If last year was a Christmas Crumble, this year is certainly a Christmas Crunch even before any festive fixtures are played, due to the very different circumstances that The Pool find ourselves in. Sitting towards the top of the form table with eight wins and two draws from our last 11, we are on a run that is far more solid than we had at any point last season under Simon Grayson, where Christmas was ultimately where we started to fall apart.
Hull City. Accrington Stanley. Sunderland. The Crunch… or should I have gone with cracker? Either way they are three teams who sit in the top 10 in League One with Accrington Stanley just sitting behind us in the form table. Accy is one of the better away days with good memories for plenty of Pool fans, so hopefully we can capitalise on previous form, come the 19th of December.
But first, be wary of the Tigers
Hull is the big test – there is a reason they are currently top of the League One table with 34 points. While we have dismantled some bigger, high scoring teams: Portsmouth, Peterborough and most recently overcoming Joey Barton mind games in the league, Hull are currently looking strongest in the division and it’s fortunate that we are at home for this one.
Hull have a variety of danger men that should be a cause for concern, with plenty of goals coming from a number of available sources. Ex-Sunderland midfielder George Honeyman has an eye for goal, as does front man Mallik Wilks, who has bagged an impressive 6 in 13. John Magennis also matches his record, but has added two assists to his game too. Keane Lewis-Potter is another who has chipped in with his fair share of goals too, 5 in 12 for the Hull-born Forward. We should be wary of all of these characters and ensure that we match them on the pitch in every department.
This, for sure, will be our biggest test to date on Tuesday night. Hull set up in a 4-3-3 formation so it is important we really nullify their attacking options and threats – as shown below in their recent 1-1 draw at Oxford United. Blackpool should take confidence from Hull’s recent loss against Shrewsbury, although they’ll be looking to bounce back against the tangerines.
High flying Stanley
Following Tuesday’s tie with the Tigers, Pool are straight back into it with an away game at Accrington on Saturday. This is one that always feels more straight forward than it is in reality. Accrington have been in excellent form recently and we should not be so dismissive of a real attacking team with intent. They’ll be in the play-offs if they win their games in hand.
Hopefully we will not be so dismissive of a real attacking team with intent. Most notably, the energetic midfielder Dion Charles who grew up in Blackpool and was released aged 18 – he’s bagged five goals and gifted two assists. Other players to keep an eye out for are the forward man Colby Bishop and the other midfield Joe Pritchard both providing assists and goal for the Stanley too. Stanley opt for a 3-5-2 formation so clearly look to pack the midfield and may leave space behind their wide men for the likes of CJ and Sullay to exploit. The main cause for concern is former Seasider Charles, who will surely be right up for this one, and ensuring he isn’t given time on the ball. This should hopefully play into Blackpool’s counter attacking football, after bypassing the midfield we will only have three to get past – one of them being ex-Pool player Michael Nottingham who we know all about.
The Black Cats’ form has been poor of late as they have slipped to 9th place and hadn’t won a game in their last five League One appearances until last Saturday – prompting the end of Phil Parkinson and the appointment of new manager Lee Johnson. They dismantled Lincoln with a solid 4-0, Sunderland clearly reaping the rewards of the new manager Johnson. Next up for them is AFC Wimbledon and Shrewsbury so they will be hoping to continue their winning form before they meet us on the 22nd of December.
The danger men for Sunderland are Wyke, Maguire and the experienced Leadbitter. Lynden Gooch also leads the line for top of the assists chart with 4 to his name, so we will want to cut that threat when we visit the Stadium of Light. It’s also worth noting that they have former Pool loanee Danny Graham and Will Grigg – a man who was linked with us last January – but of the three upcoming fixtures, on paper they’re the weaker side. They clearly have issues of their own at the moment, as they look to find their feet under Johnson who has recently opted for a 4-3-3 formation over their previous 4-4-2 under Parkinson.
It will be three tough games for us and will be a massive telling as to how good this Blackpool side is at the moment. Hull and Accrington are more than capable and we should be aware of their threat. Sunderland’s players will be looking to impress their new manager with the January transfer window looming. We will have to be patient as they will be tough to break down and we must maintain our physicality on the pitch. The squad rotation seems to be working very well for us currently, so providing we keep our main players fit then we have every chance of continuing our strong run over Christmas.
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