Blackpool’s run as the form team in the league continued after a late winner against table-toppers Hull. The Seasiders equalised through Jerry Yates to make it 1-1 after Malik Wilks’ first half opener. Critchley’s men took the lead in the second half before a late Hull equaliser looked to have taken a point. But not before CJ Hamilton finished off a well worked team move to take all three points.
That was superb. For the first time this season we have come from behind to win a game. We are finding new ways to win games every week and the resilience of the side is growing. The confidence levels are high and there is no team in the league right now that we wouldn’t fancy our chances against.
That winning goal
I don’t tend to dwell on the goals in my reviews but that last minute winner was really special. We were running out of time and yet remained patient and composed. Four one touch passes in quick succession carved Hull’s defence open and the calm manner in which CJ Hamilton finished sums up the improvements Critchley has made to this side in such a short space of time. You can enjoy it again below!
The centre halves
It is safe to say we are rich in quality in the centre back area. Since his arrival, Daniel Gretarsson has become more and more important week upon week as he improved and he now stands as one of the best in the division. His positional sense and anticipation is outstanding, his composure on the ball and vision for a pass is superb and his aerial ability isn’t bad either. He is the perfect centre half at this level. As shown below, his intelligence in the tackle was unmatched with seven interceptions.
I mentioned on Twitter that we aren’t missing Dan Ballard and that couldn’t be more true. The development in the partnership between Gretarsson and Ekpiteta has been immense and it leaves us knowing that, should one of them get injured, we can just slot in a full international as a replacement.
Leading on to Marvin Ekpiteta, he put in his best performance in a Blackpool shirt, which is something I’ve said every single game in recent times and pays testament to his ongoing development. He is brimming with confidence and that brings composure and more importantly a key element of trust in our centre backs to provide the defensive cover we need. That trust is building in all parts of the team and it allows players to focus on their own particular roles, without fear of others lagging behind. His four aerials won was the highest in the Blackpool side.
The Kaikai dilemma
In amongst such an important victory, Sullay Kaikai remained pretty anonymous for most of the proceedings and it brought back a recurring debate. We all know that Kaikai has great quality on his day but does that day come enough for us to persist with him in the side? For me I think a spell on the bench may reenergise Kaikai. Having him available to come off the bench in the final 30 minutes of a game would be a big asset for us and it could bring back the confident version of the man that we all know exists.
I’ve used the above touch maps to give a real indication of what we are missing from Kaikai. CJ Hamilton, in the bottom touch map, showed that drive and intent to get into dangerous areas, even up against the best Hull player on the park Callum Elder. Kaikai only entered the 18 yard box twice in his 60 minutes, compared to Hamilton’s 12. This has been a consistent theme for a lot of our games this season.
It leaves us skewed in our play and quite one dimensional at times, although we were fortunate that Luke Garbutt was able to get forward on a number of occasions to balance things out. As you saw when Keshi Anderson moved to the left, his drive towards the dangerous areas would push the Hull defence narrow and allow Garbutt space to attack on the overlap. CJ does similar for the right full back, albeit Turton does not really attack as much as Gabriel does in that sense. I would give Anderson a start on the left against Accrington.
It was a brilliant performance from Garbutt. Some felt he was culpable for Hull’s opener although I’d err on the side of that goal coming through the sheer quality of Malik Wilks. He offered a real threat on the left hand side in an attacking sense and positioned well defensively to eliminate the threat in the wide areas. As you can see below, he made the most key passes on the pitch and also the most successful tackles. The best of both worlds.
What I took from that performance was that we have the perfect combination in the full back positions. Need more of an attacking full back that will push us up the park? Play Garbutt or Gabriel. Need to pen in and hold on against a good attacking side? Play Husband and Turton. If we’re looking to match up to a key opposing player on either flank, we can be more defensive, or if we’re looking to capitalise on space in behind on one flank then we can play an attacking player on that side. The players are there to allow us to play different playing styles with relative ease, and Turton and Husband are both happy to slide across and become a third centre-back for cover when needed – albeit not as glamorous as their more attacking counterparts.
Now this was a bit of a quieter performance from Dougall but I don’t think he was necessarily off it in this game. He began to tire towards the end which is understandable given the amount of games he’s played in a short space of time. However, I think it was a case of today being a real midfield battle, both sides were giving up play under significant pressure from their counterparts and Dougall had a lot more ground to cover. As you can see below from his heat map, he had a lot of the pitch to manage and he did it relatively well. A reliable performance from a reliable midfielder who is quickly becoming one of the best in the league.
This was a well deserved victory against top of the league. We dug in when we had to and both goals conceded were of real quality, rather than culpability on our part. It is the first time we have scored more than two goals in a game also so it showed yet another way to win. The confidence we will take into Accrington after the manner of the win will set us on the right foot against yet another in form side. Win that, and it’s hard to argue against us making a real play for promotion, especially when we have the ability to strengthen the squad further in the January window. As you can see below the underlying stats give a fair reflection on the score line and us deserving the victory. The machine rolls on!
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Image: Hull City