tremendous diving header off the line. 

Cove go for long range efforts, one curling wide to the right, one rising just a bit too much over the centre of the bar and one missing away to the left. It's as if they're aiming for a perfect symmetry of missed chances. 

Queens respond to Cove's patterns with a pair of promising but fruitless attacks down either flank. 

Then Cove score. It's the substitute who had the good run earlier. I mostly miss it though cos I'm thinking about the grass on the main stand roof and glance back to pitch at the last second to see the ball hit the net followed by a tiny roar from the tiny band of away fans. 

Queens respond by raiding down the left, the cross is good. It's over the big lad but the little no10 is beyond him. The angle is tight, he takes a second to weigh his options and decides to shoot, curling it through a crowd and smacking the base of the post. It's not to be... Maybe one more chance from the corner that follows. It hits the arse of a Queens play and goes out of play. 

Such is life. 


I've enjoyed it. I find it impossible not to love fitba (Football) at this level and below. It's just the game stripped of all the nonsense. Turn up, watch a game, go hame (home) 

Queens fans troop out and bemoan their luck. One lone voice declares it fucking shite but most seem accepting of what it was. Two closely matched sides and one got the bounce of the ball. 

I'll come here again and soak it all up I hope. It feels right. 


Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Thank fuck we didn't fuck that up... the Mighty vs Cheltenham Town

The night is... sultry? Maybe not quite, but I've been driving around shit bits of the North West (hello Horwich) all day and it's been pissing down and grim, so to head out towards the gold coast with a sunset burning in the distance, uplighting the high cloud, giving it a dramatic quality against the horizon's clear light and casting the trees into a gorgeous two dimensional autumnal silhouette is nice. 

Past Forton services and I glance as I often do at the tower. It's mobbed by hundred of birds, perched on the railings. Yesterdays tomorrow's future is today's rookery it seems. I'm calm. I usually listen to some kind of racket on the way to the football, but today, I've gone for some more mellow fayre. I'm not sure why. I think it's because it's nailed on that we're going to roll them over without needing to get out of 2nd gear so I don't need to work myself up into a warlike frenzy. 

The team that put Oxford under the cosh for half an hour can't fail to get past the leakiest, least potent side this division has seen in ages can it? 

I pull up. I check the team. 




Cheltenham's kit reminds me of the sort worn by Swiss lower league sides. The kind that you see a clip of playing on some mountainside pitch against big teams on a low key European jaunt in preseason. The sort of side that loses 14-0 to Bayern Munich. It looks like they bought it from the M+M Sport Catalogue. Their manager has vibes of an early 90s fella who owns a petrol station on an A road so it's possible he got them in a job lot off the back of a lorry from one of the drivers he knows that doesn't mind a box a or two falling off his truck in exchange for £50 note. From my distance (quite a long way away) the fella looks a little bit like he's been drawn to adorn the box of an Amiga 500 football management game with the stress of football management indicated by his stubble and his role signified by the throwback padded sports coat he's wearing. 

We're fairly quickly on top. A flash across the box and no one gets a touch. A touched off free kick and a fucking gorgeous ball from Dembele and Connolly diving and poking it wide. Dembele, clean through and hitting it hard, lifting it over the keeper and smashing it against the bar. 

They're not very good. In fact, it looks very much as if all you need to do is run at them in a determined way and they'll step out of the way and let you through. 

Just long enough passes for it to get a bit frustrating. Then CJ. Total football genius CJ Hamilton takes the ball down and (yes, this happened, you can check the video) switches play with a lovely bit of vision and pinpoint accurate technique (no, really, he did!) Thommo takes it down and just when it looks like he's over cooked his attempt to get by their covering man pulls out an actual ridiculously well executed Cruyff turn type thing, putting his foot on the ball and spinning into space before standing it up to the far post (again, this isn't a dream) where Rhodes nods it square and Lavery can't miss with a stooping header from about two yarrds out. 

That's better. 

It's not long before we score again. Morgan lines up a free kick but hits the first man in the wall. The ball takes a cruel deflection, cruel, specifically because it goes near Jordan Rhodes somewhere in the box and with the reactions of... I don't actually know of anything that reacts quicker than Jordan Rhodes in the box, so this metaphor will have to end here... Rhodes flicks his neck muscles and pullets the ball into the bottom corner. Cheltenham protest that it's not fair having to play against a world class centre forward in League 1 and ask the linesman to flag to makes things a little more equal but he's unmoved and Rhodes is leaping in the corner again. 

Lavery is making their defence pretty terrified with some really good running. Dembele gets a round of applause for killing a high ball dead in the middle of the pitch with a kind of skill that makes you wonder what the fuck he's doing in this league. CJ earns a terrific round of applause for chasing, and chasing and stumbling, getting up and launching himself full length and almost taking it off the keeper. What a thing self belief is. Connolly repeats the feat of almost scoring at the far post with another full length dive. 

We look as if we could score at will to be honest. The third though, is again down, again, in huge part to CJ. We turn defence to attack and the effort he makes to get from full back to being the furthest forward is sensational, full on sprinting 50 yards and running on to a well weighted ball to the edge of the box. His pull back is hacked away, Morgan tosses it hopefully back in and Dembele takes it on his chest and shapes to shoot, I think... he's stumbled... but in fact, as he falls away, he arrows a perfect effort into the bottom corner and I celebrate with the special relish that comes with a class player scoring a really good goal. 

That's that then. 

Except, this is Blackpool. So of course it isn't. 

Late in the first half, they lump it forward. It's the wrong end for me, so I can't see very well but it looks like Casey is beaten in the air and can't get the right side of his man. The knockdown is followed in by the same player and the other defender (Connolly) chucks himself but all too late and the ball is tucked beyond Grimmy with a nice finish. This may not be an accurate recounting (you don't not pay me for facts though, so fuck off and watch the video) but the general sense of it being a slightly careless, quite piss easy goal to concede is generally accurate I think. I imagine Critch will be hopping mad. 


We've twatted them. The goal doesn't matter. Lets go and get three more.  We can do that. Then, they can score 4 more and we'll still win. 


It appears the above was not the halftime message. Cheltenham bring almost as many subs on as they brought fans and we're seemingly uninterested in carrying on with the sexy football stuff. This half is a real struggle to write about. Nothing happened. I counted the away fans and got to 'about 65' but was told someone else in the row had counted them and got to '91' 

Cheltenham don't really cause very much trouble. They have quite a lot of possession but we're comfortable enough. We just don't seem to have the penetration we had in the first half at all. The composure has gone. Dougall is having a grand game again though. So, is Thommo to be fair. Just as I decide to make my thoughts vocal, he falls over, gives the ball away and then shanks the resulting clearance. Good ol' Thommo. CJ may now be way better than Ronaldo (the weird oily sex pest one, not the funny looking Brazilian lad) ever was but Thommo hasn't quite fully levelled up yet. 

Grimmy makes a good stop to one that was offside anyway and get a ball in the groin for his efforts. CJ continues to torment them, one run in particular making me laugh as he just runs, stops, and runs again and the merest hint of trickery has their full back back peddling so quickly, he effectively runs away from Hamilton, giving him freedom. 

Dembele has been afforded a lot of freedom tonight and used it well. He makes way for Carey. Lavery has been waspish but lost his sting second half so the big grizzly bear that is Kouassi comes on in his place. 

We come close to a fourth as Carey (who is neat and tidy and playing more conventionally than Dembele) strike one from the edge of the box that is flying in but is deflected over the top to form what I make now 'part 5 or 6 in the frustrating series of 'really good goals that Sonny hasn't quite scored this season' 

Weir comes on for Morgan who has done ok but is also fading a bit and is, well, a bit wild. I'm not sure playing the deeper role suits him. Does it matter though? We're cruising. This is like a training exercise where the first team tease the youth team by letting them attack as much as they want and stop them scoring because they can. 

Oh, for FUCKS SAKE Pool! They've just scored again. It was another piss easy goal, a lofted ball, a flick on and a player bundling it home via Grimmy's knee at the far post. Sometimes when another team score, you panic before the goal goes in, but this just happens and we seem to have watched it happen. 

Step forward, Kylian. We've missed having a big nasty lad up front to time waste and the boy adds this skill to his list of reasons to love him. He's been totally ill served by the ref who seems to think if he wins the ball it's a foul and if they jump on his back, it's fine cos he's big and being big is reason enough to punish him for it, but he takes the ball in, turns and then pulls out the most outrageously ridiculous bit of late games skill to gallop down the left flank in a series of shimmies, step overs and a weird kind of donkey style air kick, the like of which I've literally never seen before and gets a corner. 

Cheltenham can't rouse themselves for another attack. We've finally decided to kill the game properly. The whistle goes. Relief. The fist pumping feels a bit tinpot tonight but there we go. 


I don't know really how to finish this. We were excellent, then we were, well, nothingy to the point of ridiculousness. We definitely missed some players today - Husband for one, Norburn for another. It's a moot point whether the midfield 3 in the first half were more effective for the lack of a proper holding player (meaning they took turns to go forward and were therefore more fluid), but it's not a debate that we missed him in the second half when we just couldn't seem to take control of the play at all. Husband has been immense and I think we missed his consistency in the air and positioning (I think both their goals had questions over them) and we also very much missed how he drives us out from the back and joins in with the midfield/wide play. 

I don't know if the players cruised, or Critchley felt we could conserve energy and pick them off as they went forward second half, but whichever it was, it was a bit too close for comfort and we missed the chance to really turn the screw on a team and, whilst Cheltenham deserve a lot of credit for not folding and making a game of it, they looked to be as limited as anyone we've played so far, though that said, I thought their 9 gave Casey as difficult a night as he's had for us this year. 

It's 3 points though. Better teams would punish us for a tepid second half, but then, we'd be unlikely to have strolled to a 3-0 advantage and got complacent against those better teams, so I think that's probably just one of those things people say for the sake of saying something. I'm starting to think this team isn't so much like Critchley's previous sides who were best on the break. We're actually not very convincing when we try to be passive and then explode and pick teams off. We're far better when we play with genuine intent and look for openings. 

The question now is not so much 'how do we break sides down' but how do we react to having key players out against decent sides? 


You can follow MCLF on facebook or Twitter or use to get posts sent to your email If you appreciate the blog and judge it worth 1p or more, then a donation to one of the causes below which help kids and families in Blackpool would be grand.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Strength - the Mighty vs Stevenage FC

The weather cannot make its mind up. One moment it's the best kind of autumn day, the next a horrible flash to February. Rainbows abound. Lets hope we don't bungle this one. Boom. Tish. One for the 80s kids. I'm getting desperate. That's probably the worst line I've ever written. I'm just short of going into a digression about those weird 'You know your an 80s kid when you remember playing outside and phones you literally dialled and when peados were just called 'funny men' and when car crashes were way more deadly' nostalgia memes are to fill space because I'm a bit stuck for an opening gambit.

It's Stevenage today. Stevenage. I don't know what to even begin to say about them. They exist. I think they play in red. Or maybe yellow. Graham Westley. I'm done. I don't even know where it is. I don't think they have any ballon d'or winners in their history. Dino Maamria is literally the only player I can think of who played for them apart from a couple who went to the nobbers with Westley. 

Outside the ground and I can hear them inside. They're making the usual noises a crowd makes but the relatively humble scale of their travelling support renders the sound less, 'earth shaking' and more 'a bit like a bunch of pissed up teenagers in a bus stop' 

The team is fine. Critch has obviously consulted the pocket book of football management and turned to the chapter marked 'don't be afraid to do the obvious thing sometimes' and picked a solid looking line up of players who are a) in some kind of form and b) mostly suited to the job they're given. 


The opening stages aren't a thrill a minute but I quite enjoy them. I have a liking for effectively brutal sides and early on Stevanage are exactly what I expect them to be. They compete for everything with a bone crunching intensity, lob themselves on the ground if there's even the slightest opportunity to do so, take an absolute lifetime over every set piece, except throw ins, which they take faster than I've seen a side do for ages. 

It's a battle. They're simple and direct but (early on at least) look on a wavelength. A slightest moment of space and the ball is slammed into the channels and they're haring after it. They're succeeding in keeping our wingbacks aware of the need to defend and in preventing us getting much rhythm going. Every time we do look as if we might threaten, they're keen to shut us down and after about 20 minutes, they're two yellow cards to the good, with a trip on a clearly emotionally charged and highly focussed looking Owen Dale a particularly notable piece of shithousery. 

We're competing though. I'm enjoying this. It's the way we didn't play at all last year really. I'm noticing how well Dougall is playing of late. He's scrapping, ratting, finding half a yard of space and giving the ball. He looks as good as he's done for ages. Dale is, to use a technical description, feisty as fuck, sliding into tackles, using his hips and elbows in tangles with their much bigger lads. Casey has established himself as dominant in the middle of the defence in a way I wasn't sure he would be able to. It's not very exciting, but actually, it's a really good scrap and football is that sometimes. It's more of a spectacle than two sides passing square in front of each other at least. 

We get a bit of joy, or to be more accurate, near joy. A corner is lifted in and cleared out, Carey has taken the corner, now he's drifted into the box to pick up the clearance. He lashes it, first time on the volley. It's into the stand. I sink to my knees. One day he's going to break the net with one of those. He looks skyward. Dejected. Head up Sonny. C'mon. Then a canny little move and CJ away and the all new all aware all football genius Ole CJ pulls it back and like prime Phil Clarkson Sonny materialises at the near post and connects beautifully... the ball is an inch the wrong side of the post, the side netting billows with a rippling sense of what could of been. Head up Sonny. C'mon. 

It's scrappy. It's all very, very, very 'League One' - that's not a complaint. I have, after all paid my money to watch a game of League One football and it would be a bit daft of me to expect to see 1970 Brazil playing
against 1974 Holland. 

It's just that the longer this goes on, the longer you think 'I've seen this before' and you know it ends with one of them pushing someone over and then the ball going in off someone's arse and everyone grumbling... C'mon Pool. 

Ollie Norburn never shoots. He just doesn't. (He's averaging less than a third of a shot per 90 minutes.) He always chooses the diagonal or the little chip over the top. This time though, he does, lining it up after the ball has pinged about and fallen to him and that pocket of space he finds by hanging back. He hits it hard and the keeper is falling away, there's a subconcious awareness that their lad has probably got it covered but then, there's a complication in that instant calculation and the ball is going in a different direction because Jordan Rhodes has reacted faster than time or light itself and actually, deliberately, how does he see things that quickly, chested the ball past the keeper who is totally wrong footed and fuck me! We're actually winning! Blackpool! 

Obviously, this being a game against one of those types of teams we usually manage to lose to, they score pretty quickly after we do. It's one of those goals as well. We don't cut off the ball into the box, we don't get the the player in the box, it's one touch, two touch, back of the net and the kids at the bus stop are chucking their spliff ends and cheap cider bottles around. Fuck's sake! 

Hang on. Grimmy, usually the most amendable and phlegmatic of souls is going full blown 'Chris Maxwell' at the linesman (or flagfolk or whatever they're called now) and the rest of the team are following him and now, like he's just realised there was something obvious he should have done just before, he's raising his flag with a flourish of certainty intended to disguise the possibly inescapable conclusion that he's been daydreaming a bit. The bus stop gang are outraged. We're delighted. Maybe this is our day. 


I'm not sure I'd change anything. We've competed. We're in front. It's been low on quality in a technical sense but we've done very well at the underappreciated things like 'tackling' and 'heading it away' and 'tracking people' so it's not fair to say it's been shit - cos those things allow you to do the other stuff. 


This lot will give us hell. We're going to have to dig in I think. 

Wait. Sonny is set away by a nice ball from deep. He's trundling forward, Dale with him. They interchange passes and just as I'm thinking 'Sonny, take it yourself lad' and cursing the way Carey seems to be second guessing himself, I'm watching the ball explode from Dale's boot and arrow into the top corner with the keeper absolutely nowhere near. I've not watched it back. I've seen no deflection. Apparently there was one, but I prefer to remember it as it played out at the time. A fucking sensational goal and one that served as a moment of cathartic release. I've wondered out loud in the past about whether Norburn is just a grumpy prison guard who rages and bangs doors, but when he gets all the players round Dale and there's a huddle of men hugging Dale, and he's talking and showing that he knows and cares that it's a fucking miracle that Dale can walk in a straight line, let alone play football I think to myself 'MCLF, you should shut up passing views on things you don't actually know anything about like how Ollie Norburn captains his players.'

I should also shut up talking about Dale's personal circumstances but how can you not feel something for him. Life is sometimes unspeakably hard and it can be very difficult to know why anything happens. Football is just football and compared to other shit it means fuck all, yet we imbue it with such emotion. Perhaps that's why it's the game it is. We've all gone to the game after hard times and we've all lost ourselves in the rhythm and movement, the noise and moment. It's kind of like a really odd combination of zen focus and primal release. A strange sort of therapy.  I've struggled to hold the tears in after we've scored because it's stopped hurting for a few seconds. I think probably, we all have. To see that it maybe functions like that for a player too. Perhaps. I don't know. I shouldn't guess. 

Nothing but love for Owen and his family. Love is a nebulous and vague concept, but I think it generally just means giving a fuck about other people and that we share that life can be fucking shit and we can try for each other. 

At some point, maybe now, maybe later, Grimmy makes a sharp stop from a desperate Hubby lunge that succeeds in stopping the ball getting to their free man on the far post. At another, Pennington makes a heroic diving block. Casey wins more headers. The three of them are superb. 

The third though. It's a beauty. 'Fucking hell, just shoot.' 'Why do we do this fucking passing it back instead of having a go.' We are being very us. Down one side. Across the box. back down the other side. Reload. Go again. Repeat. It's a bit frustrating. The back of the south stand is not impressed. We've had the ball for ages though. We go across the back line. We look forward and then... we spring, CJ takes it. Perfect control (he's a football genius after all) and then a beautiful one two, the second beat a divine touch from Rhodes that is perfectly matched to CJ's stride... He's cutting inside, he's bearing down on goal... We're stood up, but this is CJ, so we're hoping and praying, but not getting carried away and.... now we're leaping and punching the air and coming up for breath because he's curled it into the little bit of space the keeper couldn't cover, the ball kissing the inside of the post and falling to the ground. There's a confused din as people grin and tell each other with delight that it was 'CJ!' and then the usual order of things is turned upside down as we sing his song first and then celebrate the general notion of 'Blackpool!' 

That'll do.   


This was a good performance. To win this league you've got to be able to play in games of shithouse football and come out on top. I've barely mentioned certain players, but they did their job. Kylian arguably showed a more complete performance today than he had done in games where he had more notable moments. He competed and won flicks and possession, giving us a way out when they closed down our passing and he won at least 3 headers in defensive situations. He's not Gary Madine. But he's a goal machine. Etc. 

I've already said how the back three were a really impressive unit. They brought it out well and the defensive passing, moving it to launch the next attack was crisp and quick. Grimmy looks in tune with them and they got the balance between 'moving the other team about' and 'fannying with it pointlessly' spot on. The much maligned wing backs worked. Two goals from players cutting inside. Another thing that maybe I should shut up about. 

As a team, we all did our job and in the end, the quality told. Perhaps we're beginning to come together. That was that type of game we've so often struggled with and whilst we didn't make it look 'easy' - we looked as we'd prepared for it and had the character to stick to the plan and the belief to make it work. 

We all know such optimism is dangerous, but right now, despite all the scepticism, we're probably right where it feels right to be. Lurking, just outside the spotlight, slowly getting better, slowly coming together more and it feels increasingly like there's a proper team being forged. Fair play to Critch. I never doubted him.*


*Quite clearly, I did. 

You can follow MCLF on facebook or Twitter or use to get posts sent to your email If you appreciate the blog and judge it worth 1p or more, then a donation to one of the causes below which help kids and families in Blackpool would be grand. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Back down to earth: the Mighty vs Derby County

One of those nights where evening creeps in like an ever darkening blue blanket. It catches the residents of Bloomfield Road unaware. Windows shine with voyeuristic snapshots, picture frames glowing in the gathering gloom, curtains undrawn. Someone watches the wrestling. Someone flicks listlessly through YouTube. An empty dining table. A floral wallpaper in colours more vibrant than nature would ever allow. Headphones on. Weaving through the building crowd. Mark E Smith's words in my ears... 'the reflected mirror of delirium'

God bless his soul.

Critch has done what I wanted in pitching the silk of Dembele against the steel of Nelson. There's also a welcome chance for Sonny. I am happy about both things. That paradoxically makes me a bit nervous because, well, it does. When the manager does what you'd do, it exposes you to the possibility that you aren't actually a football genius.

We'll see...


happens. For ages. It's cagier than a cage that's been locked in another cage that's owned by Nicholas Cage and then written about in a song by John Cage. It's very clear that Derby are not here to get at us.

A few things happen. A Dembele turn and run puts CJ away. There's a few corners. Hubby with yet another beautiful clipped ball. At what point he became the world's best footballer, I'm not exactly sure, but he definitely is. A chance! A flash across goal, Rhodes bears down, Curtis Nelson with last ditch touch.

Derby aren't here to get at us, but they don't mind a break. Hubby tidies up when we're all at sea and Grimmy is nowhere. We then contrive to present Derby with an open goal. Dale is the nearest thing to a goalkeeper. His fling does just enough to put their lad off. He hits the goal net support.

Dembele drops his shoulder and crosses. It's a gorgeous ball that we can't do anything with. Rhodes runs on to a long ball and gets a touch before getting all tangled up in limbs and defenders. CJ almost kills a diagonal dead, but it just gets away from him and gives them the chance to get a toe in.

A drone glides over the ground. We're in the future here. The game resembles some kind of stalemate chess that two AI models have been playing. The petrol station you can see through the Northeast Corner is lit up then not lit up. Maybe the oil has run out. It's truly a dystopian world after all. To cheer things up, I spot Gary Madine sat in the south west balcony with someone who looks like a footballer but I can't tell who he is. Then, I think it could be Liam Feeney. It might not be.

This is the level of entertainment on offer, wondering if a fella I can barely make out is someone who used to play for us a while back or not. I end the half none the wiser.


Yawn. I don't know what I'd do. I think I'd just give Dembele license to go where ever. Him ploughing a striker's birth isn't really bringing him into the game and no one else, bar a bit of pace from CJ is looking remotely threatening to Derby. 


Critch makes no subs. We start quite well. There's an effort that goes one way then the other, then someone (I think CJ) lashes it towards goal. There's a nice run. There's Jimmy making it look easy by just going in a straight line, quite quickly with the ball and putting in a lovely cross. I think it's going quite well. 

We get a free kick. We take about 25 minutes to take it. There's a conference, then players walk away, then they come back, then some of them walk away again. Dale and Connolly stand over it. The autumn wind catches the fabric of their shirts. They look like a pair of yachts at anchor on a green grass sea. Then, finally, we are ready. This is going to be something special. A Squire's Gate routine so cunning in execution that it will probably go down in football folklore. A viral clip to be shared on social media. A moment to be envied by all the teams in this land and beyond. 

The whistle blows. Connolly steps up... ...and sort of toe pokes it into the one man wall. That didn't go to plan. I'm not sure there was a plan. Perhaps the plan was to pretend there was a plan. A cunning double bluff. 

I'm still digesting the free kick when Derby are suddenly on the attack on the left. It's one of those horrible slow motion moments where you can see the goal way before it happens. They've shown almost no intent, but now, they've sprung us on the break and there's an endless stream of Derby players marauding into the box and it's like we've got two players to mark about seven of them. The ball in... smack.. the net billows. 

Fuck's sake Pool. 

I'm not really sure what to say about the next bit. We huff and puff and Norburn claps at us a lot and we generally knock the ball about quite a lot without really creating much damage at all. Sonny has a shot. That's something. The referee isn't doing us any favours. 

Then Derby score again. I can't actually remember the goal except that it was a bit like the first one and Husband ended up punching the turf really quite hard and I thought, 'that's that then' in a way that feels really a bit too familiar

It feels very much like we've wandered into Derby's trap and have, in flailing about trying to free ourselves only instead got ourselves more entangled. 

Then, fuck me, we only go and score. Dembele wriggles about and slips it to Kenny who has quite a lot to do but does it and smack, he's recreated Wembley. I'm too far away to see if it's a beautiful finish, or whether it's sneaked through a load of legs and done the keeper, but whatever, it's mad how if you shoot, you sometimes score. 

Critch responds to Dembele setting up the goal by taking off Dembele. Classic Critch. 

I'd like now to write about how we turned it around with a ferocious display of attacking football, but we didn't. We almost did when Carey hit the bar with a snap header, but the boy's luck is out at the moment and almost as soon as that had happened Derby were slaloming up the pitch, Grimmy was running backwards with a look on his face like he'd realised the brakes on his BMX were broken, Casey was the only player anywhere near looking like a police ford transit van trying to pull over a fleet of runaway Porsches without any backup. As soon as we got anywhere near one of them, Derby just switched it and repeated that until the ball was once again hitting the back of the net with a resounding 'thwump' and Derby's fans were bouncing, dancing, lads on the wall with the camera phone and chanting under that low east stand roof whilst we were shoulders slumping, for fucks saking, walking out into the night air. 

That, pretty much was that. We got well and truly done by them. I look over to once again muse on whether it's Feeney or not. Instead, there's just a dejected looking Jake Beesley where Gaz and his mate were. I glance across again and even Bees has given up and gone.

That feels like an apt image to end on. 


This was a masterclass. By Paul Warne.

We had no answer to solidity and pace on the break. My wise neighbour said in the first half 'they'll do nothing till about an hour' - they scored on 57 minutes. I'm not sure that playing Kouassi would have made a massive difference. I think Nelson and company would have probably marshalled him quite well. I think what would have made a difference was a player deeper who scared them by running at them. This was the sort of game that Bowler could turn and that having a player like him, made us more patient. We passed it sideways and back, across and around, but we didn't seem to know how to find a way through. It felt as if we played exactly as Derby hoped and as we put more bodies in more aggressive positions, they just sprung the trap. Warne knows what he's doing. 

Derby didn't play a lot of beautiful football, but the clinical nature of their second half display spoke of a rare quality at this level. We kind of probed and hoped for a mistake and didn't really find any. I think we need to be braver with Dembele. I'm not sure why we didn't try flipping him and Sonny or letting him roam. He strikes me as the kind of player who will, given the right role, pull teams out of shape. 

Hey ho. We go again. We're not the finished article. 


You can follow MCLF on facebook or Twitter or use to get posts sent to your email If you appreciate the blog and judge it worth 1p or more, then a donation to one of the causes below which help kids and families in Blackpool would be grand.

Follow on Twitter!

Get MCLF in your inbox!

Subscribe with a feedreader!

Buy the book (proceeds to Blackpool Foodback)

Yet another bad owner. Where do they breed them?

This is Brooks Mileson. He owned Gretna FC. If you don't know who he is or what the score is with Gretna, it might be worth giving it ...