A great result, and a great performance. Not perfect, of course, we did concede a goal, but we could have had six or seven. The defence held up well, and despite the goal Blackpool had few clear cut chances, and none of their players wasted any.
Going forward we played with a confidence that you wouldn't have expected from a team without a win in six. Having said that, the pressure was off with two early goals. Most pleasing was the way we lifted ourselves and took the game to Blackpool after we conceded the goal. That was a turning point for me, we could easily have decided to drop back to protect the lead, or even worse had players heads drop.
On the whole it is difficult to pick out players that played well, or poorly, as the whole team performed, but Zheng Zhi was everywhere. The two goals fell to him, but he can only be praised for being in the right position at the right time. He also made a run - which earned him a round of applause - in the second half which was at least three quarters of the pitch to make a challenge. He was the Man of the Match for me, but there were several contenders. Varney looked like the player that Pardew said he was when he signed him, Holland rolled back the years to put in the kind of performance we saw from him a few seasons ago, and the full-backs made the kind of runs that we all hoped they would and game the team something that neither Powell nor Mills did. Ambrose, and especially Sam seemed to have unfruitful games, but I would suggest that this had more to do with the way Blackpool set out their stall. The result was that we had much more space in the middle of the park as they both tended to tuck inside.
The only disappointment for me was that there was, yet again, very little to suggest that McLeod is going to make an impact this season. He has lots of pace, and from what I've seen on You Tube knows where the net is, but he seems to lack the awareness to make the right play. He seems to be unable to do anything more than run with the ball and shoot. There were a couple of occasions yesterday when it seemed obvious what he should do, yet he just didn't. Maybe that's a goal scorers 'greed' but I fear that he just doesn't have that ability to pick out team member with a pass when under pressure. Pardew did make a comment in the program about bringing on players at the expense of the team/results. Maybe McLeod will learn that with a run in the team, but I have my doubts.
I have no complaints about yesterday. I might have given Iwelumo and Dickson 30 minutes, but I guess if Varney and McLeod need more playing time this was an ideal time to give it to them. It also leaves Pardew a few options for Tuesday night. If he believes that McLeod is going to be involved in the run in then he should start with the same team. I believe that with a different formation and different players another game under their belt is more important that a rest.
Including the West Brom game the weekend before we have now seen two games with this team and two good performances. I know that Blackpool are not a top six side, but their recent results have been impressive, and you can, after all, only beat what is put in front of you. I still think that away from home there will be a place for the 4-5-1, but I would like to see us take the game to West Brom on Tuesday and use that as a test before any decision is made about how to approach the Watford game next week. So with our run of five 'easy' games behind us, we approach the six-pointers with more pressure on results, but playing well and looking good.
You can't ask for more than than. Bring on the Baggies.