Blackpool 3-0 Burton Albion: Matt Scrafton's match verdict
It's fascinating how quickly things can change in football.
It wasn’t long ago Blackpool were competing well in League One but their apparent lack of quality in front of goal was the thing holding them back.
They drew 0-0 four times in the opening two months of the season and it took them 11 games to net 12 goals.
Fast forward a couple of months and Blackpool have just rattled in the same number of goals, 12, in their last five games, all of which have resulted in wins. While the personnel hasn’t drastically changed, that clinical touch has certainly been found.
Finishing was previously Blackpool’s major problem, but now it’s one of their main strengths.
It’s not their key asset though, which is clearly their backline which kept its 10th clean sheet of the season on Saturday. Ten clean sheets from just 18 league games is a quite remarkable statistic.
They did try their best to avoid a shutout against Burton, with Mark Howard culpable of committing two uncharacteristic mistakes in the first half.
Other than an Armand Gnanduillet header that was tipped over the bar, they were the only genuine pieces of goalmouth action we witnessed in the opening 45 minutes, and yet they were all of Blackpool’s own doing.
The Seasiders were in control of possession and were looking to work the ball back towards goal after Marc Bola’s dangerous cross had somehow managed to evade everyone in Burton’s six-yard box.
Jay Spearing had the ball near the halfway line and, with a player quick to close him down, he opted to play the ball back to Howard in the Blackpool goal. With not a Burton player in sight, Howard somehow managed to allow the ball to go under his foot, where it then began to trickle towards goal.
It looked as though Pool were just about to go a goal down in the most embarrassing and comedic fashion possible, but thankfully Howard managed to scramble back and clear off the goalline.
Then, with the half just about up, Howard fluffed his lines again when he failed to catch Lucas Akins’ rasping drive. To be fair, it was a strong effort and he would have done well to claim it, but he was fortunate with the way the ball slipped out of his hands and bounced just wide of the upright.
Other than that, Burton rarely threatened. Blackpool always appeared to be in control of the first half without conjuring many clear-cut opportunities themselves, but you could just tell one quick goal would drastically change the whole outlook of the game.
But no one could have predicted the speed in which Blackpool found that goal at the start of the second half. Just 20 seconds were on the clock when Gnanduillet was played through on goal by Jordan Thompson and, having brushed off the attentions of the defender with brute force, he then calmly slotted past the keeper to net his seventh goal of the season.
One instantly became two less than four minutes later when Thompson himself got on the scoresheet, although he owed the goal to the superb work of Joe Dodoo.
The on-loan Rangers man strode out of defence with the ball at his best, put on the after-burns and swept everyone away with his sheer pace. But he still had plenty to do when he reached the 18-yard box, where he delivered a pinpoint cross in from the left which Thompson, a former Rangers man himself, managed to poke home at the back post.
The game was virtually put to bed as a contest on 56 minutes thanks to yet another acrobatic finish from Dodoo.
The 23-year-old has already scored one speculative overhead kick this season which has done the rounds on social media, which came in the Checkatrade Trophy win against Accrington Stanley earlier this month.
He produced a similar effort, capitalising on Burton’s horrendous defending to slash home a scissor kick from Michael Nottingham’s long throw.
Three chances, three goals, and that was pretty much that.
The three-goal cushion allowed the Seasiders the luxury of sitting back on their lead in the knowledge their defence was more than good enough to withstand any pressure Burton exerted on them.
They did enjoy a few spells, and did have chances to get on the scoresheet, but you could just tell it was Blackpool’s day. If you needed any evidence of that, look no further than substitute Marcus Harness somehow managing to direct a downward header up and over the Pool crossbar from within the six-yard box.
Donervon Daniels had earlier been fortunate not to concede a penalty for what appeared to be a pretty blatant trip in the corner of the box, while Thompson was lucky to stay on the pitch after shoving a Burton player to the ground.
But as they say, when the form and momentum is with you, these things just tend to go your way.
While Burton looked average and didn’t threaten enough to deserve any points from the game, it wasn’t a 3-0 game at all. Nigel Clough was right to say the fixture seemed ripe for a 1-0 either way.
But Blackpool are in clinical form at the moment and you can’t afford to defend the way Burton did at the start of the second half.
Gnaduillet, the club’s top scorer, now has four in his last five, while his strike partner Dodoo, who has found himself out of the team for much of the season, has four in as many games.
Things are currently looking rosy on the pitch for Blackpool, but they’ll need to be this clinical in their next two league games, which come against the sides directly above and below them in the league table.