The Pool travelled to the Riverside Stadium on the back of a heavy blow, in the form of a 3-0 defeat at home to Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. Conversely, Boro came into this fixture full of confidence, after an impressive 2-0 win in midweek over Nottingham Forest. In what what can only be described as a game of mixed emotions for all Blackpool fans, it was the Tangerines that eventually came out on top thanks to an impressive second half display after a pretty poor first half where we trailed 1-0. Marvin Ekpiteta and a Middlesbrough own goal helped secure a 2-1 victory, and all three points the travelling Seasiders’ fans.
Here are five good, five bad:
- Character, resilience and fight
Despite being 1-0 down with arguably one of the slowest first half performances we’ve seen all season, Blackpool were able to come out a completely transformed side in the second period of the game. Our second half performance was perhaps one of the best we’ve seen this season, in which we controlled the majority of the game, and scored two goals, also limiting Middlesbrough to very few chances.
After hitting the woodwork and coming close on a few other occasions in the first half, it looked like it could turn into a comfortable afternoon for Boro. However for the Pool players to be able to up the intensity and flip the tie on its head deserves huge credit, especially when all seemed to have been going wrong. By bringing the game to Middlesbrough in the second half we were able to constantly pin them back in their own half, leaving them with no choice but to sit back and absorb waves of Blackpool pressure. This is ultimately what put us in a winning position, after creating a flurry of chances that eventually led to two Seasiders’ goals.
Even when leading the game we were still able to limit Boro to very little chances, and avoided sitting back and taking on pressure. This is something that often happens when we’re leading games. Instead, we searched for a third goal, and came close of a few occasions, before ultimately claiming all three points.
Not many teams are able to show the level of character and fight that we did when in a losing position, especially having started the game relatively poorly. I think that’s a credit to the fantastic group Neil Critchley is building, a group that we should all be proud of.
A solid, commanding display from central defender Marvin Ekpiteta was instrumental in ensuring we claimed all three points of Saturday. After a costly error in midweek against Huddersfield, and arguably being at fault for Middlesbrough’s opener which should’ve been ruled out for offside, Marv responded in the most spectacular fashions. Not only was it a solid all round defensive display from the Seasiders’ commanding centre half, but he also managed to net a quite brilliant goal for the Blackpool equaliser.
Ekpiteta was able to latch onto the end of a Richard Keogh cross, before using his strength to expertly turn his marker, and bundle one home past Joe Lumley in the Middlesbrough goal. During the sequence Marvin was able to flick the ball up and around the defender to open up space, before he fired home. This has sparked fellow teammates comparing his move to that of legendary striker Didier Drogba on Instagram, which I believe is a fair albeit flattering assumption.
Not a bad finish for a centre back, eh?
Richard Keogh has once again proven why his experience and defensive qualities are vital to our survival hopes in the Championship this season. It’s fair to say that Keogh has had a number of doubters amongst the tangerine faithful, due to his age and lack of sharpness. But with the two solid performances against Fulham and now Middlesbrough, the Irishman is proving he is more than capable of providing the defensive solidity required for this division.
Keogh is an expert at defensive position and reading the game, and always appears to be in the right place, at the right time when shutting out opposition attackers. Whether it be strong headed clearances, or vital defences blocks, Keogh is beginning to establish himself as a regular in the Blackpool side.
4. Ryan Wintle
Once again, Cardiff loanee Ryan Wintle impressed, with a cooly controlled performance in the middle of the park. Wintle provided an ever present energy, and continues to look like a fantastic replacement for the injured Grant Ward. Whether it be his defensive battling, or his superb passing ability, Wintle is starting to establish himself as a fans’ favourite. Even more so after he began geeing up the away fans during a Seasiders’ corner in the 90th minute.
Over 1,200 passionate members of the tangerine army made the trip to the Riverside on Saturday, and once again showed why we’re some of the best set of supporters in the division. Earnings plaudits from Neil Critchley, and a number of impartial Boro fans, Blackpool fans are continuing to show why we’re so crucial to the teams success. Even when we’re in a losing position, we’ll continue to spur on the players, and give them the extra incentive they need to fight for the three points. And we were rewarded for our loyal support with a hard fought three points to take back to Bloomfield Road.
Check out my vlog of yesterday’s game for the goal reactions and scenes!
Whilst the Pool were able to collect three points on Saturday, there were a few apparent areas of improvement.
- Lack of ideas in the first half
Despite collecting all three points come full time, there was an apparent slowness and lack of ideas about Blackpool in the first half. We seemed to be unable to make any key passes, and were often guilty of passing backwards or slowing down in crucial attacking areas. I think it ultimately boils down to a lack of creativity in midfield. Hopefully this is something that can be rectified over the coming weeks, with the likes of Demetri Mitchell set to return from injury.
2. Strikers not at the races
Although forward Gary Madine recently returned from injury, it’s now been over three games since one of our strikers scored a league goal. With both Jerry Yates and Tyrese John-Jules struggling to establish any goal-scoring form. Also Shayne Lavery has appeared fatigued in recent weeks. This is something that could potentially become problematic for the Pool. Ultimately your forwards job is to score goals, and without that we might struggle to find the cutting edge in games to come.
When presented with a clear cut chance on Saturday, John-Jules could only blaze over, and appears to be running low on confidence in attacking areas, through his reluctance to shoot. However I believe that once both John-Jules and Jerry Yates score from open play, they will be able to establish a more consistent goal threat. Last season, Yates demonstrated that this is more than possible, as after failing to score in his first nine league games, the striker went onto net 23 for the Tangerines. The only difference this time being that both our strikers are having to compete in a much tougher division.
3. Lack of communication
Particularly in the first half, there appeared to be clear lack of communication between Blackpool players. Whether it be at the back when picking up opposition players, or a lack disclosure in the midfield when moving for the ball, it was slowing down the tempo of our play in the first half.
You could potentially put this down to the fact that there are a number of new faces and partnerships in the pool dressing room, who are still learning playing styles of one another. However this is something that needs to be rectified quickly, as it could prove costly for the Pool in coming weeks – through keeping it tight at the back and scoring goals.
4. Giving possession away in the air
One tactic I am struggling to come to terms with is the long goal kicks that are fired towards the head of Shayne Lavery. Whilst Shayne is undoubtedly tough enough to compete with any Championship centre half, he stands at just 5ft 9 tall. This therefore lets him down in competing for aerial duels, especially against your average 6ft centre back, who are often able to clear the ball with ease, as we lose possession.
5. Too much space for opposition
One more factor that came close to costing the Pool on Saturday was giving too much space to opposition players, particularly on the edge of the box. Boro attackers were given space and freedom on the edge of the 18 yard box, in which they struck the crossbar twice. On another day this could have definitely cost, something that we had to learn the hard way around against Huddersfield at home.
We should definitely be proud of Saturday’s performance. The way we responded in the second half with true fight and character is a credit to the side that Neil Critchley is building. That’s now two wins out of the last three, and with a winnable tie at home to Barnsley next weekend, there are plenty of positive signs for the Tangerines.
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