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A carnival atmosphere buzzed around Bloomfield Road on Blackpool’s first home game in the Premier League. Pre-match, souvenirs and mementos of the historic occasion were being sold on every corner of the ground. Optimism was the key word of the day, as the fans settled in for what became a rollercoaster ride of a match at Bloomfield Road.
Mark Hughes’ side took a lead into the interval after Bobby Zamora’s somewhat controversial close-range finish on 37 minutes. In the build-up to the play, Blackpool’s Ian Evatt seemed to be unfairly bundled over by the otherwise outstanding Moussa Dembele. The Belgian then continued his run and clipped the ball into the six yard box where Bobby Zamora, appearing to be a yard or so offside, volleyed the ball past the floundering arms of Matt Gilks.
After the break, Blackpool played with a new vibrance and their pressure paid off when a miscued John Pantsil pass dropped to the feet of young French newcomer Elliott Grandin. He spread the play wide to Blackpool debutant Luke Varney, whose cross bounced around in the box before falling to the unfortunate Pantsil again. The Ghanaian defender swung a foot at the ball and connected horribly, planting it into an empty net. Blackpool were on the up and scored their second when Charlie Adam played a precise pass through the defence to goal hero Varney, who struck the ball low past David Stockdale in the Fulham goal.
The whole of Blackpool was rocking until the 85th minute. The simply brilliant Dembele danced away from two lacklustre Blackpool challenges and threaded the eye of the Blackpool needle with a majestic through ball. Nobody in a Tangerine shirt tracked the run of Dickson Etuhu and the Nigerian midfielder coolly lifted the ball over Gilks in the Blackpool goal. Tangerine hearts sunk as they realised the cruel nature of the Premier League and the never-say-die attitude of the teams that occupy it.
The international break gives Holloway a chance to rest and recuperate his players. Only a few have been called up to their national sides with Scotland calling up goalkeeper Matthew Gilks and Israeli defender Dekel Keinan included in the Israeli squad for the game against Malta on Wednesday. Holloway is looking to add to the nine new faces he has brought into Bloomfield Road already. Reports are circulating that Wycombe and England under 19 winger Matt Phillips is set to join the club before the transfer window slams shut. Also, Bosnian international Zlatan Muslimovic is rumoured to be on Holloway’s hit list and the 29-year-old midfielder will add some more experience of top level football to Blackpool’s side.
Another rumour is the arrival of former loanee DJ Campbell from Leicester City. Campbell’s goals helped fire Blackpool to the playoff final and his performances at Bloomfield Road alerted Holloway to the potential of signing the striker. Leicester are reluctant to let Campbell go at the minute, because of the poor quality of the Blackpool bid, so they would have to test the resolve of the Leicester City board.
Holloway is concocting a squad capable of surviving, on performances so far, and his team will be brimming with confidence after testing Fulham to a point and the obvious elation of the opening day thumping at Wigan.
Their next game is with other newly promoted side Newcastle and a sell out St. James’ Park will not be a new feeling for Holloway’s boys, after their visit last season. Blackpool will be hoping there is not a repeat of the game last season, where Newcastle ran out 5-1 winners in rampant fashion.
Blackpool will be keen to relive every moment in the Premier League and on Wednesday an official DVD will be released, celebrating the momentous first game at Bloomfield Road in the Premier League. They will be praying for many more celebrations at home, as it is vital they pick up points at Bloomfield Road. Holloway will know that he needs to win at home in order to survive. He promised that his side would come out fighting against any team and not be put into defensive submission, but for the Fulham equaliser to clinch their point, Blackpool had five players in the final third, leaving acres of space for creation and then, the finish.
So far, Blackpool are living the Premiership dream and will be excited for the next game in two weeks, when they face the Magpies. Things are still looking rosy for Holloway’s men, but who knows what horrors will come around the corner.