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Boro blinded by the lights as Seasiders run riot
Final Score: Blackpool 4 Middlesbrough 1
IN the land of the Blackpool illuminations, Middlesbrough were left dazzled by the bright Tangerine shirts of Blackpool at Bloomfield Road last night.
With the famous lights shining brightly on the promenade, Boro struggled to turn it on at all to provide a reminder – if one was needed – that staying with the Championship’s top two will not be easy this season.
After Nathan Delfouenso had deservedly put Blackpool two goals up inside 36 minutes, Boro did find something extra to pull one back at the end of the first half through recent signing Andre Bikey.
But any hope of a revival disintegrated in to the cold, autumnal air on the west coast when the exciting Thomas Ince grabbed a neat third for Blackpool nine minutes after the restart – and sub Elliot Grandin completed the win with a penalty five minutes from time.
Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray, whose side have now won three at home and lost three away in the Championship, will not be reading too much in to these back-to-back away days in Lancashire.
But lessons will be learned and he will be keen to avoid a fourth successive reversal when they head for Blackburn on Friday night, when the test is likely to be just as difficult.
Mowbray hinted that rising talent Luke Williams could be left out altogether and he was.
Despite his goalscoring display in Saturday’s win over Ipswich Town, the 19-year-old did not even make the bench along with another academy graduate, Adam Reach.
The young pair’s omission meant a first Championship start for Mustapha Carayol, who also found the net against Ipswich, and Marvin Emnes returned to the team after two weeks compassionate leave.
In the end it was more a night for Mowbray to be more concerned about the vibrancy of Blackpool’s forward play than his own.
From the moment the game kicked off the visitors were chasing orange shirts around.
Blackpool might have been without a win in two, but they soon found the sort of verve which hit Ipswich for six in their last game at Bloomfield Road.
As Gary Taylor-Fletcher pulled the strings as part of a fluent attacking three, the pace and direction of Delfouenso and Ince picked holes in the Middlesbrough defence to run in to regularly.
It was no surprise when Delfouenso found the net as early as he did. When Taylor- Fletcher threaded a delightful through pass between two Boro defenders, the former Aston Villa man delivered despite the best efforts of Jason Steele.
Steele had already made a stunning save to turn behind a 25-yard rocket from Ince and then somehow blocked a close-range header from the same player with his right leg.
Steele, carrying on from his impressive performance against Ipswich, also got down low to thwart Delfouenso again after the forward’s pace often embarrassed the experienced Middlesbrough defence.
But the England Under-21s goalkeeper could do nothing to prevent Delfouenso adding his second. After George Friend made a mess of a routine chance to clear his lines, the left-back was dispossessed by Ince.
The highly-rated Blackpool winger cut inside, looked up and rolled in to the path of Delfouenso to side-foot first time in to the bottom right of the Middlesbrough No 1’s bottom left corner from the edge of the box.
Middlesbrough did waste a couple of decent opportunities moving forward, including when Miller hit the sidenetting when he found space on the left and as half-time approached there were clear signs of progress and the 600 travelling fans were given hope in stoppage time.
After Friend almost made amends with a Bikey header which hit him them the bar, Bikey had another chance to pull one back.
Josh McEachran’s delivery in to the area was met by a precise header from the former Reading defender and he turned away to celebrate his first goal for the club.
The bright finish to the second half looked as if it was going to continue after the restart, with Carayol in particular seeing plenty of the ball early on.
But then Delfounenso was afforded too much freedom once more. This time, after his little run, he rolled in to the path of Ince and he rounded Friend and Steele before applying the neatest of finishes.
The second half was not what really cost Boro, it was the majority of the opening half when they didn’t have an answer to the wave of Blackpool attacks.
It got even worse when Bikey brought down Isaiah Osbourne inside the area late on and Grandin slotted beneath Steele from the spot.
Delfounenso had also had a diving header ruled out for offside which would have capped his night with a hattrick.
Regardless, this was one to forget for Middlesbrough.