Analysis of the second pre-season fixture at Vale Park and thoughts on what worked and where Blackpool need to improve.
Line up: Maxwell, Howe, Ekpiteta, Thorniley, Shaw, Antwi, Virtue, Anderson, Feeney, Kaikai, Yates
It took Pool a while to get settled in the initial stages of the game, with a few misplaced passes. Teddy Howe was poor going forward and lost the ball on a number of occasions, while one noteable stray pass from Liam Feeney to Marvin Ekpiteta also summed up the opening period of the match. This prompted the influential Jerry Yates to yell to his Blackpool teammates to “F****** liven up!”, much to everyone’s amusement watching the stream at home.
Keshi Anderson and Liam Feeney both had early opportunities to score from a corner but it was well blocked out by the Port Vale defence.
Then what seemed to be a clear-cut penalty for the Seasiders when a Port Vale defender brought down Keshi, was waved away by the referee.
Pool continued to lack tempo but did press well without the ball, constantly putting the Port Vale defence under pressure.
However, that pressure was momentarily reversed when Howe gave away some needless free-kicks in Blackpool’s half. The majority of the fouls came to nothing until Howe pushed Pope in the box, resulting in Vale being awarded a penalty. Fortunately for Pool, this opportunity was wasted by front man Tom Pope as his shot hit the outside of the post and bounced away.
Yates, who was excellent throughout, intercepted a pass and played a quick ball to Keshi that left him one-on-one with the keeper. Unfortunately, he hit the ball straight to Port Vale’s keeper and the resulting rebound with his left foot was blocked.
Epiketeta was another who impressed in the first half, showing determination and strength to muscle off Pope. Marvin’s through balls to Jerry were hit with pinpoint accuracy and cut through the midfield to allow Pool possession deep in Vale’s half on a number of occassions. This, combined with Maxwell’s fast distribution from the back to the wide channels, enabled the Tangerines to be on the front foot throughout the game.
The deadlock was finally broken by Sullay Kaikai just before the break. The ball was swung in from a corner to Yates, who again showed his athletism to shoot on the turn. His shot was saved, as was a rebounded shot from Epkiteta, but luckily the third effort fell to Kaikai, who slotted his effort into the bottom right of the crowded goal to notch his second goal in pre-season.
Stand outs from the first half: Epiketeta, Maxwell, Yates and Anderson.
Off the pace: Howe and Feeney.
Line up: One change, Alex Fojticek replacing Chris Maxwell.
Early in the second half, Port Vale were given the chance to equalise after Epiketeta miscontrolled the ball, after an initial poor clearance from trialist keeper Fojticek. Epiketeta was positioned at right back at the start of the second half, but looked a little uncomfortable here. In the end, it was an easy goal for the Port Vale striker Scott Burgess who captilised on the defensive mistake to bring the hosts level.
Blackpool’s quick play out from the back was really encouraging and one opportunity was fathomed from this for Yates, who had time to turn and drive towards goal. Unfortunately, it looked like he was caught in two minds about what to do with the ball and a soft pass went amiss. The high pressing game continued as Blackpool looked to retrieve the lost ball quickly, which Anderson later succeeded in. His tidy finish into the far right corner put Blackpool 2-1 up before the hour mark.
A further 10 changes were made: Garrity, Nottingham, Turton, Macdonald, Robson, Ward, Sarkic, Hamilton, Nuttall, Madine.
CJ Hamiliton showed his lightning pace to get behind the Port Vale defence on the right side of the field after a fantastic cross field ball from Calum Macdonald. CJ will be disappointed that his effort was stopped by the keeper’s legs.
Another disappointment was when Nuttall had to come off with an injury, which will be hugely frustrating for himself and us fans, who really want him to succeed at Blackpool.
A second opportunity flashed by for Hamiliton again, this time on the left, showing his raw pace and acceleration to get past defenders that had at least a yard or two on him. Unfortunately, his final effort lacked power and the keeper collected the loose ball easily.
Later on in the second half, Fojticek made amends for his earlier clearance with a smart save and denied Vale a second equaliser. The end of the second half ended with a final chance for Hamiliton, which was well saved. You’d like to think if he can up his conversion rate, converting those chances into goals, then he’ll be a great assest to Blackpool.
Final score Port Vale 1 Blackpool 2.
The new signings seem to be bedding in well. Some early flashes of brilliance from new boys Epiketeta, Hamiliton and once again the ex-Swindon duo of Yates and Anderson. Ethan Robson had a real solid game too and it’s great to see the additions we are making are improving the team. Hopefully, we will continue to strengthen in the obvious areas of weakness such as the central positions of midfield and defence. I would go as far to say, after today’s performance, we ideally need a pair of full backs or at least one for additional cover, too.
Neil Critchley has tried various players in these positions in the last two games, to see if they can do a job there, but no-one has really performed except Calum Macdonald. He had an impact in the final 30 minutes, as he looked to get on the ball and make things happen with his passing. He was running up and down the wing and was much more like the player I recognise as opposed to the previous game against Southport, where he seemed reluctant to get on the ball.
Unfortunately, Howe was really poor today and will need to improve if he wants his place in this exciting possession based Blackpool team.
A final mention for the young lad Cameron Antwi, who performed well again today. The qualities he is producing are comparable to what we were looking for in a defensive midfielder, notably Anthony Grant. At the moment, he might just be our best in that position and his tidy, composed play is doing himself no harm for future opportunities in the first team.
Overall winners: Yates, Anderson, Hamiliton, Antwi, MacDonald
Improvements needed from: Madine, Howe, Feeney
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