Blackpool dumped Maidstone out of the FA Cup in the blink of an eye - Matt Scrafton's verdict on the Seasiders' quickfire turnaround

It’s remarkable what can be accomplished in the space of just five minutes.

Monday, 2nd December 2019, 12:20 pm
Updated Monday, 2nd December 2019, 12:27 pm
Nathan Delfouneso was instrumental in Blackpool's quickfire turnaround
Nathan Delfouneso was instrumental in Blackpool's quickfire turnaround

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Fans' gallery from Blackpool's FA Cup second round win against Maidstone United ...

Rock frontman Johnny Rzeznik famously penned the lyrics for Goo Goo Dolls’ hit ‘Iris’ within said timeframe.

Roger Bannister broke a world record by running a four-minute mile in 1954, while both laser eye surgery and solving a Rubik’s cube can be completed in fewer than 240 seconds.

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While not quite on the same level as Bannister’s moment of sporting history, Blackpool also demonstrated what can be achieved in such a short space of time during their FA Cup second round tie against Maidstone United on Sunday.

The Seasiders, having been staring down the barrel of a surprise cup upset at the hands of a side 73 places below them in the football pyramid, eventually eased into that all-important third round draw in fairly comfortable style.

That was thanks to a remarkable spell that saw Simon Grayson’s men flip the game on its head by scoring three goals in the space of, you guessed it, five minutes.

The turnaround began in freakish circumstances as Pool were gifted an equaliser when Ryan Johnson thumped an attempted clearance straight into teammate George Elokobi, who could do nothing else but watch on in horror as the ball ricocheted off him and into the back of the net.

In fairness, Joe Nuttall deserves credit for the manner in which he controlled Ben Heneghan’s long ball before playing the ball into the danger zone - which is where the madness ensued.

In fact, ‘madness’ was the word used by Maidstone head coach Hakan Hayrettin to describe Blackpool’s quickfire goals that left his side - who had performed so admirably in the first period against all the odds - shell-shocked.

While the leveller involved its fair share of fortune, the two goals that subsequently followed in rapid time were all of Pool’s own creation.

The men in tangerine edged in front for the first time thanks to some quick-thinking from James Husband, who hurled a throw over the heads of a couple of Maidstone defenders to find Sullay Kaikai in acres of space.

Rather than take a touch, the forward opted to lash a first-time volleyed cross across the face of goal where Nathan Delfouneso had managed to time his run perfectly to head home in emphatic fashion.

The Maidstone players had barely got back into position by the time Delfouneso grabbed his second to make it 3-1 - the second half barely six minutes old.

The National League South side, their confidence shaken, played the ball back to Elokobi who was stationed on the edge of his own box.

His first touch was a poor one and it allowed Delfouneso the opportunity to steal the ball off him. He didn’t need a second invitation as he took the ball down and subsequently chipped the ball over the onrushing keeper to complete a two-minute brace.

Having entered the break with a one-goal lead, which left them harbouring hopes of a famous cup upset, the opposition were as good as out of the competition in the blink of an eye.

It was harsh on the Stones, but from Blackpool’s point of view it was exactly what the doctor ordered after such a lacklustre first-half display.

The Seasiders were too pedestrian and too predictable in their play, having enjoyed the lion’s share of possession as you would come to expect.

Maidstone were only too happy to sit deep and defend in numbers, which they did well by sticking to their robust shape.

As a result, space was at a premium for Grayson’s side but this is where Pool’s extra quality should have told.

Instead, Pool were far too cautious and opted to play far too many backwards passes and not enough risks - to the ire of the increasingly restless home faithful.

It was actually a half-time change that proved to be the catalyst for Pool’s instant comeback, as Grayson replaced Calum Macdonald with Ollie Turton as he reverted to a back four.

The Pool boss, however, who one would assume had delivered a rollocking at the interval, insists it was a change in the players’ mental approach - rather than anything he did tactically - that proved the difference.

Either way, Grayson will be relieved to have overcome a tricky-looking potential banana skin and avoid two cup exits in a week.

He also got the opportunity to see what young Tony Weston could do, having handed a senior debut to the 16-year-old in the final minute of normal time.

Ironically, when taking into account stoppage time, his first appearance lasted five minutes - and he still had enough time to leave a lasting impression.

He looked bright in glimpses, demonstrated confidence and enthusiasm in abundance and, had Kaikai been less selfish, could have found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper at the death.

A goal would have capped off a dream week for the youngster, who had received a heart-warming ovation when he entered the fray in place of Liam Feeney.

One Pool player who won’t be so happy is Ryan Hardie, who was left out of the squad at the expense of Weston.

The striker has endured a frustrating start to life at Bloomfield Road having made the move from Rangers during the summer. In fact, his Blackpool career is in danger of ending before it’s even got going.

For Pool, meanwhile, they march on to the third round of the FA Cup.

But first up is a tasty-looking league clash against neighbours Fleetwood Town on Saturday...