Blackpool 3 Middlesbrough 0: Olly closes on play-off spots as Boro miss chance to go top

By Dominic King for the Daily Mail

Sent to the stands on Saturday, then dancing a touchline jig on Monday - the rollercoaster Ian Holloway rides as Blackpool manager shows no signs of slowing.

If 2011 was the year Blackpool, according to Holloway, cried 'a sea of tears' following relegation from the Barclays Premier League, the manner of their latest performance suggests an altogether happier story maybe told during the next 12 months.

A comprehensive victory, thanks to second half efforts from Matt Phillips, Lomana LuaLua and a Seb Hines own goal, lifted Blackpool onto the fringes of the play-offs battle, and left Holloway daring to dream of promotion.

Head over heels: Blackpool forward Lomana LuaLua celebrates his goal

Head over heels: Blackpool forward Lomana LuaLua celebrates his goal

'I can't remember many more exciting games than that,' said Holloway.

'I was delighted for the players, how they bounced back from losing (3-0) at Birmingham at the weekend.

'Well done to everybody. That is as good as we have played for a year, if we are being truthful.

'This time last year, everything was ok until everyone wanted to buy Charlie (Adam). Then things went horribly wrong. This league is far and away stronger than the one we got promoted from. But can we be as consistent as the teams at the top? Why not?'

Poacher: LuaLua prods home to grab Blackpool's second goal

Poacher: LuaLua prods home to grab Blackpool's second goal

If the festive period has led to Middlesbrough's momentum being checked - a win, a draw and this defeat scuppered their prospects of taking over at the top - the opposite is true for Blackpool.


Blackpool: Howard, Baptiste, Cathcart, Evatt, Crainey, Angel (Eardley 72), Basham, Sylvestre (McManaman 78), Matt Phillips, LuaLua (Kevin Phillips 78), Ince.

Subs Not Used: Taylor-Fletcher, Wilson.

Goals: Matt Phillips 50, LuaLua 57, Hines 70 og.

Middlesbrough: Steele, McMahon (Emnes 61), Bates, Rhys Williams, Hoyte, Bennett, Haroun (Reach 68), Smallwood (Hines 68), Robson, Ogbeche, McDonald.

Subs Not Used: Coyne,Main.

Booked: Robson.

Attendance: 13,449

Referee: Scott Mathieson (Cheshire).

A haul of six points from the last nine has come at just the right time. Resilient when they needed to be, and ruthless when opportunities came along, it was the perfect start to 2012 for Blackpool, and the style of their display left Boro's manager in no doubt Holloway's men will be in the thick of the promotion battle.

'I have not got any complaints about the result,' said Tony Mowbray.

'They have got some good players. It might have been different if we had taken the lead instead of hitting the post, as we haven't lost too many games from a winning position. We had chances but goals change games.'

Middlesbrough had enjoyed the better of a scrappy first half and began the second period with impetus.

With better fortune, they would have poked their noses in front when Barry Robson sped into the area, but his precise shot cracked against a post. That was the decisive moment.

Own goal: Matt Phillips (left) celebrates after Seb Hines put into his own net

Own goal: Matt Phillips (left) celebrates after Seb Hines put into his own net

In the next attack, Blackpool charged up field and Phillips took full advantage of defenders backing off in front of him by rifling in from 25 yards.

Middlesbrough fell apart.

Dejected: Boro manager Tony Mowbray

Dejected: Boro manager Tony Mowbray

Jason Steele should have dealt with Alex Baptiste's speculative shot but the goalkeeper carelessly fumbled and allowed LuaLua to pilfer the decisive second.

Given they were in such control it was something of a surprise Blackpool only added one more, when Middlesbrough substitute Hines put through his own net.

Not that Holloway was complaining.

'That was fantastic,' he beamed. 'But the competition in this league is pretty scary and I can't tell you which way it will go. It might be a fantastic 2012. It might be disastrous. Who knows?'

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