As we enter February on the back of the worst run of the season, the games become ever more crucial for Blackpool. In the last mini-review on 3rd January I'd surmised that we were ahead of the game in terms of the number of points on the board and felt that even as few as five points would be a good return from the rest of the January fixtures against Birmingham, Liverpool, West Brom, Sunderland and Man Utd. After all, with four of those matches at home, five points would be the minimum the Seasiders would chalk up, right? Wrong.
Disappointing home defeats to Birmingham and Sunderland were unexpected, and while the double over Liverpool was completed, narrow losses at the Hawthorns and against the champions-elect have seen 'Pool walk away empty-handed from five of the last six games. All of these defeats were only by the one goal, some consolation in the form of the side's goal difference, but it's a run Ian Holloway and his team will be looking to arrest before the situation starts to look bleak.
Who's up next then for the Seasiders? Let's examine the next batch of fixtures for the month of February:
- West Ham United (h)
- Everton (a)
- Aston Villa (h)
- Tottenham Hotspur (h)
- Wolverhampton Wanderers (a)
The two games that bookend this month are without a doubt the obvious 'six-pointers' and victory in these games would probably be a satisfactory return. This would take Blackpool onto 34 points by the end of February, while at the same time helping to deny their rivals catching up. West Ham's activity in the transfer market could give them a lift, while Wolves will be expecting nothing less than three points when they entertain 'Pool at Molineux. Failure to win at least one of these two games would be a concern, while two defeats does not bear thinking about.
The trip to Goodison Park is unlikely to be easy, with the Toffees' form sure to pick up at some point you would imagine. Aston Villa, with the help of Darren Bent, look to have improved in recent weeks and following the war of words between Holloway and Gerard Houllier, that could be a hard-fought encounter. The mid-week visit of Spurs is perhaps the hardest of the lot, and any points taken from this match must be considered a bonus.
I've said on so many occasions this season that a certain run of fixtures could be season-defining, and each time the statement feels truer. Halting the decline is a must, and one would hope that the reinforcements added by Holloway will help 'Pool achieve this. Blackpool have yet to go more than three games without a win all season, something only Man City and Arsenal can match or better, but that record is in danger when the Hammers come to Bloomfield Road this evening. Preserving this record would go a long way to reaching an acceptable points tally by the end of the month, and in turn survival.