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Ian Holloway was the most active manager in the region during the Januray transfer window. Arguably his best move was to reject the overtures of Liverpool and Tottenham for Charlie Adam; If Blackpool are to survive then the talented Scot will be key. Holloway has also added five players to a squad that will be tested in the coming months. Salaheddire Sbai will provide competition at left-back and the captures of Andy Reid and Jason Puncheon will add firepower to a frontline strengthened by the arrival of James Beattie and Sergi Kornilenko. On the field Blackpool have now lost five matches in a row and slid alarmingly towards the relegation zone. They lost 3-1 in a crucial home game with West Ham, followed by a 5-3 loss in a thrilling contest with Everton. The seasiders had found themselves 3-2 up but were unable to handle Louis Saha who helped himself to four goals. Blackpool must turn their form around and get back to winning ways, starting with a home game against Aston Villa.
Preston manager Phil Brown was also busy during January. He recruited stalwart midfielder Ian Ashbee from former side Hull and boosted his striking options by loaning Eddie Johnson from Fulham and Leon Clarke from QPR. Despite the new additions, North End lie 10 points from safety after two consecutive defeats. They lost 2-0 at Barnsley and were thrashed 4-0 at home by a resurgent Bristol City. Eddie Johnson missed chances in this game and Nathan Ellington was unable to get the better of David James in the Bristol goal. It doesn’t look like getting easier for Preston, with trips to Hull and Watford ahead and the news that defender Conor McLaughlin has suffered a suspected broken leg.
Morecambe have added two players to their squad with the loan signing of Kevan Hurst from Carlisle and Andy Holdsworth on a free transfer. They have also allowed Craig Stanley to join Torquay and sent Will Haining to Fleetwood for a month. These changes appeared to have galvanised Morecambe who have now gone five games unbeaten, after three successive 1-1 draws. Sammy McIlory will be pleased with a point gained from a trip to Accrington Stanley but will feel disappointed that leads were also squandered against Cheltenham and Aldershot.
Wigan had a quiet transfer period with the signing of striker Conor Sammon from Kilmarnock their only move. The Latics are unbeaten in their last three games and have began to stabilise their season. They gained a credible 2-2 draw at West Brom thanks to goals from Charles N’Zogbia and Ben Watson. Wigan followed up this result with a stunning 4-3 victory over Blackburn Rovers in a topsy turvey game that saw them come from 1-0 down and narrowly hang on after leading 4-1. This upturn in form will be severely tested in the coming games, with Wigan facing Liverpool and both Manchester clubs in quick succession.
While other clubs were strengthening their squads, both Fleetwood and Lancaster have lost players. Mickey Mellon has allowed Ian Craney to return to Accrington for a fourth spell and Wayne Curtis to join Barrow. The Highbury outfit are clinging onto a Blue Square Premier play-off spot after consecutive 1-0 defeats. The most disappointing came against bottom club Histon; with AFC Wimbledon also taking all three points thanks to a late Christian Jolley strike. They will also have to do without centre half Sean Gregen for their tie with Luton after he was dismissed for a second bookable offence against the Dons.
Lancaster City have suffered a double blow to their hopes of making the play-offs with the sale of their two contracted players. Inspirational captain Andy Teague has joined fierce rivals Chorley, while midfielder Paul Jarvis signed for ambitious local side AFC Fylde. The Lancaster board were left with no choice but to drastically overhaul their wage structure and have been forced to offload their highest earners. Despite this double blow, the Dolly Blues have won two of their last three games, with a 1-0 result at Curzon Ashton and a 2-1 victory at home against Skelmersdale in the President’s Cup. The only blot in this recent form was a cruel 2-0 loss to Chorley, just 24 hours after the Teague transfer.