Match verdict: Crazy game and three vital points

Blackpool's Brad Potts celebrates with fans at full time

Blackpool's Brad Potts celebrates with fans at full time

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If you forget a late winner, stoppage-time penalty miss, a ridiculous red card, three disallowed goals and a pitch invasion, it was a quiet day at Gresty Road on Saturday.

For weeks we’ve talked about a lack of flair in Blackpool’s play and pretty dour games.

But on Saturday we got just about as many talking points as you could dream of squeezing into 90 minutes. The crucial one for Blackpool was that they won.

This was always going to be about nothing but three points. Had Crewe’s Brad Inman found the net with the last-minute penalty then we’d have been talking about Pool being in a stinking position after failing to beat a very poor Crewe side.

Instead, Neil McDonald’s men now sit outside the relegation zone and have shown they at least have life left in them. But, boy, did they ride their luck.

After an 83rd-minute equaliser and down to 10 men, it looked as though it was going to be another one of those days for Blackpool.

But for the first time this season, they could turn to lady luck for a bit of help.

First Tom Aldred’s effort cannoned off a defender, looped into the air and in the net, before Inman’s stoppage-time penalty landed very much in row Z.

While Blackpool had the better of the chances, they actually created three in the first five minutes, you’d probably say Crewe will feel desperately hard done by not to have got a point.

Not that Pool will care, that’s the Railwaymen all but relegated, and McDonald’s side can now concentrate on a season defining Easter weekend. While Crewe were dreadful at the back, Pool’s attacking flair came from McDonald’s team selection.

On Tuesday at Oldham the Pool fans who were less than happy when Mark Cullen and Jack Redshaw were left on the bench got their wish on Saturday – both came into the starting XI.

It left McDonald’s men, at least on paper, looking much stronger than the team which faced Oldham in midweek.

Danny Philliskirk was named on the right to add a least a bit of attacking flair, while the back four always usually look more solid with Clark Robertson in it.

Strangely there was no new faces in the squad, despite McDonald volunteering the news he was hoping to sign a striker ahead of the game.

One thing apart from the team news which caused a talking point in the press box before the game was Crewe’s constant watering of their Gresty Road pitch.

When I arrived, just after 1pm, there was standing water in places as the sprinklers soaked the surface, a similar thing happened moments before kick-off. It made for a quick pitch, one which Crewe boss Steve Davis clearly felt would suit his side.

But it was the Seasiders who started the game well, and for once on the front foot.

David Norris set the tone in the very first minute, bursting forward to win a corner from which Brad Potts volleyed over the bar under pressure.

It all gave Pool hope, and moments later Philliskirk’s rasping effort from 25 yards forced a good save from keeper Ben Garratt.

McDonald’s instructions were clearly much more positive, and two minutes later they again tried their luck from range. This time Jim McAlister having a go, again down the keeper’s throat.

But it was a positive start and one which had Crewe very much on the back foot, although Crewe would quickly settle themselves.

They had the best chance of the opening 10 minutes when George Cooper’s effort was saved by Colin Doyle. Pool failed to clear the ball, which dropped at the feet of skipper Harry Davis, who fired wide.

Right-back Hayden White impressed at Oldham last Tuesday and he was at it again. On 12 minutes he burst down the right and crossed brilliantly but Redshaw glanced a header just wide.

Seconds later Redshaw again shot at goal, this time seeing his tame effort almost spilled to the feet of Cullen in the six yard box. It was an excellent start as Pool created plenty of chances for once.

In typical fashion they very nearly shot themselves in the foot on 16 minutes. When seemingly having the situation under control, Clark Robertson and White collided at the edge of the box, allowing Brad Inman clear in on goal.

With the goal at his mercy keeper Doyle did brilliantly to come and spread himself to clear – it was a huge save.

After a thrilling start the game started to settle as the 25-minute mark approached, although both sides look blatantly shaky at the back. It was wide open, with both sides looking like creating a chance every time they ventured forward. Despite the bright start, Blackpool’s travelling fans turned on boss McDonald midway through the first half, moments before his side had a goal ruled out.

Norris burst forward and met a Redshaw pass to head over out rushing keeper Garratt, only for the linesman to raise his flag. As news filtered through clubs around them at the bottom of League One were winning, Pool needed a breakthrough and on 35 minutes they managed it.

Philliskirk crossed superbly for McAlister, whose header rattled the bar. Redshaw reacted brilliantly to head home the rebound.

Redshaw was booked for celebrating with Blackpool’s lively travelling support. Just two minutes later that yellow card would be crucial as the striker clattered into David Fox before being sent off.

It was a silly challenge on a booking, but to be sent off for celebrating a goal with your own fans is ridiculous.

He didn’t remove his shirt, didn’t jump into the crowd and had just scored his first goal since January . It appears you can’t celebrate anymore.

That said, the second yellow was an easy decision for the referee. I’m not sure what the striker was thinking. Despite the set-back Blackpool kept their heads well for the rest of the half, with Cullen now leading the line alone.

Although it took a typical goal line clearance from Tom Aldred to keep Pool ahead, he reacted superbly to steer an Inman effort away from danger. Aldred is another who comes out of this terrible period for Pool with credit.

After the break the surge we all expected from the home side never really came, and to Blackpool’s credit it was they who controlled the play.

Crewe eventually had a spell around the hour, and they couldn’t have come much closer to levelling when Zoumama Bakayogo rattled the bar with a header from a corner.

Crewe threw the kitchen sink at Pool, who defended well but had hearts in their mouths on 67 minutes when Inman went down in the area but no penalty was awarded.

Crewe came again five minutes later with Bakayogo curling an effort onto the post, the defender had now hit the bar and the post! It was backs to the wall stuff for Pool, so far they were dealing with it well.

And as Crewe committed men forward gaps were appearing at the other end, something which Potts almost took advantage of on 71 minutes. He burst forward brilliantly from halfway before rattling the post.

It was a game you couldn’t take your eyes off. Just as things appeared to be calming down, all hell broke loose with two goals in two minutes.

First Marcus Haber looked to have broken Pool’s hearts with a lovely flick past Doyle, before Aldred showed all of his leadership qualities to deflect home a winner. The defender’s effort spun in the air, after a decent lay-off from Philliskirk, dropping over the line to send Pool’s fans into hysteria. The spilled on to the pitch to celebrate what could be a huge, huge goal.

This crazy game had one more twist in stoppage time, when substitute Emmerson Boyce dived into a challenge in the area, fouling Tom Hitchcock to give away a penalty.

Striker Inman fired high and wide into the stand. There was still time for White to clear off the line, after Haber’s free-header looked to have beaten Doyle.

Pool’s players punched the air as the final whistle blew and celebrated in front of the fans, some of whom had been hugely critical of the players and McDonald in chants during the game. Eight games to go, four wins needed.