Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' comeback win against Hartlepool.
Pool finding a way to win
To be successful in League Two you have to find a way to pick up regular wins even when you’re not at your best - and that’s exactly what Blackpool are doing right now. That’s not to say Blackpool haven’t played some good football during their nine-match unbeaten run, because they certainly have as evidenced by their 3-0 rout of Plymouth Argyle earlier this month. They’ve also scored five in their last two games, so they’re obviously doing something right. But against on Hartlepool on Saturday, as was the case against Newport County the week previous, they were far from their best but once again did what was asked of them to pick up the three points. That’s exactly what is required in this league, where most sides are much of a muchness but being able to grind out wins is a skill in itself and one that becomes a habit once you pick up one or two in quick succession. Blackpool have now done it against Morecambe, Stevenage, Newport and Hartlepool and that’s just in March alone.
Squad depth is making a difference
Hartlepool had performed impressively but from 75 minutes onwards they began to tire. The last thing they would have wanted to see was the arrival of Blackpool’s joint top scorer Kyle Vassell, but that’s exactly what they saw. And lo and behold, the striker - who had missed a month of action with a broken foot - put the Seasiders back in the lead with a freak of a goal, with his cross missing everyone, looping over the goalkeeper and dropping into the bottom corner from the tightest of angles. But it wasn’t just the introduction of Vassell that made the difference, with fellow substitute Jordan Flores also having an impact as his composure and quality on the ball shone even on the dire Bloomfield Road pitch. Flores could count himself unfortunate to even be on the substitute’s bench in the first place, but someone had to make way for Brad Potts and it just happened that the on-loan Wigan man was that said player. He’s been in fine form in recent weeks but let’s face it, so has every Pool player. So whoever had been replaced by the returning Potts would have been hard done by. That just goes to show the squad depth Bowyer has at his disposal and that proved to be the difference on Saturday, as conceded by Hartlepool boss Dave Jones who only opted to make the one change. That’s the fine lines that can separate sides like Blackpool, who are now up to fifth, while Hartlepool maintain their eight point gap to the dropzone in 21st.
Question marks over the defence
The best sides learn their lessons from their wins as well as their losses - and there will be plenty for Blackpool to work on in training this week before they make the trip to Luton last week. Dave Jones’ side were a difficult opponent for Blackpool and belied their low league position to put in an impressive display - and one that probably warranted a point. Both sides were a constant threat going forward but at the back Blackpool were at sixes and sevens, and it’s testament to the fine performance of goalkeeper Dean Lyness that Hartlepool were limited to just the one goal. And what bizarre circumstances their goal came in, too. Blackpool failed to deal with a routine long ball over the top, as they did for much of the game, with the ball eventually bouncing awkwardly in the penalty box. That’s where Tom Aldred and Kelvin Mellor gawped at each other with neither of them taking control of the situation to clear the ball, which allowed the dangerous Lewis Alessandra to nip in, turn and fire home into the bottom corner. It was a goal all of Blackpool’s own doing but it wasn’t their only defensive slip of the afternoon, with the back four enduring a tricky day at the office against a Hartlepool side that were more than happy to break forward in numbers.
Seasiders a constant threat in attack
As poor as the Seasiders were at the back, they were equally as good going forward. That came to the fore just minutes after conceding after Bright Osayi-Samuel showed impressive composure to take a high ball down on his chest before taking a touch, settling himself and drilling low across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner. It was the perfect response to Pool’s early disappointment at going a goal behind. One would be forgiven for expecting the game to settle down at that point, but it just became more breathless and an even more exciting spectacle. That saw both sides exchange a whole host of opportunities, with Brad Potts and Mark Cullen perhaps having the pick of the chances for the tangerines. Pool will cause problems for any side in the league with the attacking prowess they possess with their front four of Osayi-Samuel, Potts, Delfouneso and Cullen. The stats back this up too, with Blackpool scoring as many goals as Portsmouth in third (61) and even more than Plymouth in second (58). In fact their goal difference of +21 could be a vital record come the end of the season when the top seven places are decided.
Bowyer must be odds on for monthly gong
Saturday's win topped off a fine March for Blackpool, which saw Bowyer's side win five of their six games and drawing the other one. Such a record, which has seen Blackpool climb back into the play-offs for the first time since December, must surely see the Pool boss pick up the Manager of the Month award. The only other competition he faces is from Doncaster boss Darren Ferguson and Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman, who both picked up 14 points out of a possible 18 compared to Pool's 16. The stats make great reading for Blackpool fans at the moment, with their side extending their unbeaten run to nine games while they have only lost one of their last 15 games. As remarkable as the run of form has been, it needs to be maintained because the gap from Blackpool in fifth to Colchester United in 10th is a mere three points. You'd think Blackpool would need to win at least four of their remaining seven games, but other than trips to Luton and Doncaster - their fixtures look pretty favourable and right now they're surely odds on for a top seven spot.