I suppose that, rather then call it Black Monday, one could call it a ‘Red-card day’. That the referee destroyed the game would be taking it a bit far, but after the early sending-off one would have thought there would be only one winner – the home side.
One’s thoughts would then have been confirmed with the second sending off, but how wrong could one be, and at the end the home side were hanging on, and we were unlucky not to come away with a point. Pablo Ibanez came in for an injured Jonas Olsson, and Simon Cox replaced an injured James Morrison – but well worth a start after his two goals in the cup in the week.
There was no hint of the drama to come as Albion featured early on with Cox breaking down the right and getting a good shot away, that was well parried. In the ensuing attack at the other end, Ibanez brought down Campbell, and a penalty given.
Fair enough and the tackle did warrant the decision. What then shocked everyone was the decision to send our player off – bearing in mind that Gonzalo Jara was coming around to cover. It seemed a harsh decision at the time, backed up by commentators and in the studio, and the club have announced their decision to appeal the decision.
From the penalty we went 1-0 down, though Scott Carson got both hands on the ball but the wet conditions (it threw it down for most of the game, making treacherous conditions underfoot) meant he could not prevent the ball from going in.
This situation meant a tactical switch by Di Matteo, and he substituted Cox with Simon Reid. It seemed unlucky on Cox, who had earned his chance. If playing with ten men was awkward it got even worse after 29 minutes, when Jara was rightly sent off for an injudicious tackle on Varney. The tackle was near the corner flag, and did not need to be made – especially at that time and in the circumstances.
The chief coach was again forced into a tactical change, with Graham Dorrans replacing Marc-Antoine Fortuné – so we were effectively playing now with no strikers, and with two bands of four across the pitch.
Blackpool’s role then was to break us down, using the extra men, but they found it difficult and the last 10 minutes of the half saw us have 54 per cent of the possession, and we looked good going forward and were comfortable on the ball. So much so that one might have wondered who had the nine men.
They scored again after 63 minutes, finishing off a good move, and one expected more goals – which didn’t arrive. The goal had come after a period of good play from us, with the early aggression from our players now replaced by a steely determination not to be soundly spanked.
Then Youssouf Mulumbu, getting forwards when at all possible, embarked on a dazzling run, and calmly slotted the ball home. 2-1 and all to play for. We had chances in injury time, as did they, with Carson making two crucial saves, but in the end the home side managed to hold out.
So, our unbeaten run of eight matches in all competition comes to an end, but we remain sixth, as results went our way at the weekend. Fourth position would only have meant more nose-bleeds, anyway!
Mulumbu was given another man of the match award, though one could make an argument out for the entire nine-men to have got it.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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