Though the win last weekend against Fleetwood arrived in fortuitous circumstances, having edged possession, chances created and been in the ascendency in the closing stages of the game, we probably deserved to win that. There’s no real need to dwell on the game too much, other than it’s nice to have ended a potentially troubling run of form away from home and it sets us up rather nicely heading into this forthcoming home game against Blackpool.
The emerging trend this season is that we are off-colour away and much more fluent and confident at home. Even with Adam Armstrong in the side in recent away games, we have looked a different team compared to our home games. The expectation then is that we’ll once again be able to turn it on with our Fancy Dan attacking flair players.
In his pre-match press conference, Tony Mowbray has been keen that he won’t rest on his laurels and simply expect Armstrong, Murphy and Kent to perform simply because we’re playing at home. The word was that Jacob Murphy was close to not starting last week as Mowbray feels that he is perhaps better suited to making an impact from the bench. Now that Armstrong and Kent are back this week, it may tempt Mowbray into dropping Murphy from the starting line-up.
One reason why Mowbray may chose not to drop Murphy though is his wariness in throwing the aforementioned Armstrong and Kent back into the starting line-up following international duty. When we last had this problem, Armstrong was started against Scunthorpe a month ago and had little to no impact on the game. With there being few alternatives in the squad who can truly replace that explosive incisiveness the two provide, I would imagine that the manager will risk starting them both. It does though go some way to explaining just why we are currently looking at adding Chris Eagles to the squad.
Reice Charles-Cook is our man in goal for the moment, having started and pulled off another clean sheet against Fleetwood Town. It has been a promising start for Charles-Cook in goal but that has to be caveated by the strength of the opposition he’s faced and his inexperience. Thus far the signs are good but it’s too early to tell whether he’s the real deal, the only way to find out is to keep on playing him.
Last Time We Met
The last time we played Blackpool was during our miserable relegation season from the Championship. An otherwise unremarkable Tuesday night game at the end of January was made notable only for it being the occasion of Conor Thomas’s first and only league goal for the club. It made little difference though other than to inspire Ian Holloway’s Blackpool side into rallying for a 2-1 victory that helped send them on their way to the play-off finals that year.
How Are They Doing?
The story of Blackpool’s decline ever-since that failed attempt to return to a Premier League they so indelibly made an impact upon in the halcyon days of Ian Holloway, Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell is well-known. The Oyston family in charge of the football club chose to maintain a strict control over the club’s parachute payments rather than invest it back into the football team, or the club’s facilities. The fans are understandably apoplectic at the perceived negligence of their owners, something which hasn’t been helped by the antagonistic tone the club has adopted in communicating to their fans.
So despite the club’s recent pedigree, they were heavy favourites for relegation again this season having spent another summer remodelling the first-team squad with a group of players seemingly plucked from the unwanted list. New manager Neil McDonald appeared to be fighting a losing battle with his ramshackle assembly of players, typified by the decision to name David Ferguson, a 21 year-old left-back with just 10 first-team appearances for the club, as captain.
It took six league games to register a first win which came in entirely fortunate circumstances against a Scunthorpe side who otherwise dominated the game. However, whether by accident or design, Neil McDonald’s team have won their past three games in a much more convincing manner. Typical of a man who spent so many years as Sam Allardyce’s assistant, Blackpool are starting to play hard-working and well-organised football.
This recent upturn in form has coincided with the arrival of veteran David Norris to the midfield, a man last seen trying to earn a contract at Yeovil Town. Norris made his reputation at Championship level as an attacking midfielder who lived off the knock-downs of a big striker, much like Kevin Nolan. At Blackpool, Norris has played a deeper role but has formed an energetic midfield partnership with the promising Brad Potts that seeks to assert itself by pressing high up the pitch.
Those two in the centre of the park set the tone for the team’s energy and organisation, Blackpool will attempt to make things awkward for us by asserting themselves on the game rather than sitting back and hitting us on the counter. Mark Cullen and Jack Redshaw are willing runners in attack with Jim McAlister and Henry Cameron out wide similarly energetic players. They also have the pacey Bright Osayi-Samuel as an option to cause us problems.
If that initial press is overcome, Blackpool’s defence has looked much more solid and organised than it appeared to be at the start of the season. Emmerson Boyce at right-back has looked much more up-to-speed than he had appeared to be when he arrived at the club and provides a physical block down one flank. Central defender Tom Aldred has been in improved form in recent weeks and if we can get past their defence, keeper Colin Doyle could be a tricky customer to beat.
With the expectation high surrounding this game, specifically that we’ll not only win but we’ll win by several goals, there is the potential for mass disappointment if things don’t quite pan out that way. There are similarities between Blackpool and Southend who we recently played, they offer the threat of frustrating with their defence and hurting us on the counter but they may actually put us under pressure much higher up the pitch than some are expecting.
A big hole in Blackpool’s team that I can potentially spot is the amount of space the attack-minded central midfield partnership of David Norris and Brad Potts may leave, something the likes of Armstrong, Kent and Murphy will relish as they did against Shrewsbury and Chesterfield. If we can bring energy to our performance from the very start, there is a good chance that we can continue our run of form heading into a congested fixture list over the coming weeks.
My prediction is that we will win 2-0.