Holloway gets reminder of top-flight home truths

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The Independent Online

Ian Holloway believes Birmingham's victory at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday night will have given Blackpool's fans a reality check.

Blackpool went into their first home game since November 20 having taken 25 points from the first 18 games of their maiden Premier League season, and their supporters might have felt confident of the team boosting that tally against a Blues side who sat second from bottom in the table.

But it was the visitors who emerged with a 2-1 win thanks to Scott Dann's 89th-minute strike and Holloway hopes those who were watching from the stands are keeping things in perspective.

"It is a tad disappointing all-round, but I think that is a reality check for everybody who came here in a Tangerine shirt looking at the league position and our games in hand," said Holloway, whose team remain 11th.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't matter who we are playing in this division – they have got quality, and we have gone and lost again at home.

"That is the first time we haven't played as well as we can, and we were still in it right until the end, so I still think that is a progression.

"But we have half the season to go, we have got 25 points on the board and we have done absolutely nothing yet.

"[Birmingham midfielder] Alexander Hleb will be on nearly what my entire team is on, so keep it real – that is all I'm saying."

Holloway felt his side left themselves "a mountain to climb" after Stephen Crainey's error in the 24th minute led to Birmingham going in front, the defender inadvertently laying the ball straight to Hleb, who gleefully took advantage by beating Richard Kingson.

DJ Campbell scored against his old club midway through the second half to level things, but the Tangerines were undone at the death as Roger Johnson headed down substitute Jean Beausejour's cross in the box and Dann fired home.

Somebody for whom the game was certainly a learning curve was Blackpool winger Matt Phillips, brought into the starting line-up in place of Ludovic Sylvestre.

Some eye-catching displays have earned Phillips plaudits this season following his move from Wycombe, but he endured a largely frustrating time of it on Tuesday night – an experience Holloway thinks the England Under-19 international will benefit from.

"He has learned a lot – that it is not all glitter and gold and that he is not the messiah," Holloway said.

"He is a good player and he is improving, but if we're one down, he has to learn that he can't pass it wrong because the fans won't like it.

"But I'm delighted to have him and he's an England player in the making."

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish, whose side moved out of the relegation zone and up to 15th place off the back of the result, was delighted to see his players' determination to keep pushing for all three points after being pegged back to 1-1, as epitomised by the winning goal which was set up by one central defender and finished by another.

"You saw Roger, Scott, all the big guns going up front," McLeish said. "In some games you might settle for a piece of the cake, but we knew a victory would have been a big result for us and the two big centre-halves combined for the goal."

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