Blackpool finally ended a run of 22 away games without victory by defeating Burton Albion 2-1 at Pirelli Stadium. Jerry Yates opened the scoring with a smart finish into the bottom right corner of Kieran O’Hara’s net, before a Daniel Gretarsson debut own goal levelled proceedings. After a foul on Marvin Ekpiteta, Jerry Yates dispatched a penalty calmly to secure the three points for Neil Critchley’s side.
We really needed that. Whether or not you were backing the manager before this game, we all know how vital that victory was if we are to make anything of this season. There were so many positives to take albeit against quite a poor side in Burton Albion. Going into the game I had a few concerns as to how Burton could cause problems for us and they definitely had spells where they took the game to this Blackpool side, but overall we looked controlled, organised and most importantly looked to have real intent in the attacking areas.
Four Four F****** Two
I feel like, had it not been for Ben Woodburn’s positive COVID test with which we wish him well in his recovery, Neil Critchley may have persisted with the 4-2-3-1 formation. Having said that, this system was really effective – particularly when looking at playing through the midfield lines easily and enabling us to really drive in the wide areas to disrupt the Burton back line.
Gary Madine and Jerry Yates playing up front together allowed Madine to be the foil for Yates’ forward runs. Madine on many occasions would take the attention of the two centre halves away from Yates when the ball was played upfield. This allowed Yates space to run on to the ball and drive into the final third which is where he is most dangerous.
Kenny Dougall was given that extra second on the ball to be able to progress the ball forward. He was very simple in his play but effective in what he did, enabling us to retain possession on many occasions when we broke up play and progress the ball quickly into the final third. It shows in the graphic below that we definitely had more of the ball in the space between their midfield and attacking line as Yates and Madine respectively both made three key passes in the match.
How did our full backs cope?
In the system we played against Burton, our wingers had to make the effort to track back on occasion in order to force the opposition narrow and into the strong defensive block we had put in place. With that in mind I think we did a fairly decent job of this once we spotted the issues we were having in that regard, particularly on the left flank. It shows in James Husband’s heat map that he could rarely progress beyond the halfway line, mostly when Niall Ennis was on the field, because he was being continuously pushed back.
Sullay Kaikai is not someone famed for his work rate in that regard so Husband being left exposed on a few occasions was bound to happen. Whilst Kaikai definitely improved his tracking back as the game continued, we ultimately sacrificed that wide area to allow Kaikai to remain a focal point on the counter attack. We opted to trust our ability to deal with the cross a few times on the left flank which allowed us to leave the extra man forward to open up the opportunities we created.
Oliver Turton had one of his best games in a Blackpool shirt on the right hand side in the first hour or so. He was smart in his anticipation and dealt with almost everything that Indiana Vassilev (superb name by the way) threw at him. Turton won all three of his three attempted tackles and made three clearances, our second highest total on the clearance front behind Daniel Gretarsson who I will come on to later.
Turton began to struggle slightly in the final 30 minutes when Charles Vernam came on for Burton, purely because of how direct and pacey the Brewers wide-man was. Most full backs would have struggled up against that amount of pressure, particularly when your winger CJ Hamilton is practically hanging you out to dry on the defensive front. Grant Ward came on to address this and made a real impact, completely stemming Vernam for the remainder of the game as we doubled up on him in the latter stages.
What to make of CJ Hamilton?
CJ had quite a frustrating game today and whilst he did create problems for Burton’s back line, he became increasingly predictable. Through his sheer directness he without doubt stretched the Brewers’ back line enabling Yates to find pockets of space to drive with the ball into dangerous areas of the final third. However, his predictability shone through again. Hamilton was dispossessed five times in the game, more than any player on the park. Although he did provide two key passes in the match, he also did not complete either of his two attempted dribbles. And on many occasions his final ball left a lot to be desired.
And when you aren’t having the most favourable afternoon on your own attacking accord, you have to be more catered towards the system. Yet, Hamilton remained high up the pitch for the majority of the game, even when it was clear Turton needed support in spells. Now for the first half we evidently looked to keep our wide men high in order to bring a real threat on the counter, but we switched up tact slightly when our backs were against the wall in spells and looked for our wide men to offer defensive support. Having said that, Hamilton’s heat map shows just how high he remained and in this system there needs to be a balance, especially when as a winger he was not offering a threat that would force Burton backwards in the final half an hour. This ultimately led to his substitution in the 79th minute.
The other debutant
Having touched on Kenny Dougall’s debut appearance as someone who looks to be the midfield link we’ve been missing, it’s about time I touched on Daniel Gretarsson. As previously mentioned the Icelandic made the most clearances on the park with five. He went on to make two interceptions, bettered only by James Husband and won three aerial duels, bettered only by Gary Madine. Those aerial duels won given the physical nature of the Burton frontline is mightily impressive. Of course his own goal will put a dampener on things, although I think he was unlucky and actually I would question Chris Maxwell for the goal as he was rooted to his goal line, but overall the Ice Man looked a real asset at the back for this side.
Cheers to Jerry Yates
Those goals were the rewards for the sheer desire and work rate Yates has shown for this Blackpool side from the very start of the season. He has found himself incredibly unlucky on a number of occasions and today we finally found a system of play that really highlighted his strengths. He was able to pick the ball up in pockets of space that allowed him to drive towards the final third, or take the ball on the turn to be able to advance it on into the wide areas. The introduction of Kenny was a major benefit to Yates’ style of play and if he can continue to feed passes into the frontman like he did at Pirelli Stadium then we could be onto something.
As you can see above he was a lot more trigger happy than usual, letting off five shots from a range of forward areas. Although the only two on target were his goals, having the confidence to have a go more often is something we have been wanting to see from him for a while. And in terms of work rate and desire to drive the ball forward you only have to look at his touches map, he was absolutely everywhere. A stellar Man of the Match performance.
After recent weeks of relative doom and gloom, we all needed this. A performance that really shone through that these players want to play for Neil Critchley. He tweaked the system to a 4-4-2 and it looked the strongest we have had this season and something we can continue to build on. We looked organised, even without Dan Ballard and Ethan Robson, we looked composed on the ball in the midfield areas especially through the glorious playmaking of Kenny Dougall.
We addressed issues when they arose quickly, such as with the Grant Ward substitution which showed a real game management ability from the manager that we haven’t really seen this season. Players who have flattered to deceive looked comfortable in this system with even Ollie Turton mixing up his passing play. This looks like it could be a start, but it is worth mentioning just how poor Burton were. They did offer a real threat in stages after their goal and for once we rode out the pressure after a setback and went again to score the winner.
Not only was this a vital three points but it was more importantly a real team performance that we all needed to see. With Colin Calderwood offering that invaluable experience and Critchley the youthful attacking ethos, we could strike a perfect balance. Having said that, it is all well and good doing this against bottom of the league, we need to also do it in the real tests. There is a good chance to build some real momentum against Wigan, Eastbourne and Leeds U21’s before we face Peterborough and Doncaster so if we have any aspirations of doing something this season, it has to happen in that run.
Do you think it’s too late for us to climb the table or are you confident we can now go on a run? Let us know in the comments.
Enjoying our content? Make sure you check out our latest podcasts too!
Don’t forget to turn on notifications on Twitter and Instagram to see our latest content first. Please help us out by commenting, liking and retweeting our posts to spread the word across the Blackpool fans. Up the mighty Pool.
Image: Blackpool FC
Stats Provided by: WhoScored