The past three games had represented an opportunity to close the gap between ourselves and the play-offs, having picked up just one point from a possible nine, the bottom four is now nearly as close as the top six is. With a game forthcoming against a side level on points with us in this mid-table limbo we find ourselves in, this could represent a pivotal point in the season. Win, and we can perhaps set our sights back on the top six, lose, and the comfort zone between the relegation zone is going to be further shaved down.
Despite the failure to win the past three games, it is unlikely, nor is there much need, for Mark Robins to change things up. There was little wrong with the performance against Plymouth last week, other than the failure to put the ball in the back of the net. Without any new strikers having been signed over the past week, there’s not a lot else Robins can do other than to hope our forwards find a clinical touch this time out.
There was a key tactical shift last week, with Bright Enobakhare moved into a central position, Jordy Hiwula shifted onto the left and Conor Chaplin enabled to play on the shoulder of the opposing defence. It not only brought the best out of Enobakhare’s skill-set, but it allowed Conor Chaplin to get into more dangerous goalscoring positions than he’s previously been able to do.
The return of Dujon Sterling after his absence last week – once again, the club choosing not to disclose the exact reason why players are dropping out of the side – will be most welcome. While Jack Grimmer is not a particularly poor right-back, Sterling immediately improves the side with his presence and has become especially key in the creating of chances over the past couple of months.
Last Time We Met
Our last meeting with Blackpool has become the yard-stick against which poor performances this season are measured. Most notably, this was the game where Amadou Bakayoko demonstrated his lack of knowledge of the existence of the offside law, killing several promising attacking situations in a frustrating manner. Blackpool eventually capitalised on the torpor that had descended over the side over the course of the game, taking the lead, and then doubling it when Liam O’Brien went walkies to allow Joe Dodoo to score the easiest of goals.
Manager – Terry McPhillips
A vastly experienced coach, with stints at Crewe and Blackburn before joining Blackpool as the assistant to ex-manager, Gary Bowyer, McPhillips stepped into the breach this summer for his first spell as a manager outright after his predecessor’s surprise departure early into the campaign.
With Bowyer widely believed to be the glue holding a crumbling football club together, it has been surprising just how comfortably McPhillips has kept Blackpool ticking over. Playing a largely risk-free style of football based around keeping clean sheets and nicking things with set-pieces or counter-attacks, McPhillips has Blackpool comfortably in mid-table.
Who To Look Out For?
The most noticeable thing about Blackpool is just how physically strong and big they are. It starts at the back with the impressive Curtis Tilt leading a defence also containing Donvervon Daniels, Ben Heneghan and Michael Nottingham, who are also notable physical presences. With the giant Armand Gnanduillet up front, allied with Nathan Delfouneso and Joe Dodoo, Blackpool pose a huge threat from set-piece situations.
Probably Blackpool’s most important player is Jay Spearing in central midfield. The former Liverpool youngster not only provides the tempo in midfield and protects the defence with snappy challenges, his set-piece delivery is vital in allowing Blackpool to utilise their physical threat in an attacking manner.
Left-back Marc Bola and attacking midfielder Jordan Thompson represent the key elements of attacking flair for Blackpool. Bola’s pace and skill is key in providing Blackpool a counter-attacking threat. Thompson’s close control and eye for goal provides Blackpool with something different to the big men they otherwise rely on in attack.
Areas To Exploit
Blackpool’s key issue this season has been in creating and taking chances. While Armand Gnanduillet, Nathan Delfouneso, and Joe Dodoo can be thorny customers to deal with due to their physicality, they struggle to reliably convert chances or even to get into good goalscoring positions in open play. The recent signings of Chris Long and Newcastle youngster Elias Sorensen are an attempt to inject greater composure into the final third, Long scored in a recent win over Portsmouth, Sorensen has been prolific at youth level this season.
This is a game where if we can take the lead, we should be able to see the result out comfortably by forcing Blackpool to play a game they simply are not set up to play. If we fall behind, or even if the game stays even for most of it duration, Blackpool will be in their element protecting their penalty area, attempting to impose their physicality upon us and hoping to nick something at the other end of the pitch.
The fleet-footedness of Bright Enobakhare, Luke Thomas and Tom Bayliss could be crucial for us in penetrating an organised and resolute defence. They have to be prepared for the physical treatment they’ll come in for, but if they can overcome that, they’ll be our likeliest route to goal.