Blackpool kicked on up the League One table tonight after an exceptional performance against struggling Wigan Athletic. The match was played with the bare bones of the squad from last Saturday’s FA Cup game against Brighton.
It’s been stop start. First it was Covid, then it was a waterlogged pitch (which, to be honest, worked in our favour – for once!) before another bout of Covid had many Pool fans wondering if tonight’s game would actually go ahead. Much to our delight it certainly did and we got to witness the Seasiders hand it to local North West neighbours Wigan. Luke Garbutt became the ninth first teamer to miss the game as the Pool really were down to the last men standing for this one.
5 Good, Excellent and Exceptional
1. Captain Clean Sheet
Maxwell simply exudes confidence and it’s great to see that confidence flow into the back line. The recently injury-hit defence has caused further changes at the back. But our make shift partnership of Ekpetita and Thorniley actually looked really assured. Even though Maxwell isn’t one of the bigger keepers in the league in terms of stature, he is tidy, quick off his line and makes impactful saves. He deserves to be captain, time and time again showing why he deserves many more plaudits from much of our fanbase than maybe he gets. When he was missing it really showed, yes loanee keeper Walker proved he can save penalties and may have been an ideal addition, but he wasn’t enough to prevent us from losing games. Evidence of that was from how he commanded his box and teammates as the frailties of the shaky defence showed without the magnificent Maxwell.
2. New additions
It was great to see the new boys Simms and Stewart get some minutes in their legs and make an impact in the team, as well as Rob Apter who came on for the last 10 minutes towards the end. Ellis bagging two goals and looked lively throughout – he genuinely excited me when he was on the ball. His movement, touches and footballing brain were exactly what we were looking for and the recruitment team need to be applauded again for this one. Recruiting talent like Ellis was something we alluded to last summer in our very first podcast: Transfer Policy.
As for Stewart, you could see he wasn’t 100% sharp due to the limited game time he has had whilst spending time as a free agent. Some did question why a defensive midfielder was brought in, but he has Championship and Premier League experience which we will continue to benefit from as he gets up to speed. Kenny Dougall made an immediate impact with next to no or little preseason and Stewart will have to do the same to get in the starting lineup as we have one of the most in-depth midfields in the division. Final mention for Apter who took his chance by bursting into the box, winning a corner and then hitting it (over the first man) for his first assist – great cross, great attitude, great ten-minute debut.
3. Back to winning ways
+3 points. Ah, it always feels good. But that was in some style too. When we are all on song the Blackpool footballing brand is excellent to watch. We know this team/squad is more than capable as we’ve shown from the games played against recent Premier League opposition. We do need to find some consistency now with a steady run of games, providing there are no further cancellations, to really kick on and claim our play-off spot. Burton, Northampton and Ipswich are next up and one thing is for sure – we won’t be handed it. Especially in this league.
4. Liquid Football
I’m talking about you Bez, Husband and Virtue. What a wonderful goal. There were other parts to our game that really clicked tonight. The passing was on point and worked well, even Thorniley was hitting some sweet cross field balls. So shall we keep him now? I think he’s done well enough to earn a squad place as a trusted and much more reliable centre back than we had previously seen from him. To say he’s our fourth choice centre-back, it just shows how strong our squad is at the moment in terms of depth.
5. Gary’s not just goals
Gary Madine’s got his own t-shirt in the club shop and it was he who got us off the mark with his heading ability tonight. I laughed when I saw the club tweet about the new merchandise – they don’t miss a trick do they? If he keeps on scoring goals and making them like he did against Wigan, I think I’ll end up buying one!
He has been nothing short of excellent recently, both in the FA Cup games and the league and we saw why he is so vital to our team against the Latics. He broke up the play, got us off the mark by winning the first ball and gave us the platform to play confidently with a two goal cushion. Rewind to last year and who would have thought that the isolated, out-of-shape Madine would be doing so well for us now? A few glaring misses were etched into my mind but they are fading away as the new Gary Goals emerges. Hopefully, we will tie him up on a longer deal soon…
Zero Bad Tonight from me these are more personal concerns.
Pool poorly treated?
It is great to see how well-run Blackpool F.C now is. One thing that concerns me though is the way we are seemingly being treated for being open and honest about Covid and the effects on players/staff. Previous games have been called off from Rochdale and Sunderland due to Covid, whereas currently we are missing key players and have been pushed to play matches. There doesn’t seem to be a fairness to it and I’m not sure the guidance is so clear either. It’s frustrating and it would help if we had clarity from the EFL, however, don’t hold your breathe as I’m not sure we will get it. Tonights result means I can’t complain too much, but this would more than concern me if there was a different outcome to this evenings match.
Missing Live Games
Tonight was another example of where the away following would have had a great night and surely had an added impact. It is becoming harder to watch from the sofa week in, week out and not feeling/sharing the atmosphere and euphoria of live Blackpool F.C. football.
Another strong performance by the Pool tonight, reducing Wigan to very little whilst putting five past them. This is all the more impressive considering the returning fitness of some players along with embedding the new boys. Prior to the match I thought it would be a draw or a potential banana skin considering the challenges Blackpool have faced off the field, so it tastes all the sweeter to bring three points home. Wigan are struggling, but any 5-0 win on the road is something to be really pleased about.
Our next game is supposed to be against Burton on Saturday which currently hangs in the balance as Covid creeps up again. This should be more clarified on Wednesday evening. If the game is postponed it means more disruption for Blackpool, who will miss the momentum of having games – we all know what happened at Christmas when the last disruption occurred! But let’s not let this moment pass too quickly and revel in what has been a champagne performance by the Might Pool tonight.
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Image credit: Blackpool FC