Goal Analysis – Doncaster

After previously unpicking two opposition goals in recent weeks this time the focus turns on to a goal scored by Blackpool.

The final goal in the 3-1 victory over Doncaster had points of interest from both an attacking and defending point of view. The first two goals scored on the night came from Gary Taylor-Fletcher, the first from a brilliant long curved pass over the Doncaster defence from Neal Eardley and the second self-created with quick feet and craft.

Double Phase

The goal was a product of two phases of play. The first phase being an attacking free kick for Blackpool and the second, reclaimed possession from the free kick resulting in the goal. The start of the first phase is pictured below.

Whilst Doncaster do win the header at the free kick they don’t clear the ball to safety and nor does the man on the edge of the box (highlighted) react quick enough to the loose ball. Not in the picture above is the man who is responsible for initiating phase two, Barry Ferguson.

Fergie Time & Again

Ferguson has been fantastic for Blackpool this season, his technique is of a very high standard which makes errors on his first touch very rare. His positional sense is superb and allied with great vision and leadership he is able to organise the team around his position. He is generally first to collect orders from Holloway and distribute them and at attacking set pieces you can see him pointing to his players advising them where to go. Such is his quality of positional work it often escapes notice. It takes a goal such as this to really appreciate his role in the Blackpool team. In attack, he supports the team and provides the back up when attacks either break down or fizzle out.

In the picture above you can see that he was perfectly positioned to pick up on the loose ball and in a split second Ferguson has possession of the ball and without any hassle the ball has started on its path towards the back of the net. It looks simple, but in reality that kind of play is hard to do, you need to be in the right position, you then need the required technique to secure the ball and move it on. Poorer players could have lost possession in such a situation and left their team open to a fast break.


The Blackpool goal then lends itself to three more excellent pieces of work.

  1. A brilliant through ball from Kevin Phillips allowing Alex Baptiste to advance.
  2. A hard and accurate shot from Baptiste. He knows he need to either shoot or cross. His run and position isn’t that dissimilar to the goal he scored against Crystal Palace earlier in the season and here he makes the keeper make a save.
  3. Nouha Dicko understands his position well and knows he needs to both make himself available for a cross and in position to poach any loose ball that may rebound. He does the latter superbly well to put the game beyond Doncaster.

Back Baps

Arguably, the key element of those three is the role that Baptiste plays. It has been said on this blog this season that Blackpool look their most potent when Baptiste steps in to attack. The main reasons for this is that at several points this season Blackpool have been stymied and tend to struggle for creative ideas around the final third, often slowing the tempo of the game too much and having poor movement ahead of the ball. In such cases it’s important for midfielders to make runs beyond the ball and if that doesn’t happen then the defence can do the same. In doing so, they can create overloading situations against the opposition defence and in turn get behind the defensive line which can be vital in any football match.

Turn & Face

It is that last sentence that leads to the final point to be made about the goal. It’s is a great example of why an attacking team needs to turn a defensive line around and get them running towards their goal. It pushes them closer to their own goal, but also only very good defenders can recover their awareness of the match situation to deal with the imminent threats. Here, Doncaster have only just turned to face their goal when the shot comes in from Baptiste and they have little time to understand where the Blackpool players are and react before the ball is in the net.

Moving On

You can view this goal and the others from the match against Doncaster over on the BBC website through the link below

Doncaster 1-3 Blackpool

Overall this was a good team goal and a good three points for Blackpool as they move on to an FA Cup clash with Everton. A preview of that game can be found on the link below.

Everton v Blackpool – FA Cup 5th Round – 18th March 2012

Ghosting The Concession

Last week the goal conceded to Cardiff was scrutinised as Blackpool made a succession of errors to let Joe Mason score the opening goal. This week the focus turns to the goal that Erik Huseklepp scored to give Portsmouth the lead at Bloomfield Road.

Two sides to the story

In this analysis the two facets being focused on are the excellent movement of Huseklepp and the defending from Blackpool. To preface the analysis Ian Holloway argued vehemently that the ball should never have been at Blackpool’s end of the pitch due to a poor refereeing decision. Here, however, that element will be ignored. The goal was scored and let’s focus on exactly why.


Like Cardiff last week the Blackpool defence were given at least two warnings that they never dealt with in the run up to conceding. Firstly, from the throw in, Chris Basham had a challenge that had he won, would have snuffed out the attack. Secondly, after Matt Gilks made his save Blackpool could have reacted quicker to the loose ball to stop Portsmouth regaining possession in the Blackpool box.

Switching off

However, the reaction from Craig Cathcart after the goal was scored suggests he was well aware of his role in the goal. Before going in to detail here it’s critical to note that Cathcart had a fine game and defended most of his situations well including a Bobby Moore style stop to thwart a possible goal scoring opportunity. However, as the goal events were unfolding there is enough to question both Cathcart’s positional awareness, concentration and decision making. The screen shot below shows the position of the Blackpool back four prior to the shot coming in which Matt Gilks saves.

You can see how all four defenders hold a decent position. Cathcart (two red dots above his head) has Huseklepp (two blue dots) in his sights. Cathcart initially goes with Huseklepp’s first run, anticipating that he may pick the ball up. However, Cathcart watches the ball as the shot comes in whilst Huseklepp shuffles his run and ghosts in behind Cathcart. You can see below how Cathcart is unaware of where Huseklepp has gone.

This was the warning for Cathcart. Huseklepp will keep moving and darting around to fool him. Cathcart has decisions to make. Stick to the man and risk being pulled out of position, keep his position or react to the lose ball to snuff out the danger. The picture below shows the situation after the shot has been saved.

As Márkó Futács lines up his shot, Cathcart is aware of that fact but not that Huseklepp is behind him. Cathcart is dealing with the matter in hand, which is all he must feel he can do. However, he must also have a keen appreciation of where Huseklepp has gone.

What follows suggests that he is trying to deal with the matter at hand and has left Huseklepp alone either through a mistake or through passing on marking to a team mate, Barry Ferguson. Ferguson does drop in to cover as Cathcart goes out and this is when three things conspire against Blackpool. Fortune, in that the scuffed shot finds Huseklepp, but also first class movement from the Norweigan to get in-between Ferguson and Cathcart allied to his reaction to the poor shot.

You can see below how Cathcart is left stranded, Ferguson has dropped to cover, but Huseklepp has ghosted in to a great position to seize on the chance. Ferguson cannot react quick enough to block the shot.

Barry Ferguson is highlighted in the tangerine box as he drops in behind Cathcart & Huseklepp.

Premier Striker

In all fairness, Huseklepp made this goal through excellent box play. Constantly moving, making three runs in total, becoming very hard to track. However, Blackpool will know that the situation was solvable and Cathcart will once again add this to his experience in the hope of becoming a top quality centre back.



A Concession Of Errors

In a new (hopefully permanent) feature on the blog a closer look will be taken at the goals in Blackpool matches with a view to understanding them in greater detail. Usual tactical articles will still come along, but finding the time and resources to make them genuinely worthwhile are much harder this season now Blackpool are playing Championship football.

Cardiff Take The Lead

Watching the Cardiff goal in the first instance there are at least three points of failure for Blackpool. As much as Joe Mason scored the goal, poor Blackpool defending presented the chance. However, before looking at the points of failure it’s important to note why Blackpool ended up defending so close to the goal.

Goals may be scored in a split second, but quite often there’s a stacking up of incidents leading to the goal. They act as a warning to the defensive team that they need to be aware in order to snuff out danger at the earliest opportunity. In this instance, Cardiff got in between Blackpool lines of defence and midfield catching Blackpool out of shape in defence. Remember, this is in the lead up to the goal.

Crainey (circled) is caught high up the pitch, Cardiff advance.

The picture above shows how Stephen Crainey was caught a little high up the pitch and Danny Wilson was dragged over to deal with the oncoming player leaving far too much space between him and Craig Cathcart. It is here were teams have often picked apart Blackpool. The picture below shows how there’s a clear pass on in behind Cathcart for Kenny Miller. Instead of taking that option Mason spreads the play wide. As he opts to do that Cathcart goes to put pressure on the ball and pulls the whole Blackpool defence out of shape.

The blue arrow indicates the play that could have caught Blackpool out, whilst Cathcart (circled) steps up.

It is at this point where Blackpool are at stress point. They are being turned around and need to regroup their shape and become aware of the positions taken up by their opponents. Alex Baptiste goes to apply pressure to the man on the ball and Chris Basham drops to cover at right back.

Now the errors start to mount up. Arguably they were the result of poor defending, but not helped by being pulled out of shape and having to recover shape whilst being turned to face their goal.

Point of failure 1

Blackpool centre back (circled) getting in front of their men. Note Don Cowie is a spare man at the back post, unmarked.

Both centre backs get themselves in poor positions in front of the men they should mark causing a knock on effect. Cathcart is marking space with Mason taking up position behind him. Wilson monitors Miller but realising he has to go to Mason passes on the marking of Miller to pick up Mason, however, he is unaware that Crainey is outnumbered at the back post. This is a combination of positioning, awareness and organisation not functioning very well as there were three Cardiff players in relation to three Blackpool players.

Point of failure 2

Wilson (circled) moves out to the man in anticipation.

In trying to anticipate the knock down by Don Cowie, Danny Wilson goes forward to the nearest man. Had he held his position he could have cut the ball out easily.

Point of failure 3

Cathcart fails to react.

In thinking that Wilson has the ball covered Cathcart switches off instead on staying goal side of Mason and on his toes ready for the worst case scenario. Mason then steals in front of Cathcart to score.

Diagnosis: Goal

This just highlights how goals can be conceded through not dealing with the matter at hand at the earliest opportunity. Nothing has been said about the excellent work that Cardiff did to score the goal. The ghosting movement of Cowie to sneak around the back. The awareness when crossing the ball to pick out Cowie at the back post and the anticipation of Mason to steal in front of Cathcart.

It gives Blackpool a good few things to think about from a defensive point of view, but will not take anything away from a good three points on their travels as perhaps the dreaming may start once again.