MATCH REPORT: Blackpool 1-0 Stevenage

Mark Cullen scored the game's only goal.
Mark Cullen scored the game's only goal.

Blackpool climbed up to the cusp of the League Two play-off spots with a crucial and hard-earned 1-0 win against Stevenage.

Mark Cullen banished Pool’s penalty woes to give his side an early lead from the spot kick, and that was all that was required to extend their unbeaten run to seven games.

Gary Bowyer’s men were forced to hold on to their slender lead in the dying stages but they managed to secure all three points, which sees them rise to eighth place in the league, although they remain three points off Exeter in seventh.

Stevenage, whse defeat was their first in 10 games, were a constant threat but the Seasiders managed to keep them at bay with yet another clean sheet and an all-round team performance.

Both sides set their stalls out early on and it was clear neither side were intent on sitting back and defending.

Stevenage, clearly brimming with confidence after bagging an impressive eight wins from their last nine games, produced the first opportunity on goal when former Fleetwood man Steven Schumacher let fly from the edge of the box only to see his effort dribble wide.

The following attack saw Blackpool come inches away from opening deadlock but Jordan Flores saw his superbly struck effort from 30 yards out bounce off the crossbar.

Out of nowhere, the Seasiders were gifted a penalty for the second game running when Clark Robertson’s header came off the arm of Stevenage skipper Jack King, with the referee pointing straight to the spot.

While Brad Potts missed from 12 yards against Wycombe at the weekend, Mark Cullen made no mistake as he confidently struck home into the bottom left corner.

The goal, Cullen’s third goal in his last four matches, was just deserts for Pool’s bright start to the match.

Gary Bowyer’s men came close to adding a second following some pinball in the Stevenage box, which ended with Kelvin Mellor striking the foot of the post.

The move was a clear sign of intent from Bowyer’s men, who had no intentions of sitting back and protecting a 1-0 lead.

But nevertheless, they were forced to do their defensive duties towards the end of the first half but Dean Lyness, who has impressed since coming into the side, was well in command of his area which neutralised the visitor’s long throws.

The game then back a bitty affair, with the referee forced to halt proceedings on a number of occasions with both sides suffering injuries.

Stevenage should have equalised towards the end of the opening period but failed to take of two attempts that came in quick succession.

Dean Lyness saved well with his feet to deny the visitors from a close range effort before Jack King blazed over with the goal at his mercy, in what was a real let off for the Seasiders.

But the first half action didn’t stop there, as Blackpool almost made it two after a flowing attack which ended with Nathan Delfouneso seeing his goal bound effort well blocked.

Stevenage then failed to deal with the following corner but Tom Aldred’s looping header was hacked away from the line.

Tom Pett saw his drilled effort headed away from goal by Delfouneso before King saw his header drop over the bar - all before the half-time whistle was finally blown.

The visitors started the second half brightly and brought a good save out of Lyness, who got down well to save from Ben Kennedy’s low effort.

Stevenage continued to dominate in the early stages of the second period but struggled to create many chances of note, other than a weak header that Lyness easily collected.

Blackpool weathered the storm effectively and began to enjoy a spell of pressure of their own, which saw Cullen go agonisingly close to doubling his own tally with an ambitious volley on the turn which flew inches wide of the far post.

Both sides continued to exchange good opportunities with Jobi McAnuff only able to stab wide of goal for the away side when the ball fell for him at the back post before Cullen was denied just yards out from the goalline for Pool.

The dangerous Colin Daniel then fizzed a threatening ball across the Stevenage six-yard box but no one in tangerine was able to get on the end of it.

Substitute Jamille Matt wasted a golden opportunity to score a vital second when the ball was parried to him following Ian Black’s effort from range, but the striker could only strike against the inside of the post.

The Blackpool defence was forced to withstand a barrage of pressure in the final stages, but they stood up to it well and limited the visitors to pot shots at goal.

Blackpool: Lyness, Mellor, Aldred, Robertson, Taylor, Daniel, Payne, Flores (Danns), Potts (Black), Delfouneso, Cullen (Matt)

Subs not used: Slocombe, Aimson, Osayi-Samuel, Gnanduillet

Stevenage: Day, King, Franks, Wilkinson, McAnuff (McQuoid), Schumacher, Pett, Kennedy (Hinds), Ogilvie, Lee, Godden

Subs not used: Preston, Gorman, Tonge, McKee, Ntlhe

Referee: Ross Joyce

Referee: 2,456 (188 Stevenage)