Blackpool made it four victories on the bounce and three successive clean sheets in all competitions after comfortably breezing past Leeds United U21’s 3-0 at Bloomfield Road. The Seasiders dominated most of the proceedings with Dan Kemp finishing off a fine Bez Lubala move to open the scoring, before a Cohen Drameh own goal doubled the lead. Neil Critchley’s rotated side went down to ten men after a Cameron Antwi challenge saw him sent off, although that didn’t stop Ethan Robson bending a fabulous curling effort into the top left corner to kill off any Leeds hope of a revival.
Rather than trying to dissect the performance against a youthful Leeds side which featured seven changes from Sunday’s win at Eastbourne, I wanted to consider the individual performances of those who have not featured in the first team regularly this season to date, and potentially what they could add as we go into the busy Christmas period.
I am going to start off with my Man of the Match Bez Lubala. He looked a completely different player to the one we have seen in the varied minutes he has got for the first team. It’s clear his confidence is still quite low and he’s not quite as sharp as he could be, as he was indecisive at times – especially when he got into the 18 yard box on a couple of occasions. However, he has this endless drive that tires full backs when he runs in the wide areas and, alongside this, he mixes up his approaches every time, there is an unpredictability about him.
It is clear he has real quality. His outside of the boot assist for Dan Kemp’s opener (above) was top drawer. He is definitely someone we can look to as an option going forward and hopefully his performance against Leeds will be a catalyst for his confidence to improve. If he gets that decisiveness in the box, like he clearly had at Crawley, he will be a real asset to the squad as we hit the latter stages of the season.
Another stellar performance from the West Ham loanee who has looked impressive whenever he has made an appearance for the side this season. He has a real liveliness about him and he always seems to be looking for the half space in order to get an early advantage over his defensive counterpart. This need to always find space, alongside his strong burst of pace, makes him a massive asset to our side, particularly in the latter stages of games as the opposition begin to tire.
Kemp also proved that he has the ability to finish clinically and get into the box at the right time from wide areas. This is something I think we can lack at times. I feel that we have an over reliance on the main striker to be the man to get into the box at the right time when a delivery comes in, but when Jerry Yates likes to roam a lot, having someone like Kemp who can anticipate when to make an attacking move is vital for us going forward.
I have bigged up Kemp on a number of occasions and I fully expect him to have a run of games at some point during this season. With him and Lubala it’s nice to know that we are beginning to see that cover in key areas should Sullay Kaikai or CJ Hamilton be out.
Antwi looked as calm and composed as ever in the Blackpool midfield. After being really impressive in pre-season it was nice to see him make a competitive appearance and he played as if he had been there for years. He provided cover well for Ethan Robson and on a number of occasions made key interceptions to stem any Leeds counter attacks.
He is a real technical presence in the side, intercepting before moving the ball on efficiently in order to keep the high pace in the game, something that I have noticed Kenny Dougall does superbly well. Antwi is a real all rounder which is hugely impressive for a modern central midfielder at such a young age. He was quite naive when it came to his sending off, but he is a young man on his first competitive start and so it’s inevitable these sorts of things will happen when you’re such an aggressive, combative midfielder. He will definitely have a role to play in the first team this season as the game times increase.
We haven’t seen much of Sims in a Blackpool shirt but when we have, he has always looked composed. I distinctly remember how relaxed and confident he looked coming on for his first team competitive debut for the injured Jak Alnwick against Accrington last year. He clearly hasn’t lost that and it’s a vital asset for any young goalkeeper who is wanting success in the game.
I doubt he will have much of an impact on the first team goalkeeping position given Chris Maxwell’s importance, but I think he is an improvement on the level of youth goalkeeper we have seen come through the ranks in recent years. His distribution was shaky at times but overall he looked at home in the Blackpool net, saving a couple of big opportunities for Leeds early in the second half.
Overall, this fixture was a useful exercise for a couple of the rotational options we have in the squad. Bez Lubala will be the man who takes the most out of this game, we need to remember he was initially signed as someone who would have a real impact on the first team and, as much as he has had a slow start to the season, we are starting to see why that was the case. Him and Kemp will be looking to make more of a stamp on the first team lineup in the near future although given our current form it will be hard to displace many. I also hope to see Cameron Antwi make appearances because I think he has the makings to become one of our best youth players in recent years, if not the best.
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Image: Ghana Soccer