Blackpool and Stoke City drew 0-0 at Bloomfield Road as Ian Holloway’s side continued their battle against relegation from the Premier League. The point keeps the Seasiders out of the drop zone by one goal, while Stoke continue to look towards the FA Cup final.
The Tangerines persisted with their expansive 4-3-3 formation, making no changes from the side that drew 1-1 a week ago with Newcastle United. Stoke made only one switch from the team that beat Wolverhampton Wanderers in midweek, Dean Whitehead replacing the injured Matthew Etherington with Rory Delap moving to the left of midfield.
With Etherington missing it was Matt Phillips in the role of the eye-catching winger. The Blackpool wide-man was involved throughout the first-half, threatening down the Seasiders’ right flank with his prodigious running with the ball but poor delivery of the final pass and indecision meant some promising situations came to naught. His direct opponent, Stoke’s Delap, put in arguably the best cross of the half in a rare Stoke attack but a lack of presence in the penalty area saw it cleared comfortably – if Phillips could produce a ball of that quality, he and Blackpool would be a far more difficult prospect.
As it was, while Blackpool had the majority of possession – 60% by half-time – Stoke’s rigid defending meant there was no way through for Holloway’s men, who were increasingly short on options. The result was a tame Blackpool attack, particularly in contrast to Stoke. While their attacks were infrequent, when they did arrive, Stoke’s organised forward play upset the home defence. It was a stark contrast between the two sides – Blackpool were timid and Stoke were direct, not with route-one football, but rather a crisp, urgent approach. Kenwyne Jones had the best chance of the opening half when he rounded the Blackpool goalkeeper, only to drift his shot harmlessly wide. It was against the run of play in a sense – Blackpool had made all the running – but when Stoke did attack, they looked more dangerous.
Glenn Whelan’s 25-yard drive was the first chance after the break as Stoke began to pen Blackpool back. After conceding so much territory and so much of the ball in the first-half, Stoke put Blackpool under pressure for much of the second. Blackpool stood up to the barrage of long throws and corners but struggled for a response of their own and Phillips, quieter in the second-half than the first, was withdrawn for Luke Varney with Gary Taylor-Fletcher also going off for Sergey Kornilenko.
Blackpool’s intentions were clear, with three players in attack at all times, but they were starved of service, as, despite having an extra man in midfield Blackpool, could not retain the ball. When they did build an attack, a rarity in the second-half, the problems of the first remained. There was little urgency despite their perilous league position while Stoke were content to draw with the FA Cup final in mind, and the point apiece does little to benefit Blackpool’s fight against relegation.