Blackpool 1-0 Stevenage: Five things we learned
Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' crucial 1-0 win at home to Stevenage.
Pool show they can grind it out
The battling qualities Blackpool showed last night were impressive and it's something we've not seen too often this season, which makes the win even sweeter. In many ways it was a more satisfying win because they had to earn it, and they did that by throwing bodies in front of everything that came their way. Stevenage threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the Seasiders in the closing stages but Gary Bowyer's men stood up to it impressively, with the likes of Tom Aldred, Clark Robertson and Kelvin Mellor producing tackle after tackle, block after block and header after header. To be a successful side you have to find ways of winning football matches, especially when you're coming up against in-form sides like Stevenage, and Pool are learning how to do that just at the right time.
A case for the defence
Last night's shut out means Blackpool have now kept three consecutive clean sheets to improve on their already impressive defensive record. Only Portsmouth and Luton have conceded less goals this season with Bowyer's men letting in 38 goals from their 37 games. The recent run has coincided with Dean Lyness coming into the side to replace Sam Slocombe, who was out with injury. Slocombe is now back fit but it's only fair Lyness continues his run in between the sticks. The 25-year-old has impressed with his kicking and the manner in which he controls his area, which alleviates the pressure on the back four in front of him. As Bowyer rightly points out though, defending for Blackpool starts from the very top and involves every player, not just Lyness and the back four. When the likes of Mark Cullen and Nathan Delfouneso are chasing every lost ball and pressuring the defenders high up the pitch, it makes it even harder for the opposition.
A spot of courage from Cullen
As most of you will be well aware of, Blackpool don't have the best record from spot kicks this season and after Brad Potts' miss against Wycombe on Saturday, you could forgive the fans for feeling a little anxious as Mark Cullen stepped up against Stevenage. But the striker banished any nerves to strike home confidently, sending the 'keeper the wrong way to settle the ball in the bottom corner. It's all ifs and buts, but had Blackpool converted the five penalties they ended up missing Bowyer's men wouldn't just be contending for a top seven spot, they'd be well in with a shout of the top three.
Robertson is maturing as a defender
The defender continued his fine run of form with another dominant display at the back, which saw him keep the dangerous Matt Godden quiet. He dominated aerially and looked composed when bringing the ball out from the back. It's easy to forget that Robertson is only 22 and yet he already has well over 100 appearances to his name. Him and Aldred have struck up a decent partnership and now they've been playing together for the last couple of seasons, they now know each other's game inside out. Given the confidence he shows on the ball, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if he was more than able of playing at a higher level. He's now improved on what are considered to be the basics: his heading, his tackling and his blocking and that can only aid his development.
Have Pool struck the right balance?
Blackpool look a far more settled and balanced side with Colin Daniel and Nathan Delfouneso flying up and down the flanks in what is a fairly fluid 4-2-3-1 system, with Brad Potts allowed the freedom to roam forward in behind the striker. The Seasiders missed that wing play from Daniel against Wycombe and even though Stevenage coped well with him last night, it meant more space was afforded to the likes of Delfouneso and Potts, and that aided the Seasiders put in an impressive first half showing. The 3-5-2 seems to be working well for Blackpool on the road but it wasn't quite working at Bloomfield Road, where sides were sitting back and suffocating Pool of any space. That seems to have been remedied now and the Seasiders are much the better for it.