The Seasiders’ wait for our first league win back in the Championship is finally over, thanks to a 1-0 triumph over former league table toppers Fulham. The Cottagers travelled to Bloomfield Road on Saturday full of confidence, having been unbeaten in the league this season prior to Saturday’s fixture. However on the day, the West London outfit fell at the hands of an excellent Josh Bowler solo effort, that ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides. An outcome that very few would’ve predicted before a ball was kicked.
- Bright start
At times during this season the Seasiders have taken a while to get into gear, particularly in the first half of matches. The performances against the likes of Bristol City, Cardiff, and Bournemouth spring to mind, in which our slow start has cost us in establishing control over the game.
However Saturday was a breath of fresh air. Pool started largely on the front foot creating a flurry of chances, including a Keshi Anderson piledriver that narrowly missed the target. We looked energetic and hungry, even without the ball, as we continually forced the Fulham defence into all sorts of mistakes with our relentless high press. You get the feeling that the players have this never say die attitude, and were desperate to do whatever it took to grab us that illusive first win of the season. That was definitely reflected in the intensity, commitment and heart of Saturday’s performance.
2. There’s a star man, playing on the right!
Josh Bowler is a man that nobody had expected to dominate the headlines in tangerine this season, after a somewhat stop-start career thus far. But Bowler has quickly established himself as a fans’ favourite.
He continues to drive at opposition defences week on week, and is able to use his quick feet to open up space, create opportunity, and cause all kinds of havoc in the opposition box. This was epitomised by his goal on Saturday, as Bowler set off from edge of the half and drove towards the Fulham net. Using his quick feet to cause confusion, he was able to open up a gap in the opposition back line. The winger was then able to coolly slide the ball past Paulo Gazzaniga in the Fulham net, sending the North stand behind the goal into pandemonium.
Bowler has always looked a bright spark since making his debut. His quality was always clear to see, but his final pass sometimes lacked accuracy. However in recent games Josh has shown that he is more than capable of producing moments of quality in the final third, netting two goals and one assist so far in tangerine colours. He could potentially be the answer to the Seasiders’ creative midfield problems going forward, by the fact he is able to single-handedly drive the ball up the pitch and create something out of nothing. An extremely exciting prospect, that could prove crucial in the Pool’s bid to stay in the Championship this season. The type of player that all Championship clubs need.
3. Clean sheet
Despite a fair few attacking scares, the Blackpool defence were able to keep a clean sheet for the first time this season – against the league’s most potent forward line.
Special mention must go the Marvin Ekpiteta and Richard Keogh in the heart of defence, who both provided one of their best performances in a Blackpool shirt. Ekpiteta, or ‘Big Marv’ as he is often known by Pool fans, continues his fine form and defensive solidity, throwing himself in the way of every shot within the nearest two metre radius. Marv has shown he is more than capable of playing comfortably at the level, and can only be described as a defensive rock.
Despite his numerous doubters, Keogh also provided an experienced, cool headed performance at the back, as he expertly read every ball that came towards him. Despite giving the Seasiders’ fans a few heart jumping moments, Keogh also looks relatively composed on the ball and will more than often find the right pass when playing out from the back. His experience will be highly valued this season when building character within the side.
It was also a day to remember full back Jordan Gabriel, with an solid overall performance on his long-awaited return to a packed Bloomfield Road.
4. Ohhh Chrissy Maxwell
One man that I believe deserves so much more praise is Blackpool’s number one and captain, Chris Maxwell. The goalkeeper continues improve game upon game, pulling off some crucial saves that have earnt the Seasiders valuable points already this season. Maxwell often flies under the radar due to fans’ praise for our outfield players, but has shown that he is more than capable of making the step up to the Championship. Chris made some key saves particularly towards the the end of Saturday’s game, keeping out a number of close range Fulham efforts, ensuring we secured all three points.
Not only is his shot-stopping impressive, but also his ability to play as a sweeper keeper – as outlined in our recent analysis of the Fulham game.
5. The 12th man
Boss Neil Critchley continues to praise our “unbelievable” support, and it’s clear to see why, with the tangerine faithful once again singing their hearts out for the full 90 minutes. Whatever the result, the presence of the tangerine army can always be felt from the North stand behind the goal, spurring the team and singing their hearts out relentlessly. You will struggle to find a better set of home fans in England, as shown from the club’s Twitter account with the video below:
Honourable mention – Ryan Wintle
An honourable mention must also go to debutant Ryan Wintle, who perfectly slotted himself into the Seasiders’ midfield. Wintle was able to provide composure through his controlled accurate passing, by effortlessly pulling of some outstanding long switches to either wing. He looks a fantastic Grant Ward replacement, whilst the midfielder remains sidelined through injury.
Whilst its difficult to identify any negatives from Saturday’s win, there’s always room for improvement in a tough league like the Championship.
- Full-backs drifting out of position
One recurring pattern I have noticed since the start of the season is that our fullbacks tend to drift too far into our box when defending opposition attacks. Overall I think this boils down to a lack of communication, as our fullbacks are occasionally caught up marking opposition strikers that our centre halves have failed to pick up.
This therefore leaves space and time out wide for wide attackers to receive the ball, and can create unnecessary pressure for our back line. Whilst this didn’t cost us majorly in the Fulham game, it has been the cause of a few goals scored against us this season, and is something that might need focusing on. Despite not scoring, Fulham were able to utilise their wide men to work their way into the game during the first half, with space and time to dribble into the Blackpool penalty area. This provided a few close scares, and on another day could’ve cost us all three points.
2.Aerial ability from long balls
Whether it be from Maxwell’s goal kicks, or long switches across, we seem to struggle to win aerial duels when attacking. From our goal kicks, the likes of Tyreece John-Jules and Jerry Yates struggle to compete aerially with Championship defenders, meaning possession is often immediately turned back over. This means we often struggle to create chances when there is no alternative way through the opposition. Championship defenders thrive during aerial duels, therefore developing an aerial presence will potentially provide us with an alternative way of breaching opposition defence when we’re out of ideas.
3. Still no goal in open play for Jerry
Despite another positive contribution, we’re still yet to see a Jerry Yates’ goal from open play this season. Yates seems to have lost his confidence slightly, when getting into attacking positions, making key passes and even shooting in front of goal.
Yates is very much a player that thrives on confidence and momentum, having scored 21 goals for us last season, but appeared to be absent in key attacking areas against Fulham. However, I believe it’s only a matter of time for Jerry, as once he scores his first from open play, it will open the door for many more – just like last season. Unplayable on his day, Jerry is more than capable of reaching double figures in this division when confident. We also have Shayne Lavery waiting in the wings to come in, so the competition should spur him on and he should score soon.
4. Putting the game to bed
The ability to put the game to bed is something that we will definitely have to develop this season, given the quality of Championship opposition. Whilst 1-0 was enough to secure the three points on Saturday, the Seasiders were given a fair few scares in front of goal late on. This could’ve easily changed the games outcome if it wasn’t for Fulham’s poor finishing. Adding a second goal often rules out the possibility of a late opposition equaliser, and ultimately boils down to our ability to be more clinical.
5. Poor Officiating
The standard of officiating continues to hit a significant low, with some questionable refereeing decisions once more. Whilst referees aren’t expected to get everything right, we’re all used to this by now, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It would be refreshing to see a referee that gets the majority of the decisions correct.
Saturday’s performance is hopefully a benchmark for what is to come from the Pool this season, as we’ve now shown we’re capable of beating some of the league’s toughest opposition.
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