Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Festive flops - Burton Albion vs the Mighty

The radio promised travel chaos. It didn't materialise. I am therefore in the car park at the Pirelli stadium nice and early. The most generic sounding euro dance music wafts from the stadium away to my right. Music aside, it would be difficult to tell if it's a football ground or the industrial estate headquarters of a firm specialising in logistics if it weren't for the floodlights.

The journey was uneventful. A lazy kestrel does not exist, but I saw one have a brief moment of CBA, taking off from a motorway light, circling round and sitting back down again in a way that seemed to say 'fuck it. That mouse can have 5 more minutes'
Closer inspection reveals the ground to be actually not as bad as it looked from a distance. There's terracing on three sides, an odd little inside bar in the away end and to get into one of the home stands you have to cross a river on a little bridge. I quite like it. 

As I'm here unusually early, I watch the warm up. There's snoods aplenty amongst the players as they run out, even though I don't think it's actually that cold. Maybe they got them for Christmas from Neil and don't want to upset him by not wearing them. I watch the keepers. Grimmy actually yawns in the warm up, making a save and then letting out a big long lion style exhalation as he gets up. 

I just don't want us to fuck up Christmas. A few days of just being moderately happy and on a level are nice. It's Boxing day, it's a decent away following. Burton have lost about their last 50 games in a row. 

What could possibly go wrong?


We make a slow start both literally and figuratively. We're pinned in by some pacy Burton aggression. This isn't the plan. Burton waste the pressure and we proceed to cruise about for a bit. We knock it about.  All good. We're a lot better than them after all. Aren't we? 

They're streaking down their right. One of their pacy and aggressive lads checks back and delivers a cross. Another pacy and aggressive lad runs towards it. Grimmy hesitates, the defender with him hesitates. The striker hesitates. Then everyone panics and throws themselves at a ball that's gone past them as it curls right into the bottom corner of the net. For fucks sake pool. For fucks sake. For fucks sake. Fucking fucks sake. Pool. For fucks sake. I had the perfect view of that and I'm going to give the high level tactical analytics viewpoints that it was a fucking typical fucking fuck up from us. Fucking hell. Fucks sake Pool. 

At this point I'm going to introduce the ref and his team. Jimmy is stood, with his arms outstretched. He's just won a throw, except he hasn't because it's been given the other way. His eyes are bulging with disbelief, he's screeching 'How.. how? How? ... How?' and then once more for good measure... 'How???!' 

It goes a bit like this all afternoon. We get nothing. That isn't to say we actually deserve anything from the game holistically but one linesman is like a bloke who wandered in from walking his dog and didn't expect to be running a line, the other one keeps getting over ruled by the ref and the ref is just fucking shit so the combination of the three of them is something to behold. 

To be honest, trying to cobble together three paragraphs which aren't 'what the fuck was I thinking expecting anything other than abject and crushing disappointment?' is a challenge. 

I can manage the following: At some point we get the ball to Rhodes. He belts it over. He's not really on it today. He seems tired or to be playing off his heels instead of the balls of his feet. Joseph hares around but can't hold the ball up. CJ isn't very ole' and Lyons is struggling to make an impression. 

At least there's Karamoko. He doesn't really have that great a telling impact but he picks it up and runs like a dream to win a free kick on the edge of the box. Nothing comes of it, but for at least 10 seconds I had the pleasure of imagining a goal, which is nice. Maybe I could invent a new stat. Pwmyttmbagwtgtb*. Kaddy is +2.5. The rest of the team is about -3.


All else I can remember apart from us being shit, the ref being shit and wondering why we're using a yellow ball when it's not snowy is Norburn banjoing one over the stand. At least he tried. 


We're poor. We look out paced at the back. The midfield can't get a grip, the ball won't stick up front and Grimmy is having a shaky day. Burton are compact and have an aggressive style. They've been the better team. They've certainly made better use of what they've got anyway... 


We start the second half by nearly conceding again. Well done everyone. It's too far away to really tell what happens but basically, the ball looks in, but then Grimmy emerges from a crowd of players clutching it. 

Then suddenly, he wakes up. He hurls it long, Kaddy takes, touches it to CJ, CJ races forward. We're in. CJ falls over. His fall actually results in a better through ball than he manages all afternoon when upright, Rhodes takes over. He does everything but shoot when Dembele is screaming for it, unmarked and the chance is gone. 

We attack a bit more, but we really don't convince. There's a very desperate shout for a penalty as Lyons is bundled over in a regulation shepherding out of play moment. I shout. I'm kind of ashamed of myself for doing so, so weak is the claim. 

Dembele has another mazy run. He offloads to CJ. CJ seems a bit taken aback by having the ball, so he just gives it back to Dembele who, after using all his magic on the run, needs to recharge for a minute, so the ball just kind of bounces off him and rolls away. 

Norburn lunges wildly. I'm convinced it's a red as it looked a bit like a scissor challenge, but it's only a yellow. We're already flailing unconvincingly, frustrated by a combination of our impotence, Burton's gamesmanship, the official's lack of will to do anything about it and the general unfairness of them being quite well organised. 

Kaddy runs again. He finds Rhodes. Jordan appears to just break down in the box, running in a weird arc, not shooting or passing and looking, for the first time in a 'Pool shirt, slightly less than world class. Kyle Joseph has been the bright spark of the second half. He's struggled to get into the game, but just as he is starting to cause trouble with a few pacy runs and some really tigerish closing down, Critchley takes him off. 

Some fireworks go off. The man behind me says 'there's no fireworks on the pitch' - sometimes this blog writes itself. It's a team effort. 

Beesley takes over. We have a shout for handball after Bees makes a good run, but then fails to control the ball and it bounces around like mad on the edge of the box. We shout again as Lyons cuts inside and slaps the ball hard at a defender. That one looked more convincing. We hang a ball up to the edge of the box, CJ goes to head it back, but instead chests it back and Jimmy belts it over the top. I leap for the ball as it flies over my head. I miss. 

Things are getting desperate. The keeper is chucking out textbook shithouse behaviour. We're getting edgy at the slow pace at which we move the ball. Burton are seemingly not fooled by us stringing it along the back line. Dale and Carey come on. Dale is innovative in the way he actually goes at his man a few times. Carey also notable for running forwards with the ball. It's Sonny's canny pass that puts Dale away that creates the next chance, another cross, another block. 

We get 6 minutes injury time. We've resorted to counting the seconds out loud every time the keeper picks the ball up. At one point we reach 24. The ref isn't arsed. Luckily we don't throw anyone up front because that would be crazy stuff. We win a flurry of corners. Luckily, we don't load the box, or send Grimmy up or anything like that, because why would you do something so silly? We hit the bar but even then, it's not us, but one of their defenders and it's never that close anyway. The game ends with a corner and an uncontested take by the keeper. We wouldn't want to do anything daft like putting a man on the keeper for a corner. We've got to make sure we retain our shape you see. 

Fuck's sake Pool. 


There's no way to dress this up. It was poor. We didn't compete, we didn't really make anything beyond a potshot or two and we looked languid, predictable and were utterly baffled by the fairly regulation challenge posted by Burton Albion who got into shape quickly and played aggressively and retained a bit of threat by having some muscular and pacy forwards. It's not exactly being beaten by tactical innovation. For fuck's sake, they had the actual real life Bez fucking Lubala as their main man. (Well done Bez.) For fucks sake.

I totally respect what Burton did today. I have no complaints. They aren't very good, they had, for example, several players who couldn't kick the ball very well. They executed a basic and effective game plan. It's not a dissimilar game plan to that which was used by Northampton, Cambridge, Port Vale, Exeter (and so on - you get the idea, we're shit against teams that play like that - i.e. the kind of football that a load of League 1 teams play) 

I have absolutely no problem with us trying to play a certain way. In fact, I want us to have a 'style' and to work towards a defined set of roles. It's how you progress - by setting out a playing style and recruiting to a template and rinsing, repeating, improving each window. The first problem is that yes, when that style is suited to the game, we look very good, but when it isn't, we look pretty shit and in probably about half our games this season, we've looked lost. We neither moved the ball around to feet with pace and intent, nor played the channels with pace or aggression. We just, like quite a few other occasions, seemed to go into our shells and play little slow 5 yard passes across the back line, midfielders coming deep to join in, before eventually lumping it long anyway, long after Burton had marked everyone and then repeated the whole affair again. The second problem is, we seem unable to innovate within that style, let alone change actual shape at all. We have no positional fluidity, no sense that we can swap people round, change the match ups, try players on different feet and so on. 

When we're poor, we look defeated after about 25 minutes of the game. We just don't seem to have the belief. We're like a pretty yacht that is made of balsa wood. It's all very nice and graceful in calm weather but as soon as the sea gets rough, we fall to bits. 

I don't know if we don't have the belief to stick to plan A come what may or we don't actually have any convincing plan B but we've seen enough games this season where we fall into a kind of nothing state, between two stools, neither fish nor fowl, where we have a load of possession and are what Critchley would call in 'good areas' and we do next to fuck all with it as if we don't believe in ourselves at all. It's not losing that I object to, it happens. It's the manner of it, the fitful and flimsy manner of it that really irks. 

Then, after I'd resolved to get home and forget about the shit show my car broke down and the nice warm team bus drove past me as the floodlights flickered out, leaving me stuck in the cold and dark for about 2 and half hours with only a nearly dead phone for company. 

Fuck off football. 


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Sunday, December 24, 2023

Job done - the Mighty vs Bristol Rovers

Is this the least Christmassy Christmas since the one before the original manger/Herod/gift and wisdom bearing lads in bunches of 3 scenario? Is it just me, or is there something missing? I can't put my finger on it, but I've never felt less festive.

Christmas this year is drizzle, more drizzle, some drizzle and anticlimactic shopping trips where you get to town and realise it's still drizzling and then remember the last decent shop closed 3 years ago, therefore unless you want a charity shop or some vape liquid, you'll have to go home and order Christmas off the internet. 

Christmas football has a potential to be anticlimactic too. I hope it isn't. I'd like an early gift of a Kenny Dougall present and correct on the team sheet playing the role of a gnarly and sturdy trunk of an attacking Christmas tree style front 7. I guess that makes Jake Beesley the star of Bethlehem on the top. Why not. Lad works hard. Might as well be. 


King Kenny is absent. Hmmm. It's tempting to catastrophise about him leaving, but I suppose we also should consider it might be possible that things are not ok in Kenny's world. Either way, I don't like it. The prison guard is in for him. He never shoots you know... 

We start pretty well. The little genius is at the heart of everything good. First, he's wriggling free in the centre circle then he's darting and bobbing forward, he's shaping to shoot, and now he's just flowing like mercury past the defenders block instead, now he's actually shooting and the ball is skipping off the turf into the keeper's gloves. We're on our feet, pounding our hands together in appreciation of his intent. If the shot was a bit tame, the run was wild... 

Now, he's taking a pass from Beesley and he's cutting inside, if he held on to it above, he's letting fly early this time and a viscous effort is tipped wide by the keeper and again, the ground is up as one for this most singular of players. 

He's scooping a pass, it's up, it's over, it's dropping and it put Rhodes free, the angle is acute, but the keeper is drawn and if Rhodes is anything, he's made to exploit a moment like this and he does, driving it firmly towards the far corner. It's hacked away but we win it back and then, it's 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 passes to work it back round to a shooting position again but for fucks sake Pool, we give it away and it looks like the moment is gone, until, that is, Norburn wins it back, the ball breaks nicely for him and as the crowd takes a breath in, to implore him to shoot and I'm visualising him just turning and laying it sideways cos that's what he always does... Norburn is shooting and the ball is rocketing into the absolute top corner, swirling away from the keeper and thumping into the net with a beautiful resolution. 

YESSS! It's a glorious hit. Superb goal. You won't see a better, more cleanly hit, satisfying shot for the rest of this year. We deserve it. Norburn probably needs it and everything is good with everyone. His celebration is vaguely threatening. Good lad Ollie.  

Right. Lets go again. We've dominated, so lets get a few more... 

A corner for Bristol Rovers. It's about the first thing they've done all game. In it comes. What is going on? Grimmy is diving like a man who's suddenly realised his left his handbrake off on a hill desperately trying to get back into a car that's already rolling away at speed. Now they're running away celebrating. I think they've actually scored. In fact, it appears they definitely have. What the fuck happened there? Fucking hell 'Pool. This is us in a nutshell. We've just played about 30 mins of really good football, made multiple chances, are obviously better than them and it's 1-1 cos of a shitty goal we just gave them for free.  

C'mon Pool. C'mon. A lovely ball from Carey puts Hamilton in. He slams it the wrong side of the post. A free kick. The wee lad is over it with Sonny. Carey stutters and steps away, Dembele crafts a beautiful lifting, dipping, curling effort that hits the top of the bar with the keeper nowhere near it. Heads in hands. 


This has been the season in a nutshell. We should have more than we do but we don't. 


We're off immediately, putting pressure on them. It looks as if our first attack has broken down when their keeper clears weakly, Dembele controls beautifully (can we just mention how good his control is? - it's got to the point now, where I've stopped noticing how well he takes the ball in as his first touch is so consistently magnetic) and then quickly kind of deliberately scuffs a filthy low chip to Beesley, whose control isn't quite what Karamoko's is, but who nonetheless takes it down nicely, then, pivoting like a large crane on a building site turning with a heavy load, bounces the ball into the corner of the goal. YES!

I didn't expect that to come so quickly. 

Beesley has impressed me of late. He's run hard, he's closed down, he's won headers and he's generally played really well for the team. He's getting closer to his centre back and making things more difficult for them. Today he had an absolute unit to play against and he did it intelligently. He's not going to win 'most aesthetically pleasing footballer of the year' but he's such an honest grafter that you can't not be pleased for him when he scores. 

Rovers have a spell of play. Perhaps it's more fair to say, that for the first time in the game, we're not dominant, so that lets them go forward. There's some nice work at the back in the air from Husband and Connolly, one Jimmy header, so firm it almost reaches the halfway line. There's an excellent diving block from Pennington at the near post. The linesman is our friend as Rovers score but an early flag means we can celebrate instead of them. For a while, we look a bit scruffy and a bit jaded, but we stick at it. 

There's one fucking ridiculous run from Dembele, picking it up in a crowd somewhere inside his own half and then going, beating one, his shoulder drop sending their man grasping at air, then another, repeating the same move, with the same result, then a third, faking to do the same thing, then knowing their lad has cottoned on to what happened to his team mates, turning it into a double bluff and just running past him directly, their lad spinning in his boots, not knowing what hit him. He goes on. Stumbling, bouncing up, he's just unstoppable... It comes to nothing in the end, but I don't care. What a player. Defending against him is like trying to have a judo match with a ghost. He's just of a different realm. 

Then his final act is to lift a gorgeous pass from the centre spot into the path of Joseph. The substitute runs hard but then, showing great awareness, squares the ball to Rhodes who pulls out his old slowing down time trick, steadying himself, waiting till the exact moment the angle is perfect and then, rolls the ball into the corner of the goal with an acuity that it frankly ridiculous. It's such a calm finish. It makes 'zen' look positively frantic. The man must have a resting pulse rate of about 5 bpm. I don't think I've ever seen a better finisher in tangerine. 

There's time for a superb save from Grimmy from a point blank header late on and then there's the whistle. 

'Pool haven't fucked up Christmas for once! It's a miracle.


We played quite well. The first half, we played good football and made plenty but one error of judgement meant we were level. I was worried that the game might turn after half time cos Bristol weren't so bad, but ironically, we made a lot less but were more clinical. 

After the game I look at the table. We're still 8th. We seem stuck there. I notice Man Utd have lost again. They seem to lose every week but remain 8th in their league. I know we're not exactly consistent, but it feels like we're not as shite as Man Utd yet, here we are in 8th. I suspect a fix. 

I enjoyed today. We deserved the win and we had to battle a bit to get it. It was a bit of a break from the pattern of 'win very convincingly/don't really turn up in next game' as Bristol Rovers had enough to make it seem as if there was a game in the second half. It was good to see that after things going awry in conceding such a quick and poorly defended equaliser, we didn't fall to bits this week. There's no doubting our potential and ability, but we have struggled when stuff has gone against us, so whilst 'not imploding when anything goes wrong in a football match' is a fairly low bar, it's good we got over that today.

It was also nice to feel the crowd behind us. We didn't do everything perfectly, but we had the intent and the crowd responded. Like the team, the noise isn't quite what it could be, but it was better today.  It's halfway and we're lurking in the pack. We're not quite where we want to be, but there's a long way to go yet. 



 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. Home-Start Blackpool Food Bank

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Forest Green Felled - the Mighty vs Forest Green Rovers

What are we all doing here? It's the FA Cup game that the FA doused in cold inconsistent water and drowned any bits of magic that lingered. The prize for winning a game that the manager emphatically doesn't want to play? An away trip to the not all that exciting team we played the season before in the cup.  Woo-hoo. 

Before the game I'm starving. My mind flits about. Things I think about include:

Isn't it weird how people used to call podcast apps 'podcatchers' but no one has used that phrase for at very least 5 years... I really hope Kenny Dougall's absence isn't a sign of some kind of unrest. He's been brilliant this season once he got back into his groove. Kenny Dougall doing Kenny Dougall things is such a vital cog in our (slightly unreliable) machine this season....How harshly the fella in front of me at the till speaks to his kid. In fact, looking around the shop as I studiously (I'm a coward) avoid the big fella speaking to a tiny kid as if he's going to land her one on the mouth, the run up to Christmas seems to have brought a pinched, harassed and anxious look to the faces of many. Ho ho ho ho. Merry Christmas.

That's a bit depressing innit. Think of Super Gaz dressed up as a jolly elf or something. In fact super Gaz would probably be the big man himself and Lavs would be his elf. Critch would be the shoemaker. Now I've said that I'm not sure if shoemakers actually feature in yer typical Xmas scene or not. For some reason they're in my head as doing playing some kind of part. Whatever, Critch would be one. I can imagine him working in Timpsons.

Sorry. This is a football blog.

Actually, just before I get to football I think I've got Christmas mixed up with 'the Elves and the Shoemaker' which may or may not feature Christmas but definitely features elves and a shoemaker. Lavs and Dembele with Critch putting nails in a pair of clogs wearing those little spectacles that I imagine all shoemakers wear. Do elves and imps get on? I don't know. Do they even belong to the same universe of small fictional creatures? This is possibly not the kind of conversation to have with yourself at the beginning of a football blog if you're aiming to be big in the world of 'shit fan blogging' is it? 

Where were we?

The team. It's sort of a hotchpotch of players who mostly don't normally start with a few who do and there's no sign of Kenny. It will be nice to see Matty Virtue who is always just about  on his way to becoming a favourite player of mine as he gets injured and then I forget about him for 4 months and repeat. In fact, I'm starting to hope that for Virtue's sake, he never plays well again as every genuinely good game where you can see why he was captain of Liverpool once, seems to come with cost of another 20 on the sidelines with another random injury.  


We start slowly. In fact, It's hard to work out if the game has started at all from the atmosphere. It's very quiet. Forest Green have brought about 25 fans and they're audible as the 3000 or so of us mutter quietly amongst ourselves. Even Tony Parr sounded downbeat before kick off. 

I'll be honest, this game isn't one I want to linger on for too long. I didn't pay it rapt attention.

Some things happened in the first half. They included a goal. Beesley getting wrestled off the ball, possibly unfairly but that then resulting in a ball back that Owen Dale cut off before it got to the keeper and he sort of poked the ball round the goalie, vaulted him and walked it into the net. Never have I seen or witnessed a goal celebrated with less vigour than this one. It barely registered as a thing, let alone as the kind of maelstrom of blood vessel bursting, chest pounding, terrace tumbling, falling over the people and ending up in heap two rows down sheer release that a goal can be. All goals are great goals, but this one, well... I've seen routine clearances given more acclaim. 

Other things included, Morgan looking like he's nearly really good but not quite. pulling off the clever things he tried. Virtue being his usual virtuous self, Dom Thom taking a long pass down beautifully, racing in on goal and then missing by, if not a mile, at least a good 10 yards and Forest Green almost equalising late on with a ball across the box that their striker inexplicably didn't chuck himself at. 

The main highlight for me was being near the bench. I've not been so close to the dugouts since forever. A few things struck me. Ian Brunskill's coat is too small for him and he has the vibe of a Liverpool jazz busker dressed as a sports teacher as if a supply posting has got confused. Mike Garrity is bigger than you think he's going to be and looks like a fella who would chase after someone who'd been making trouble in the street going 'come back ere!!!' Critch though, is, at close quarters, more intense than you'd imagine. I'm usually at the end and at away games, if you're at the side, he's normally on the other. He's a bit of a coiled spring tonight... Is he always this edgy? I don't think he is... 

Fooooooorwaaaard' bellows someone. Critch turns round, shakes his head. The cry goes up again. More head shaking and a gesture. Critch goes out and claps the player vigorously and exhorts them on. Another exhortation to attack from the stand. Critch turns and mouths something in response. He's icy when he's angry. Someone misplaces a pass. He throws his head skywards and has a little meltdown, like a John Cleese doing a Basil Fawlty tantrum but in a straightjacket. I like Cross Critch. Anger is an energy and football needs a bit of passion. He spits. It's a purposeful spit, it's the spit of a lad in tracksuit hanging out at a bus stop and spitting cos there's nothing else to do. You have to say, he's nailed that bullet phlegm action. It's very un-Critch. Maybe there's yet another Critch locked inside the endless onion layers of  enigma that is Neil.

No more Lighthouse Family. Never Mind The Bollocks. Here's the new Critch. This one is all Jonny Rotten stares and incitement. I prefer that to love hearts, platitudes and respectful pre match interviews to be honest. 


It's all fine. 


We're better second half. There's much notepad scribbling in the dugout. Everyone except Critch seems to have some kind of folder or pocket diary to write in. Perhaps they're doing the menu choices for the Christmas meal. Who knows? Perhaps Neil has already chosen his and doesn't need to write anything down. 

We have a load of chances we don't quite score. Joseph looks lively but not very deadly. Beesley nods one over. We even clap a few times. 

Norburn comes on with Dembele. I'm surprised to see the little genius getting a game. It's Norburn though who provides the moment of the match, turning and spraying a fabulous raking ball right into Gabriel's path. He takes it on, draws the keeper and finishes nicely. It's a lovely goal. 

We score again, but I don't actually see the move. I swear someone calls my name. It's possible some actually does, but it's not aimed at me as other people also have my name, but anyway, I'm looking round to see if I can see someone I know and when I turn around there's a mad scramble in the box and then Marvin is running away and I think the ball has basically hit him and gone in. It's probably not the worst goal to have half missed. 

Weirdly Rhodes comes on and gets clattered a few times. It seems a bit odd to put him on but then Critch is as Critch does and I'm too scared of him after his first half fury to question it. I look at the clock and 88 mins has gone. It's been a really odd atmosphere. If you'd asked me, I couldn't have told you whether 57, 75 or 88 mins had passed in the game. It's been devoid of the usual atmospheric markers - the celebrations, the tension, even the  howls of justice and derision. It's just kind of 'happened' 

Critch gives a quick thumbs up and heads off down the tunnel to neck a bottle of JD and go out fighting*. 

*Part of this sentence may be artistic licence. 


A sold performance and one that shouldn't be underestimated in that, despite the fact we clearly didn't want this match, we had a good go and we dominated a side that, ok, aren't the greatest team ever, but aren't the worst team in the world either. We kept going and looked as if we wanted to score a fourth. Norburn was poor at the weekend, but played well tonight, Virtue needs the minutes, Marvin had a solid enough game after his last outing was quite shaky, Gabriel played the full 90 and Thommo won man of the match and pulled off some spins and tricks, the best of which involved some pure Brazilian skill, followed immediately by him falling over which basically sums him up. 

I quite enjoyed it.

Wembley is on. (multiple visits, sea of tangerine, endless glory is the only possible future etc)   


 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. Home-Start Blackpool Food Bank

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Strangely straightforward: the Mighty vs Carlisle United

This week Critch was hopping mad. He was irritably over tightening the lid on the skimmed milk before putting it quite forcibly back in the fridge angry. He was grinding his jaw a bit too much when eating his plain ham sandwiches (on best of both bread) at lunchtime cross. He was uncharacteristically not enjoying the usual post drive car hoovering furious. He was pursing his lips and staring into the middle distance and needing to apologise for being distracted as Janine suggested a drive out to the garden centre for a soothing walk on the gravel paths and a scone seething.

This is the best Critch. No doubt. A diminutive rebel. He's as mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore. Muttering darkly in the corner. Mike having to bring him a cold towel. Ian Brunskill considering whether a shaman (he knows several from his time hiding in South American jungles) needs to be brought in to cleanse Critch of bad vibes

Just when all seems lost, he rises from the stool he's been hunched on all day and says 'fuck em all. I'll just have to give a masterclass won't I?'

My week has been dark and dreary. Just give me football. Now. I need it.


The wind swirls. The rain is blown up and over the stands, looking in the lights like that weird film deluge that is overlaid in front of action. The pitch looks as good as it ever has in December.
It's clearly not an easy prospect, playing in this weather. Long balls are tossed forward and they hold up and swirl, defenders beneath them panicking as the predictable becomes devilish. Sonny almost threads the needle a couple of times. We have corners. Lots of corners. Carlisle resort very quickly to fouling players they can't catch. Some away teams come for a draw. From the outset, it looks like Carlisle have come for a 0-2 defeat. They're so deep. At times, it genuinely looks like they're playing 7-2-1, their two holding midfielders, not so much holding as folding into the back line. The most notable thing about them is they have a keeper who looks like he's out of scale with the rest of the players. He skews my sense of perspective completely. He's too big to be that far away...

For all our pressure, we don't create too many thrills. Pennington's eyes widen as one falls to him but his shot is a defender's effort, kind of rolling down his shin and snaking away, wide of the post. It's in danger of becoming frustrating, but none the less, there's a sort of calmness in ground. We're sheltered from the winds blowing from the sea by the curvature of the stand walls and we're safe from Carlisle attacks because their starting position is generally somewhere around their own penalty box and we're able to snuff out anything they do attempt at source.

Beesley chases a diagonal. He deserve much credit for making nothing into something and forcing a throw. From the throw, the ball ends up with Kenny Dougall. He lofts a hopeful ball into the box and the keeper is distracted by someone in the box and flaps. Lyons is there, alert, bustling in, lifting it at an odd but effective angle up and into the net, past the completely wrong footed giant.

We carry on controlling the game. Carlisle react to going behind by doing absolutely nothing any differently. Dembele moves between the rain drops, spinning and turning like the players around him are just cones laid out for a drill. His cross is almost turned home by Beesley. Carey's raking ball is misjudged by CJ. Rhodes puts one just wide. We're in total control but we haven't turned the screw, so as the whistle goes, there's a sense that it was fine, but no more. 


At half time they do that running round the centre circle with a giant ball thing. I don't normally watch it, but because I never really have paid much attention to it, I do. I notice how seriously they take it, making one of the lads rerun it because he didn't follow the rules. As entertainment goes, I don't think it's inline for a prime slot on ITV to be honest. My attention wanders to Carlisle warming up. For a minute, I'm convinced Carlisle are using tiny tennis ball sized footballs. I'm sure this is some sort of hitherto unseen ploy to increase touch and skill. I am disabused of this notion by my neighbour. The balls are perfectly normal, size 5 footballs. It appears my head has been fucked by first the giant keeper and then the giant footballs and I can't trust reality any more.


Carlisle still fail to respond in any meaningful way. We're again completely dominant without really setting the world on fire. The best bits are a really neat bit of control and a turn from Beesley, who then lays in Lyons who draws a good save and a piece of sheer magic from Dembele who turns his man like an illusionist, feinting one way then, whilst the defender is setting himself, going the other, leaving the poor Carlisle lad flummoxed and CJ with a direct run on goal, but the resultant shot is clipped just the wrong side of the post.

Lyons has it. He floats it in. Beesley leaps, it's a picture book jump, his neck craned and then snapped, the contact perfect, glancing the ball, sending it downwards. The giant plunges and makes a good save, but Jordan Rhodes, like a crystal ball gazing promenade gypsy, has read the future perfectly and is in exactly the right place to guide the ball home. Simple as you like. 

Carlisle finally respond by having a shot. Poor old Grimmy looks freezing and bedraggled, but he's equal to what they throw at him. He stops one from distance easily. He goes down bravely at the feet of one their players, to smother the ball after stopping another shot. He judges well as one of their lads stretches at the far post. He watches one go over the top that they really should have buried. That little flurry is all they muster and a good lot of their fans don't see it, having left after the second went in. 

Jimmy trundles forward and smashes one. I wish that went in. Dembele is so watchable because he'll pick up the ball anywhere and just attack with it and he snaffles the ball on the edge of his own box and runs the length of the pitch. The move ends with a poor pass, but after such intent it's kind of churlish to complain about that. 

The third goal is the most satisfying. I'm just thinking that the game has lacked the kind of goal you can really enjoy, when Lyons wins it and picks a beautiful pass, 40 yards into the path of CJ who looks like he's going to race free before being sent sprawling. Joseph (on for Beesley) picks it up and looks like he's going to score but the keeper gets a long arm on to it and it looks like we've wasted the moment, but there is is Jordan Rhodes on the rebound. He doesn't waste an inch, controlling, seeming to go backwards and sideways in a fluid few steps to make the angle and then smashing it home, timing his effort to perfection, his thought always two steps in front of the the keeper and the ball two yards beyond his defeated flop towards it, what starts as a dive, ending as a kind of defeated collapse, with the ball smashing into the net as he completes his fall. It's a terrific finish, making something that was actually reasonably hard, look so natural and easy. 

That is that. 


Critchley is fizzing. He's hopping with delight. He's running towards the Kop and spotting a ball on the six yard line and he's smashing it home like he's a fun dad at a kids party. Yes... yes... yes!!! He's literally jumping with each swing of the fist and now he's trotting away, skipping away, clapping and bouncing towards the tunnel. I've rarely seen him so giddy. I'm sure I can hear him shouting 'fuck you Graham Kelly' as he goes... 

It's been a long, bleak week. I needed that. I think he did too. 

It was a weird game. By that, I kind of perversely mean, it wasn't weird at all. WE were a lot better than them, we had a lot more shots (at least up until the point we were well clear,) we scored more than enough goals and I never really felt worried. Carlisle were really unambitious but we looked a division better than them, which, when you consider that a couple of years back at this time of the season, we were starting to have mad ideas about a play off push in the Championship and they were looking anxiously towards non-league football is perhaps not a surprise. It's every credit to Simmo for getting them up from where they were and really quite a shame we fell apart as we did. That's the beauty of the game though - it can turn on you, and the enigma that is the Tangerine Wizards is such that we often fail against the teams we're palpably better than so today was an odd experience in that it went totally with the form book and logic.

A routine, professional, solid and worthy win. Loads of hard work and sprinkling of class on top. Doing the expected is actually quite un-Blackpool. More of this sort of thing. 


(If you enjoyed this blog and can afford to, it would be grand to give the club appeal some cash.)

(You can also buy a book of this shite if you haven't already, and I'll give the money that is left over from what Jeff Bezos takes for printing it to the same fund - I can't promise you'll enjoy the book, but it's pretty cheap and I managed to spot and correct most of the mistakes) 

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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 ...