In the long hard road of Championship football, relentless application separates the successful from the rest. Ian Holloway will be frustrated this morning after seeing his Crystal Palace team fritter away two points against Blackpool.
Palace are now three points behind first-placed Cardiff City but for much of yesterday's game they did not look like potential league leaders. Holloway's team were dismal in the first half, deservedly going behind after 37 minutes. They improved and went 2-1 up but allowed Nouha Dicko to equalise with a minute left.
Holloway wished his team had started harder. "We looked like we were in a good run and thought we could just turn up," he said. "There was a lot wrong in the first half. At this level you cannot waste 45 minutes by not being at your best. I'm very disappointed, we dropped two points."
It was immediately obvious that Palace were not at the required level. Blackpool, playing as Holloway had taught them, pressed quickly and passed incisively, making chances for Isaiah Osbourne and Wes Thomas in the opening seconds.
So there was no surprise when Blackpool went ahead. Alex Baptiste won the ball in midfield and found Tom Ince, who assessed his options before striking a perfect curled pass to the far post. Nathan Delfouneso thundered in, lengths clear of Darcy Blake, and headed home.
Palace were intensely negligent, and Thomas had two more chances to score before the interval while Ince exchanged passes with Tiago Gomes and shot over.
But that was Blackpool's chance to win the game and they missed it. Palace finally started playing after the break, with their two thrilling wingers Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie leading the charge. Holloway saw his own team again. "That was much more like us."
Both wingers combined for the equaliser eight minutes after the re-start. Zaha tore down the right, and his cross ended up with Bolasie who checked back and centred again. Owen Garvan arrived at the far post to head in his first goal since August.
Zaha's run down the left set up the second. Four Blackpool players were sucked towards him, so he rolled the ball to Garvan who chipped to Murray, who did well to place his head beyond Matt Gilks. Murray could have won the game soon after, but Gilks pulled off a fine save after some more dazzling build-up play from Bolasie.
So Palace regretted their inattention when, in the 89th minute, Thomas ran down the right and crossed to Dicko, clear at the near post, who reminded Palace of their 90-minute obligations.
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Speroni; Blake (Moritz, 57), Ramage, Delaney, Parr; Dikgacoi, Jedinak; Zaha, Garvan, Bolasie (Moxey, 90); Murray.
Blackpool (4-1-4-1): Gilks; Baptiste, Broadfoot, Cathcart, Crainey; Martinez (Slyvestre, 75); Ince, Gomes (Dicko, 75), Osbourne, Delfouneso (Phillips, 89); Thomas.
Referee Keith Stroud.