Blackpool’s game against Rochdale was one of those fixtures that felt like it had been pending as a game in hand for forever and wouldn’t actually go ahead. It was seen as a must-win for us to look upwards in the table and still harbour hopes of reaching the top six. And in the end, that’s exactly what it was – to quote Ian Holloway, she wasn’t the best looking bird, but at least we’ve gone home in a taxi with her!
Here, I take a look at five positives and five negatives from the evening.
- Sullay Kaikai
He’s got that unpredictability about him that this side just needs in order to have the right balance about it. When he’s out of form, he’s a passenger but we look our scintillating best in attack with him in the side. He linked up well with James Husband and in the first half it was the left which was most dangerous for Pool. Rochdale struggled to contain him all evening and he notched his third of the season, his previous two also coming at Bloomfield Road in 1-0 victories against MK Dons and Wigan. Came ever-so-close from a freekick too which hit the post in the second half.
2. Kevin Stewart
He makes a massive difference to this side. Always looking for the ball, making things look effortless and keeping the side ticking. One of the better midfielders in the league, and alongside Kenny Dougall, we have a really strong midfield pairing. The one criticism of them would be that they don’t offer much going forwards, but they are so good that they allow for the four in front – and the two full-backs – to create in front of them.
3. Jerry Yates
The guy works tirelessly and brings others into play so much. He’s the type of player who would get the North stand going with a full crowd and I just hope he’s at Blackpool next season when fans can hopefully return and show our love to him. He’s our main man and you can see why Swindon fans were so disappointed he didn’t sign for them in the summer.
4. The ugly win
There wasn’t much to say about that second half as Rochdale dominated the ball. But it was a solid defensive display as we limited them to few chances and managed to scrape a victory. We played intelligently, winning easy free-kicks and killing their momentum, and we managed to limp over the line despite the fact three of our four centre-backs are now on the treatment table. They even sent the keeper up at the end, and that final whistle felt good. We’re proving tough to beat on our home patch and we’re unbeaten since the visit of Charlton in October.
5. The centre back pairing
When the chips are down (Gretarsson, Ballard and Ekpiteta who were all out) you need people to come forwards and put a shift in. Jordan Thorniley dug in and won every header, and didn’t allow much to come against him. I was worried when Ekpiteta limped off, particularly because it meant Husband would have to fill in at centre back. But he looked assured, kept calm and saw the game out comfortably. This is likely to be the centre-back pairing we take to Fratton Park where they will be tested more considerably, but it was an encouraging 40 minutes for them together.
- The Greenall-Chisnall combo
Okay, he might have played nearly 200 games for us between 1980-86, but Colin Greenall doesn’t give us much to be excited about. Greenall and Chizzy make up the kind of partnership that you typically find when you walk your dog on Cottam Hall and see a couple of old timers catching up for the first time in years. They loved Rathbone, didn’t they? Bring back Big Ben.
2. James Husband’s top knot
It reminded me of when we had Tom Kennedy in the side at left-back, who ironically was on loan from League One Rochdale when we were in the Championship under Lee Clark. The less said about that season, the better – and the same goes for Hubby’s new hair do. We’ll let him off as hairdressers are closed.
3. Jordan Thorniley
He’s a bit heavy footed, isn’t he? Jogs around like he’s got blisters on both feet. When he makes a mistake he looks terrible, but it’s largely down to his calm, composed style. I like him and I’m glad he’s got a chance and I hope he gets a longer run in the side for his own benefit, but he made a couple of mistakes in this performance.
4. Ekpiteta’s hamstring
Not ideal whatsoever. We’re already without Daniel Gretarsson and Dan Ballard, so it’s particularly unfortunate for us to lose another centre half. He’ll now probably miss a minimum of 4-5 games and that leaves us really short. We’ll probably lose a few points from mistakes at the back as we look to play a makeshift pairing, though hopefully Ballard is back before long. Chris Maxwell also had an issue with his finger, so hopefully that’s nothing serious.
5. The second half
I was sweating, my heart was beating quicky and I couldn’t sit still. But it’s three hard-earned points and we don’t really care how they come. It’s an 11th win for the season, putting us seven off the play-offs with at least a couple of games in hand against most. Next up, Portsmouth away!
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In our recent pod, we spoke to former Pool defender Alex Baptiste to get his view on the season in the Premier League and two Play-Off finals in his time at Bloomfield Road.
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