Blackpool put in a comfortable, convincing display to breeze past Eastbourne Borough to book their place in the 2nd round of the FA Cup, live on BT Sport. The Seasiders weren’t able to take advantage of their chances in the first half, despite a dominant display. However, they pulled ahead of their National League South opponents through a fine double from Gary Madine, before Jerry Yates sealed it to make it three wins a row for the tangerines.
That is exactly what you wanted to see in a game like that. After a couple of early slip ups, we really imposed ourselves on the game. Looking calm and composed at the back and building on those foundations, linking well in the midfield whilst providing a real threat going forward. In my preview I spoke of wanting to see a full strength side play the fixture to continue the positive momentum and to continue to build relationships in this new group and that is what happened. Without wanting to brag (I’m lying – I want to brag) I also predicted a 3-0 win with a Madine double and Yates goal! No, I don’t have the lottery numbers.
The front two partnership
This game saw a real emergence of a significant partnership between Jerry Yates and Gary Madine. They played to each other’s strengths and continually looked to mix up their options to disrupt a very low Eastbourne block. Madine was dominant in the air and his hold up play was absolutely superb. Yates thrived off of this, taking the ball from those knockdowns on a number of occasions and either driving into the box, or feeding the ball out wide for Hamilton or Kaikai respectively to isolate the ever-tiring Eastbourne full backs.
Two goals from Madine made the difference and they were two fine goals as well, alongside Yates’ fine finish to seal it. Madine has always had the quality to do this but we haven’t really seen it in his two spells at Bloomfield Road, however he is becoming an increasingly important player in our side. Particularly as we have looked to play a more direct game at times in order to be more effective against physical opposition.
Both players created a lot of chances but they certainly, especially in Madine’s case, missed a fair few too. As the time crept on in the second half with the scores still level, I did begin to worry that it was going to be one of those days. Against the likes of Peterborough and Doncaster coming up, we can’t afford to miss as many chances as we did today, that clinical touch is something I hope will develop alongside our immense chance creation rates.
The wide areas
These were the key again. For the third game in a row we looked to dominant the width of the pitch, enabling us to switch from left to right at will, disrupting that low block I spoke of from Eastbourne. CJ Hamilton will be in the nightmares of left back Kai Woollard-Innocent as he rinsed him on a number of occasions from the very first whistle to his later substitution for Dan Kemp. We all know he is capable of doing that and, more importantly, he was provided the final ball at the end creating two great chances for Sullay Kaikai in the first half. His final ball has lacked at times so that was encouraging.
Kaikai looked to go more narrow and give James Husband the run of the line, enabling Husband to whip in a number of crosses whilst Kaikai looked to isolate the right back on a number of occasions. Kaikai should have grabbed a goal or two was it not for an impressive goalkeeping display from Franco Ravizzoli and looked very positive when he was on the front foot. Jordan Gabriel again showed that forward presence that he has, pushing the Eastbourne winger right back into their own half for the vast majority of the game.
This, from a place where we looked at sea week in week out, has come on leaps and bounds. Most importantly, this is without Dan Ballard who I initially thought was the glue that would hold it together. Daníel Grétarsson looked right at home in the back line already, the plastic pitch causing no problems given his Scandinavian roots. Marvin Ekpiteta put in a dominant display winning header after header and looking a lot more of an organiser than I thought he would be capable of.
Chris Maxwell as usual made vital saves when required and looked to distribute quickly on the counter to take advantage of a slow recovery pace of Eastbourne’s midfield. We didn’t really look tested at all and when we did we defended resiliently and with a calmness and confidence.
Although this was against lowly opposition, it’s the kind of professional performance you want to see and a performance fitting of where we want to head. We all know how many times we have made a complete arse of the domestic cup early rounds in the past, even our best sides in recent decades have shown that it isn’t as easy as it looks when you’re coming up against a side that see this as their biggest game of the season.
With that in mind, dispatching Eastbourne like we did and always looking comfortable is a big positive. Most importantly for me it’s the increasing evidence of partnerships growing and a general understanding building between the team. We look much more of a real unit, particularly at the back and this will only grow as games go on.
Obviously our midweek EFL trophy fixture against Leeds U21’s will see a number of changes, although I hope we continue the overall momentum of victories. It helps when the whole squad feel involved in that positive momentum so that, when we call on them as required, they are confident and feel at ease to express themselves.
The real acid test as I’ve continued to say recently is table-toppers Peterborough. And for me, we’re going into that game with the confidence to try and take the game to them. We should have every confidence that we can cause an upset in that game and, if we do, that is the major kickstart to a real push towards the top of the league. I feel like the squad has high confidence right now but they are needing that proof that they are capable of competing against the best sides in the league and a good performance against Posh will do just that.
What were your thoughts on the game? Let us know in the comments below.
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Image: Chronicle Live