Grimsby 0-0 Blackpool: Five things we learned

Jack Payne impressed on his return to the side.

Jack Payne impressed on his return to the side.

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Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' stalemate at Blundell Park on New Year's Eve.

An away point is welcome, but it should have been three

The draw means Pool collected four points out of six from their two fixtures over the festive period against Hartlepool and Grimsby. Seeing as both games were on the road, that sort of return is not too shabby at all. But it was a missed opportunity against Grimsby yesterday, because the game was there to be won. Since September, Grimsby have only won once at home in the league and they rarely threatened Sam Slocombe's goal. The Seasiders, on the other hand, had three or four good opportunities but weren't clinical enough in front of goal. The Grimsby goalkeeper, however, was awarded Man of the Match which probably tells you all you need to know.

Should Blackpool have been given a penalty?

I have to admit, on first viewing, I thought Bright Osayi-Samuel had dived after he had taken the ball past Dean Henderson inside Grimsby's penalty area. However at half-time I was told by my colleagues from Grimsby that it was a definite penalty and there was clear contact. Having since watched it back myself, I'm still not convinced. Osayi-Samuel goes down far too theatrically but I will say one thing, Henderson comes out recklessly to the edge of the box feet first to try and halt the teenager in his tracks, and gets absolutely nothing of the ball. Did he touch Osayi-Samuel? I can't tell, but the fact I'm still umming and ahhing over it despite seeing it back countless times probably suggests the referee got it right as he cannot have been 100% sure.

Impressive return for Jack Payne

The midfielder was dropped to the bench for the Boxing Day game against Hartlepool and given his dip in form in the past month or so, that was probably the right decision from Gary Bowyer. Jim McAlister came into the side and put in a solid display against the Pools during the Seasiders' 1-0 win, and didn't let his teammates down again against Grimsby. This time skipper Danny Pugh went out of the side to be given a rest with Pool having to face two games in the space of three days. Payne stepped up to the mark and put in one of his most impressive displays of the season. He was dynamic and creative and took the game by the scruff of the neck from midfield, something he has the ability to do more often. Which two will Bowyer go with for Mansfield? Who knows, but it will be nice to have the choice.

Pool are now a solid unit, but it's costing them goals

Pool were relatively free scoring earlier in the season, scoring four against the likes of Doncaster, Notts County and Newport. But in December, they only netted five times in their six games. They've also only scored once in their past three league fixtures - that coming in the 1-0 win against Hartlepool on Boxing Day. Gary Boywer has made his side a lot harder to beat, especially on the road, but that's come at a price as they're no longer scoring as many as they once were. They're still the league's third highest goalscorers, joint with Portsmouth, so their strength in attack is still clearly their strength - it's just about finding the right balance to make sure those goals keep coming while things are kept tight at the back.

Clean sheets are now coming like London buses

Blackpool's more conservative approach has had its benefits, however, with three clean sheets in a row from their last three away games. It means the Seasiders only conceded two goals from their four league fixtures in December - and both of those came in the 2-0 defeat to Luton. It's not happening by chance either - neither Grimsby nor Hartlepool could fashion any clear chances in their respective games against Blackpool and 'keeper Sam Slocombe has rarely been called upon. Having a settled back four (or five, counting Slocombe) for the majority of the season has helped as well, and Pool are now starting to reap the benefits from building those relationships over the first half of the season.