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Crystal Palace (A) Sat 31 Jan 2015, 15:00, Barclays Premier League

Behind Enemy Lines: Blackpool

by Daniel Alston @efc_danalston

FA Cup action will return to Goodison Park for the third time this term on Saturday when Everton entertain Blackpool for a place in the last eight.

The Seasiders were relegated from the Premier League on the final day of last season despite impressing many with their attacking blend of football in their debut top-flight campaign.

This season they have quietly crept into the promotion places in the Championship once again. But can they come back up at the first time of asking? And how different a side are Everton to face on Saturday?

To find out, we went 'Behind Enemy Lines' and asked The Blackpool Gazette's Steve Canavan and supporter Henry Woodsford...


Dropping back down to the Championship had consequences for Blackpool, with key men Charlie Adam, David Vaughan and DJ Campbell all departing to remain in the Premier League.

As Canavan points out, however, signing experienced replacements has allowed Holloway to adhere to his attacking principals - and helped fans forget about relegation.

"Things looked bleak," he says. "But somehow, thanks to brilliant management by Holloway, things have come together and they are playing brilliant, attacking football, which is a joy to watch. The summer signings of the experienced Barry Ferguson and Kevin Phillips were crucial, as was the addition of the dangerous Lomana LuaLua in October."

Seasiders fan Woodsford agrees, and adds that the team's ability to score late in games is promising for their chances of promotion.

"We have been branded as the 'late goal specialists' by certain individuals in the media for our recent victories against Cardiff, Coventry and Crystal Palace,” he says. “We’ve scored seven goals in the last 10 minutes of these games. This 'never say die' attitude pleases me as it showcases our promotion credentials."


With former top-flight teams such as West Ham and Birmingham also vying for promotion, can Holloway really steer the club upwards again?

"Without a shadow of a doubt, yes he can," says Woodsford. "I feel this is a stronger side than the promotion side of 2009/10. Many of the players have played in the Premier League before and they now know what it takes to play at that level."

"Yes," agrees the confident Canavan. "I can’t quite believe it because promotion to the big time two years ago seemed too good to be true. Most Blackpool fans thought they’d have one season in the sun and that would be it. But the squad is now so strong and the standard of football they’re playing is so high that promotion, perhaps even automatic, seems a definite possibility."


Last season's meetings involved a 2-2 draw at Bloomfield Road and a Goodison goalfest as the Blues won 5-3 in February.

Our experts are aware of the tough task ahead - but are tipping the visitors to force a replay or better.

"Everton have to be big favourites," concedes Canavan. "They haven’t been a Premier League team for the last 20 years for nothing and should win. Everton need victory much more than Blackpool. ‘Pool have goals in the side though and should score, so it could be interesting. I’ll go for 2-2."

"Blackpool will be up for the challenge," agrees Woodsford. "Holloway will want to show many supporters and journalists what his current crop of players are capable of. Blackpool could prove to be a sticky wicket for Everton and a cup upset could well be on the cards."


But which player should the Blues be most wary of come Saturday afternoon?

"Matt Gilks," says Canavan. "He has to be the best keeper outside the Premier League. His injury last season - a broken knee which sidelined him from November to April - was the reason ‘Pool got relegated. He makes crucial saves every game."

"Or Matty Phillips,” adds Woodsford. “He has incredible ability and is currently at the top of his game with his goalscoring and recent performances. His tricks and pace will cause Everton's full-backs many problems throughout the game."

Tickets for Saturday's FA Cup fifth round tie with Blackpool are selling fast. To secure your place, visit the Park End box office, call 0871 663 1878 or click here.

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