Blackpool 1-1 Gillingham: Five things we learned
Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' frustrating 1-1 draw.
How did Blackpool not win?
The Seasiders' squandered a priceless chance to pick up back-to-back 1-0 wins which would have set them up perfectly for this weekend's Fylde coast derby with Fleetwood Town. Pool were completely dominant last night, unleashing 22 shots on goal in comparison to Gillingham's nine, yet they only have themselves to blame for not making them pay. They were, once again, superb in the first half and on another day could and maybe should have found the back of the net on two or three occasions. I can't remember the away side making Ryan Allsop work but a hopeful ball into the box aimed towards striker Tom Eaves in the final minute of normal time was enough for Gillingham to rescue a point their play barely deserved.
Plenty of reasons to be positive
The Blackpool players and staff will no doubt be disappointed with their failure to hold onto their slender 1-0 lead, it's only natural when you concede so late. But when they take a look back at the game and reflect on how well they played, I'm sure they will conclude there are plenty of reasons to remain positive. Of course it is results that matter, not performances, but if Blackpool continue to play in that manner they will win more games than they will lose, that much I am sure of. It was a missed opportunity, sure, especially when a win would have put them right on the coat-tails of Blackburn Rovers in that last play-off place - a side they play at home next Tuesday. But it was just one of those games where things didn't go their way and that will happen from time-to-time. On another day we could have been talking about a comfortable 3 or 4-0 win, which Gillingham could have had no real complaints with.
Back to the drawing board in training
While there's plenty of reasons to be positive, there are still areas Blackpool need to work on. That was something Gary Bowyer acknowledged in his post-match interview, astutely recognising that the Seasiders are a very good side in between both boxes but need to work on a) their finishing in front of goal and b) their defending in their own box. Get those two facets of the game right and they're laughing. One of Blackpool's weak spots seems to be their inability to defend simple crosses into their box, which was highlighted by Gillingham's late goal. Firstly, not enough was done to pressure the crosser and then, inexcusably, the 6ft 5in Tom Eaves was left unmarked at the back post to head home. That's not the first time this sort of thing has happened this season either. But, generally speaking, the back four played well so it is just a case of fine tuning things on the training pitch to put things right going forward.
Kyle Vassell is an absolute warrior
Vassell could have been excused for taking things lightly on his return from a hamstring injury, but that's just not his style. The striker is a battering ram that refuses the give the opposition defence a moment's rest and Blackpool are a completely different side for having him in the team. He did superbly to play 89 minutes against Peterborough on Saturday and the same last night to make it through to the 75-minute mark. It speaks volumes that, in his 15-minute absence, Pool struggled and it was during that spell that Gillingham got their goal. They even went close to winning it in injury time, which would have been a real injustice. Vassell backed up his goal at London Road with another against Gillingham and it was one of his trademark finishes in the way he absolutely lashed it home, giving the goalkeeper no chance whatsoever - taking his season's tally to eight goals from 15 games.
Can Callum Cooke find his shooting boots?
The midfielder played well last night, showing some superb touches and getting himself into some really good positions - but for the second time in recent weeks he was the main culprit for Blackpool's missed chances. Just as was the case against Boreham Wood in the FA Cup earlier this month, Cooke squandered at least three really good opportunities to find the back of the net. Had he done so with just one of his efforts, Blackpool would surely have clinched the three points. The most frustrating thing is that, while all of his efforts narrowly missed the target, not once did he make the Gillingham goalkeeper work. Cooke has been integral to the way the Seasiders play their football this season but I'm sure Gary Bowyer will want to see more goals from the on-loan Middlesbrough midfielder.