Blackpool v Newcastle, TOTT preview
Newcastle swap the North Sea for the Irish Sea for the Easter trip to Blackpool. Will the Magpies fly away with the points, or can Pool find the pleasure beach and reverse the dip in a roller coaster season.
It will be remembered that it was this fixture last season which cost Newcastle their unbeaten record, Holloway masterminding a slightly surprising win. Blackpool won at St James` this season too, the first time since they achieved a Toon double in April 50 years ago in the return fixture. Newcastle last won at Blackpool 40 years and 20 days ago in another April fixture.
The visitors will feel, perhaps, that they can afford to put on a show, Premier League safety almost being assured after the impressive home draw against the Manc Yanks. Certianly a win would be welcome for either side with Blackpool battling from a bottom 3 position for the first time.
It is widely reported that Blackpool have the worst home record in this league, with a mere 4 wins, Newcastle having the best away record outside the top 5. Pardew`s wins have all come against bottom teams, if you exclude the players` revolutionary committee defeat of Liverpool, losing in each match against either of the other promoted teams so far this season.
Looking at the squads, Blackpool did more to strengthen in both transfer windows, Tiote being the only likely starter for the Toon who did not feature in the home win against the hosts just over a year ago. The Pool can be seen to have bought in a variety of positions.
Team selection sees at least one enforced change from Manchester United. Krul will continue in goal, seeking to claim a start for next season, Harper still suffering from a knee injury that may keep him out for the rest of the season.
Defensively, it will be hard to justify changing the line up which kept a clean sheet on Tuesday, even though Simspon is kown to be playing through the pain barrier. Ryan Taylor is on standby. Coloccini, Williamson and Enrique complete the quartet.
Tiote has demonstrated his worth, being missed on his previous suspensions. Barton is reveling in his right sided role, whilst Jonas is automatic on the left. Guthrie is going to miss out with his ankle, allowing Nolan an immediate return. Following a Pncrate like cameo for his debut, Ireland is tipped to start on the bench unless Pardew reverts to his seemingly preferred 4-5-1.
It remains to be seen whether Ameobi is fit enough to start with both ranger and Kuqi keen to make their mark if not. Lovenkrands will also hope to have done enough to retain his place.
Newcastle supporters will not need reminding of the tactical flexibility that Holloway brought to St James` in September during the home defeat. Although on paper this looks like an easy trip based on recent form, the hosts are fighting for their top flight lives. This also appears perhaps the easiest of Pool`s remaining fixtures.
Holloway`s first decision is an easy one, to persist with Gilks who had a miraculous day at St James` in September. In front of him we expect to see the celtic flanks with Crainey on the left and Eardley on the right, height coming from Evatt and former Newcastle target Cathcart, with Gateshead born Southern also available.
Captain Charlie Adam is a certainty, acting as an example to the Newcastle hierarchy as to how NOT to sell a key player. Former Pardew protégé Luke Varney will be keen to impress, with Puncheon, possibly a summer target, likely to come from the bench. Higher up the pecking order are Welsh international Vaughan, and Frenchman Grandin also a threat. Former Mackem, Reid, waits in the wings.
Taylor-Fletcher is another Tangerine tomake his mark this season and will ably support the man with a strong history against Newcastle, DJ Campbell. DJ was involved in both the Yeading and first Stevenage clashes in the FA Cup against Newcastle.
Referee for the afternoon is Martin Atkinson, considered good enough for the FA Cup final but who made some bizarre decisions against Newcastle against Man City. He has been good and bad for both sides, even the 6-0 Newcastle win against Villa being tainted by a dubious penalty which divine intervention ensured was missed.
On balance, a draw would be a gratifying result for the visitors but not quite enough for the home side. Blackpool have brought a lot of innovation, fun and sparkle to the Premier League and whatever the result, Newcastle supporters will enjoy the weekend and wish Holloway`s men well for the rest of the season.
lackpool (from): Gilks, Eardley, Cathcart, Crainey, Evatt, Southern, Adam, Varney, Taylor-Fletcher, Campbell, Grandin, Baptiste, Sylvestre, Puncheon, Vaughan, Phillips, Ormerod, Beattie, Reid, Kornilenko, Rachubka, Kingson.
Newcastle (from): Krul, Sodeberg, Simpson, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, S. Taylor, R. Taylor, Perch, Tiote, Barton, Gutierrez, Nolan, Ireland, Vuckic, Tavernier, Richardson, Lovenkrands, Ameobi, Ranger, Kuqi.