Match report: McAlister’s work rate rubbing off at Pool

Blackpool players take part in a minutes applauds in memory of young Coventry City fan Rowan Fitzgerald

Blackpool players take part in a minutes applauds in memory of young Coventry City fan Rowan Fitzgerald

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So all of a sudden Blackpool don’t lose games and don’t concede goals, hands up if you saw that coming?

And it’s actually quite difficult to pin down what’s changed, not a lot seems to have to be honest.

The personnel hasn’t at all, in fact every player who started Saturday’s game was at the club at the beginning of the season when they hardly looking like even winning a corner at times.

Whatever Neil McDonald said in the dressing room at Shrewsbury three weeks ago has worked, maybe the players just needed a hammering to mature some of them and make them realise the ‘crisis club’ situation wasn’t going to be accepted as an 
excuse.

One thing they are doing better is defending, that’s for sure.

In recent weeks we’ve spoken about the emergence of Tom Aldred and Clark Robertson, but there’s another who deserves credit in David Ferguson.

The youngster has had added pressure on his shoulders this season after being handed the captain’s armband, and at first it all looked a little too much for him.

But his progression at left-back has been as rapid as anyone in the full Blackpool squad.

On the other side it’s good to see Emmerson Boyce is settling down too, he arrived late in the summer and despite his experience took time to bed in.

The other key point is how hard the midfield are working to win back possession, particularly in the middle of the park.

Time and time again on Saturday Coventry surrendered possession, but it was as much pressure from Pool and superb positioning than anything else.

The non-stop attitude of Jim McAlister is undoubtedly rubbing off on his team-mates, and we are seeing a different side of Brad Potts too.

Potts is without question a hugely talented player, but in the first half on Saturday we saw him make a 30-yard recovery run before a inch perfect slide tackle to win the battle back and thwart an attack, it was good to see.

It all makes for a side which first and foremost is much, much more difficult to play against, something which is reflecting in results.

And on Saturday Pool had the perfect setting to continue their improvement, Coventry’s home is right up there with the best in League One in terms of access, stadium and facilities.

It’s good to see the Sky Blues at last returning to some sort of normality.

There were a couple of familiar faces in their line-up too, with Jacob Murphy in particular needing no introduction after his loan spell at Bloomfield Road last season.

Also in the XI was midfielder John Fleck who had a spell at Blackpool under Ian Holloway, they were joined by Adam Armstrong and Ryan Kent who returned from international duty.

Fleck, in particular, was outstanding for me, so comfortable on the ball.

For McDonald it was all change, seven in fact with the boss dropping almost everyone who came in for the Johnstone Paints win against Port Vale.

Only Jose Cubero survived, replacing the injured David Norris.

As well as the perfect surroundings Coventry have themselves a top manager in Tony Mowbray, and you get the feeling they could well be in and around the promotion mix come May.

They certainly started with the look of a team full of confidence, taking just two minutes to create their first chance when Marc-Antoine Fortune was allowed to turn and fire just wide inside the area.

I was Fleetwood last weekend to watch Coventry in action and that day it was winger Murphy who caught the eye and it didn’t take him long to almost make his mark on Saturday.

He burst into the box from the left-wing only to be denied by Colin Doyle on ten minutes.

After finding their feet the Seasiders finally started to look a threat before a neat set-piece carved up their first opening of the game.

Cubero’s disguised free-kick released Jack Redshaw down the right who’s cross was turned just wide at the near post by Mark Cullen.

At this point you got the feeling there would be goals in the game, both teams playing open and rather attractive football. It was a pleasant game on the eyes.

Blackpool’s joy was mainly coming from their midfield two Potts and Cubero who were doing a great job in breaking down the home side’s play.

Coventry’s joy in the final third was coming via forward Fortune who far too often was allowed the ball into his feet in and around the area, his hold-up play being his real 
strength.

On 34 minutes they did, however, almost take the lead from the most unlikely of sources, left-back Chris Stokes.

As Pool failed to clear their lines the ball fell to the defender 25 yards from goal and his curling effort was heading for the top corner only for Doyle to turn it wide at full-stretch.

While McDonald will have been pleased to go in level at the break after a bright half of football, the joy Murphy was starting to get down the left no doubt acted as a warning.

If it was the home side who finished the stronger, it was the Seasiders who came out the blocks quicker in the second half.

And just two minutes in Redshaw showed quick feet to find space in the area before forcing a save from Reice Charles-Cook.

The keeper spilled it right into the middle of the six-yard box, sadly no-one in tangerine reacted quick enough for what would have been the easiest of tap-ins.

Just as Pool were looking like they were getting some joy, came a real let-off at the other end for McDonald’s men.

Tiny midfield man Ryan Kent jinked into the box down the left before cutting the ball back into the path of Adam Armstrong who scuffed his effort from eight yards.

The Newcastle loan man has eight goals so far this season and many expected him to fire his side ahead.

If anything, as the half went on, Blackpool became a little too happy to sit deep and soak up the pressure, encouraging wave after wave of attack against them.

Every now and then Pool did attack, and after 73 minutes Cullen was gifted the golden chance of the game.

Hesitant defending allowed the striker to in between two defenders and find himself clean in on goal, only for the former Luton man to drag his effort wide.

It was the sort of chance you can’t really miss away from home.

The chance really opened the game up and reminded the Seasiders they are an attack on the break as the game really opened up.

Moments later Murphy tried his luck from range, forcing Doyle to spill it, and from the attack Thomas won a free-kick for Pool right on the edge of the area.

Potts’ effort deflecting just over from 18 yards. From that moment onwards you almost got a sensed Blackpool had decided to settle for a 
point.

Attacks became few and far between as the Seasiders tucked in and stood strong against a growlingly frustrated Coventry side.

At the end the travelling fans gave Pool a real cheer and you have to say they deserved it.

As much as I still think McDonald is a little mad for turning down the comforts of the Premier League this week, fair play to him.

Maybe he saw this 
improvement coming all 
along.

I certainly hope it continues, what a refreshing change a decent run of form is for us all.

Long may it continue.