And that is why we love you – a St. Valentine’s Day match report

Posted: February 14, 2012 in Assorted Match Reports

Doncaster Rovers   1    Blackpool  3            February 14th 2012, Keepmoat Stadium.

No romantic candle-lit dinners for us tonight. We do that most nights anyway in our house, but what better way to spend Valentine’s evening than with the perfect match between Claire’s favourites?  Blackpool FC are her true love, but she occasionally flirts too with Doncaster Rovers, for whom her grandad played for most of his careeer in the fifties.

Providing an average aggregate of  3.8 goals in their away games this season, this Blackpool team are still easy for a neutral like myself to love, as of course is their manager, the utterly unique Ian Holloway.  Despite relegation, Holloway hasn’t changed his attacking instincts – he doesn’t know how to do ‘cagey’, but at the same time he does know how to keep it safe at the back. The back four stay put; the full-backs don’t overlap; two sitting midfielders (Ferguson & Silvestre) are solid as a great big solid base-type thing; the keeper, Gilks, is reliable.

In front of them, though, the other four are free to attack at will, in a great big rotating diamond-type formation that cuts through Doncaster on the break, like the diamond bit of a great big rotating drill-type thingy. All this, don’t forget, is without their two best forward players: Kevin Phillips, on the bench tonight, and Matt Phillips, out injured. Tonight, Fleck generally anchors the diamond; Lua Lua is usually in front of him at the leading point, Dicko usually on the left and Taylor-Fletcher usually on the right. But it can all change in an instant, confusing the defenders as it did tonight when Taylor-Fletcher popped up at centre forward to slot home the opening goal from Eardley’s long pass after 20 minutes.

Doncaster tried to rally, but only Hayter was at all impressive, forcing Gilks into a couple of decent saves. Meanwhile, somebody had clearly told the Doncaster defenders not to worry about Taylor-Fletcher’s pace. “What pace?” Rovers’ manager Dean Saunders had probably said to his defenders. “I bet even Charlie Adam used to beat him in sprints in training.” That must be why they let him advance 20 yards with the ball in the 34th minute, Blackpool’s resident Scouser accelerating, swerving, dropping his shoulder a couple of times and slotting home when he arrived in the box virtually unchallenged.

Blackpool’s travelling supporters were by this stage going through their joyful repertoire unchallenged by their home counterparts, singing to their true loves on a balmy Valentines night. But, predictably, it was Doncaster’s El Hadj Diouf who then brought out very different emotions, as he dived for a controversial penalty just before half-time.  In the legend of Valentine, the Saint is said to have miraculously cured someone’s eyesight – referee Gary Sutton could have done with similar treatment as he was fooled by Diouf’s stick-out-a-leg-to-catch -the-defender-as-I-lose-the-ball-then-stumble act. Diouf’s cheeky dinked kick in front of the raging Tangerine fans was admirably cool, but his attempts to start a fight with the keeper afterwards were less so.

In the end Diouf’s antics didn’t matter.  Doncaster did rally for a brief five minutes at the start of  the second half, during which spell of pressure  the home fans actually made themselves heard for the first and last time, but Blackpool always carried an infinitely greater threat going forward, eventually restoring their two-goal advantage when Alex Baptiste shot from an angle and Donny keeper Button only pushed it into the path of the young Frenchman, Dicko, for 3-1.  The only other time we heard from the home supporters was when a cluster of them voiced their noisy disapproval at the final whistle, but most seemed to slope off home to their sweethearts well before the end. Inexcusable on any night, even St. Valentine’s.  I’ve only been to the Keepmoat Stadium twice, but it doesn’t seem to be somewhere to go for any sort of atmosphere.

Yes, Diouf is still very hateable, but we need a few reliable pantomime villains in the game, don’t we? I still can’t believe that ten long summers ago, when Liverpool signed Diouf after his great World Cup,  I impulsively bought a green Senegal shirt on ebay with his name on the back. Ah well, at least it was a cheapo knock-off one from Hong Kong – I think it cost me about six quid.

By contrast, Blackpool and their fans (well, most of them*) are still very loveable. They kept their average of 3.8 goals up as precisely as possible on this thoroughly entertaining Valentine’s evening. Doncaster stayed bottom of the table, while Blackpool rose to fourth.

*Well, one of them in particular.

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