How did Blackpool beat Birmingham?

Blackpool beat Birmingham 3-2 on aggregate after a pulsating game at St Andrews on Wednesday night to reach the Championship playoff final at Wembley for the second time. Blackpool took a two goal lead on the night to extend their aggregate lead from the first leg to 3-0 before Birmingham finished strongly to pull two goals back and kept pushing to the end only to fall just short.

Over the two legs there were a set of factors that could be deemed as being critical in Blackpool’s victory as well as elements that led to Birmingham coming back in to the game. The factors are outlined below and are in no order of priority nor are they exhaustive. This takes in to account both legs as a combined match lasting 180 minutes. The structure of the game was roughly as follows. The first 20 minutes was an even affair before Blackpool dominated for the next  120 minutes, then Birmingham dominated for 30 minutes before a relatively even last 10 minutes.

React & Build

As discussed in the preview Ian Holloway had a key decision to make in the midfield having to choose between the technical and positional qualities of Barry Ferguson or the more dynamic running and physicality of Keith Southern. Holloway opted for the former and without a doubt the composure on the ball of Ferguson in alliance with Angel Martinez was pivotal. Martinez and Ferguson formed a great central midfield unit based firstly on reclaiming possession from loose and ‘second balls’ giving Blackpool vital possession of the football. This was neatly done through keen anticipation, timing and superb positioning. So much so that Chris Hughton made a late change in the first leg to bring Jonathon Spector in to the central midfield area to stem Blackpool’s flow.

The impact of this dynamic was that Blackpool had a solid platform to attack from and supply their wide men. Also, given that Birmingham play a long ball game there was a lot of loose balls to be picked up on and Birmingham were consistently second best to them. In addition to this Blackpool were able to play comfortably from the back through the midfield and on to the attack. Essentially the pattern for large parts of both legs was; Birmingham long ball from the back, Blackpool win the defensive header, Blackpool’s midfield seize on the loose ball and attack.

Degrees of Pressure

What was clearly noticeable was the difference between the two teams in their application off the ball. Blackpool were consistent in pressing high up the pitch for large parts of the game, with a slight drop as Birmingham dominated in the second half of the second leg. Birmingham however, started pressing brightly in the first leg, but dropped after about 20 minutes and Blackpool moved the ball through their midfield effectively. They were then sporadic in their pressing for the rest of the tie. In particular the selection of Spector to start the second leg appeared to place Birmingham at a disadvantage as more often that not he tended to sit off the Blackpool midfield with Jordan Mutch being the lone midfielder who tried to press. As a counterpoint to this the introduction of Guirane N’Daw just before half time in the second leg saw Birmingham pressure Blackpool much more effectively as he stepped out consistently to hassle the Blackpool central midfield. If anything the even finish to the game potentially owed a lot to the fact the N’Daw was virtually added to the attack removing him from the area in which he was operating effectively.

Defending Excellence

One of the critical elements of the tie was the ability of Blackpool to get behind the Birmingham defence and although they did defend well for large periods, they lacked defensive coherency at some critical moments. On the other hand Blackpool appeared to win the large majority of their defensive duels. In particular Ian Evatt dominated his opponent for pretty much the full 180 minutes. In the air he was imperious and on the occasion he was slack on the ground King was unable to convert when it mattered.


Blackpool have played a high defensive line for large parts of their time under Ian Holloway. In addition to this they also attempt to utilise an offside trap as a method of snuffing out attacks before they fully develop. There are several examples of how Blackpool have got their offside trap wrong over the past few seasons, but with the exception of the Nikola Žigić goal they executed it to perfection here. Not having the stats at hand is an issue, but as an estimate, Birmingham were caught offside around 14 times across both legs with the majority due to Marlon King’s impatience and inability to hold and time his runs. Arguably a well constructed offside trap is the pinnacle of defensive work and should it be executed well it needs intelligent play from the attacking side to neutralise it.

A Right Burke

Chris Burke is no doubt a superb player and can change matches as proved here, the problem for Birmingham is that they lacked balance in their point of attack. Too often than not they tried to channel their attacks through Burke’s right flank. Essentially Blackpool knew if they could cut supply to Burke or handle him in possession then they’d neuter Birmingham to a great degree. In the first leg, Burke saw very little of the ball, when he finally saw the ball in the second leg and was given adequate support to work overloads and overlaps he became a threat. In addition to this Blackpool allowed him to waltz inside far too often. From an attacking point of view Burke was the best player of the second leg. This was further backed up as Birmingham fired in to life it was sparked by a keenly timed pass through to Žigić which was then followed by persistent feeding of Burke down the right hand channel due to the aforementioned better pressure from Birmingham through N’Daw.

Moving on

Blackpool will travel to Wembley to meet West Ham a side who have unpicked Blackpool at will in their two meetings this season. Sam Allardyce will set out to gain an early advantage and then seek to efficiently deconstruct Blackpool through well-timed attacks. However, Blackpool are a different side to when these two last met and on a one-off occasion, with a manager and team that Blackpool possess, absolutely anything could happen. What is safe to say is that Blackpool has another side to be proud of and a season packed full of memories that can be added to the catalogue that has been built up over the past three seasons.

19 thoughts on “How did Blackpool beat Birmingham?”


    1. I’m sure if we end up meeting again next season things will be different for both teams. It was certainly a great comeback in the end and the atmosphere at St Andrews was electric. As for Gilks’ time wasting, I can’t condone that from anyone from any team, however, at least once he did have to stop due to something being thrown on the pitch, probably sparked by earlier timewasting. The other times was Gilks being the mischievous soul that he is which isn’t right, but it’s up the referee to change that.

        1. Doyley may have chanced his arm in that first leg – after having been injured, mind – but your keeper really took the p*ss!
          Anyway, fair’s fair and Blackpool about deserved it over the two legs. And Hughton and Holloway are both a credit to the game.

  2. While I’m gutted Blues didnt get through I’ve got to say well done Blackpool – a deserved win over the 2 legs with some cracking attacking football and as already said a much improved side from earlier in the season. Really hope you hammer The Hammers!

  3. Very accurate account of the games, as a long term blue nose I hoped we would win, but accepted the best team did.
    Thought your fans were a disgrace taunting us about going home as the game was over, we love out team and applauded Reading at the weekend, we would have applauded your team had you shown a bit more courtesy.

    Good luck in the final
    Tony Lawton

    1. Cheers Tony. I have to agree, I assume you mean the ‘Why don’t you go home?’ chant? If so, it’s something that crept in to the songs in the last few games (think it originally was aimed at Leeds or Burnley to start off with) and I felt it was unnecessary taunting towards a superb home crowd.

    2. I think it was a reaction from the home leg where the Birmingham fans chanted “Blackpool’s a shithole, I wanna go home”.. Honestly it was ment only as banter and I apologise if it caused distress..
      A fantastic game though, the last 20mins showed just what a force you can be.. Not since the Cardiff game has time ebed away soooo slowly, good luck for next season, the key I feel is keeping hold of Hughton..

      1. No need to apologise for the chant as we hand out more than we take away from home as do most clubs; home only fans tend to be a bit sensitive( but not as much as fans who go to neither! )

        Good luck again in the final.

  4. At the end of last season we lost our manager, not such a bad thing, most of the team left, our ‘owner’ is in/could be in the nick we haven’t got any cash, loan players in etc. It really was a fantastic season for us, great run in the FA Cup, just missed out on going into the knock out stages of the UEFA Cup and a playoff place in the Championship, all of this with a very small squad and no money to spend. We just didn’t play well enough over the two legs which was disappointing. Blackpool deserved to go through to the final they were the better team both home and away and I hope they get promoted…KRO

  5. ..a great rally from blues but we left it too late and Blackpool fully deserved to go through over the two legs..
    Two great managers also..and the respect they showed each other’s team was heartening..

    I hope Blackpool now go on and finish the job and look forward to Ian Holloway’s brand of attacking football in the Prem…. a real legend!!

    p.s. if you do.. please stuff Villa!!

  6. A well observered summary of both legs,!! After the obvious dismay of our defeat after such a incredible season by us, [ You outlined that, — thank you ]. We genuinely hope that you go through, Mate.

  7. excellent pool,takes two to make a great game,brum were good but left it to late, thank goodness it was a long 20mins, just been at bloomers all set for the 19th

  8. Congratulations to Blackpool. I was at both games and no one can deny Blackpool deserved to go through. I am very impressed with Ian Holloway. He is sometimes seen as a clown but he has more than dispelled that theory. A real class act and like many other Blue noses I hope they get promotion

  9. Blackpool deserved their aggregate win. We lacked energy to press the necessary amount of time in the tie to put you on the back foot until that 30 minute spell. We don’t usually play long ball by the way but were forced to by key injuries to our midfield and back four. We failed to pick up enough knock down ball though I totally agree. Chrck out my report on the game:

    Good luck in the final and congratulations on your win.

  10. Like the other Birmingham City fans on here. I just want to congratulate Blackpool fans on your win this week. It was a great advert for the championship and I honestly wish you well against “The Hammers”. I really believe you can beat them .

    I thought your fans were very vocal both home and away and your team just about deserved the win and played some good stuff.You all deserve credit (as does Hollaway), who is a bit mad but a real gent to boot.

    Hope you get up and stay up.Best of luck.


  11. I haven’t been as frightened since I started watching Blackpool as I was for 20 mins at St. Andrews.
    The got easier in the last 10 mins, as Brum just seemed to run out of gas (understandable after 62 games), but for those 20 mins, the pressure was ferocious.

  12. Good and fair reflection of the ties. We all wish Pool well against Wet Spam, not least because we al love Holloway.
    The only negative is the behaviour of many fans on the way to the match.
    Coach after coach shouting abuse, making gesticulations and showing unnecessary aggression. So much so that one officer had to get on a couple of coaches and web the fans about their behaviour. I was abused several times unprovoked as I approached Stan’s.
    I think youll find most Blues fans were in good spirit approaching the game and even afterwards, but some of your fans let you down on what was a great night for you otherwise.
    Good luck at Wembley nonetheless.

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