Match verdict: Pool pass character test

Blackpool's players after Saturday's game
Blackpool's players after Saturday's game

I think it’s probably safe to say not one person reading this has ever seen Blackpool win a league game away at Walsall.

Incredibly you’d have to go back to 1900 for the last time the Seasiders managed that, so maybe a point was always as good as it was going to get for Neil McDonald’s men.

Although as the fourth official’s board was raised showing five minutes of added time on Saturday, not many would have even expected that.

A goal down, McDonald’s men showed unbelievable character to fight back to earn the latest of late points.

And it was one they well and truly deserved.

In the week I spoke about the need for Blackpool to add a creative player who can make something out of nothing to win a game, and I think that point was highlighted more than ever in the first half.

The Seasiders defended superbly, restricted their high-flying hosts to nothing in terms of clear cut chances and created a couple of their own during the first half.

But with Pool on top they couldn’t quite find that breakthrough themselves.

Walsall had their moments after the break, but it’s typical the home fans were just starting to become vocal in their frustration when they eventually found the breakthrough.

I must admit once they went ahead I thought that was that.

But unlike in recent months, Pool had options on the bench, and different ones at that. In Uche Ikpeazu they have a totally different striker to anyone else at the club, in fact there aren’t many lads with his size and stature about the whole of League One.

While there’s no doubting he’s raw and will probably fall into the ‘hit and miss’ category this season due to his age, he didn’t half rattle Walsall when he came 
on.

He’s a totally different proposition to the likes of Elliot Lee and Andy Little.

With defensive options, like Lloyd Jones, nearing a return to fitness I think McDonald is doing a decent job in his recruitment.

For me he’s a pacy winger and creative midfield man away from a very competitive squad.

Unsurprisingly on Saturday Blackpool made no changes to the side which blasted Scunthorpe away last week at Bloomfield Road.

Unlike last weekend it was clear from the very first minute Pool were facing a very different task.

Walsall had a real spring in their step from kick-off, and rightly so.

Things may well have been interrupted when Dean Smith was poached by Brentford, but Sean O’Driscoll has continued their excellent form since arriving.

Pool were on the back foot early on, and almost gifted Walsall a goal on just five minutes.

Hayden White made a right mess of a routine looking ball into the box, slicing a clearance goal wards, luckily straight into the arms of Colin Doyle.

It could have been much, much worse.

While Walsall were pleasing on the eye, they actually offered very little in terms of attacking threat in the opening 10 minutes.

And the first sight of goal in the game came Blackpool, and Jack Redshaw’s way.

He cut in from the left and tried his luck from long range, while it went straight down the throat of keeper Neil Etheridge it was the kind of effort which any sort of deflection would have seen it fly into the net.

The chance gave Blackpool confidence, and they should have taken the lead two minutes later.

After a Walsall corner Pool launched a counter attack with White down the right, his pass played Redshaw clean in on goal, only for Etheridge to be a match.

It was a chance the striker really should have scored, although it was bouncing and just wouldn’t sit up right.

While the next 20 minutes was far from a thriller, McDonald will have been delighted with his side’s defending as Walsall had a spell of real pressure.

Striker Romaine Sawyers was causing problems, dropping deep and finding space with the ball, but that’s about as good as it got for the Saddlers.

Whenever they got into the final third, Pool’s back four stood strong. It’s something which continued all afternoon.

While the defensive players don’t grab the headlines attackers do, they were excellent to a man on Saturday.

Doyle in goal was also outstanding, he kept Blackpool in it with a couple of second half saves, without him the late goal would have counted for nothing.

Blackpool were having to sit deep and be patient, with the occasional counter attack offering a threat.

The latest came on 32 minutes when Brad Potts exchanged passes at the edge of the box with Danny Philliskirk before firing straight at the keeper from 18 yards.

Again it was probably an effort Pool will feel they could have done better with.

Blackpool’s solidness was clearly getting to the home supporters, as the moans and groans of frustration grew.

And five minutes before the break they got that little bit louder when referee Dean Whitestone waved away a penalty claim.

Striker Tom Bradshaw went down just inside the area under a challenge from White, for me it would have been a very weak penalty.

It was a call the referee got spot on.

At half-time it would have been Blackpool’s boss who was the happier of the two - his side had defended well, competed and created the best chances.

The start to the second half almost mirrored the first – very little happened.

It was a dull, lifeless affair as Walsall struggled to break through Blackpool defence minded set-up.

While most were expecting the home side to make an effort to win the game, you got the feeling Blackpool themselves felt there was something in it for them.

With that in mind McDonald threw on Ikpeazu for his debut just after the hour mark, replacing Mark Yeates.

The move saw Philliskirk switch to the left wing, it was an attacking move from the Blackpool boss.

Sadly it was to backfire.

First came a huge warning when Doyle was forced to deny Bradshaw at full stretch as his header looked to be heading for the corner from an Anthony Forde cross.

Before two minutes had passed, Walsall got their breakthrough.

Ironically it was the Saddlers’ two full-backs who combined for the goal, left-back Andy Taylor firing across goal where right-back Jason Demetriou was to tap home from five yards.

Pool almost drew themselves level instantly, when David Norris played new boy Ikpeazu into the area, only for his effort from a tight angle to be beaten away by the 
keeper.

The big man was already causing problems, his sheer presence appeared to rattle the back four.

As the game looked to be drifting away from Blackpool, they dragged themselves back into the game deep into stoppage time.

Philliskirk chased a ball over the top and was fouled right at the edge of the area, and from the resulting free-kick the striker reacted quickest to Ikpeazu’s free-kick to slam it home.

It was an instinctive finish which was all about his positioning, he’s had a decent start to life at Bloomfield Road.

Blackpool’s players and fans had huge celebrations, and to be fair they deserved it.

While points away from home probably won’t move you far up the table, they will certainly keep you away from the bottom.

On to tomorrow night.