Blackpool 0-0 Accrington Stanley: Chris Maxwell makes vital late penalty save to maintain Seasiders' unbeaten run
Chris Maxwell made a crucial penalty two minutes from time to maintain Blackpool’s unbeaten run.
The Seaiders looked set to suffer their first defeat since February 6 when Accrington Stanley were awarded a spot kick in the 88th minute.
But Maxwell denied Colby Bishop from 12 yards, a save that could well prove pivotal come the end of the season.
The draw, Blackpool’s second in as many games, extends the Seasiders’ unbeaten run to 15 games and keeps them in the League One play-offs with seven games to go.
Their unbeaten run on home turf is even more impressive, with Neil Critchley’s side avoiding defeats in their last 17 games in all competitions - a streak that stretches back almost six months.
Critchley and co will inevitably be disappointed to drop points for the second game running, but credit must go to the away side who successfully stifled them in a game limited on clear chances.
Neil Critchley opted to make just one change to the side that threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Lincoln City at the weekend.
Jordan Gabriel was the man to come into the side, taking Ollie Turton’s place at right-back.
Elsewhere, Demetri Mitchell returned to Blackpool’s squad after missing out on Saturday with swelling to his knee.
Bez Lubala remains unavailable due to a ‘club matter’ and Kevin Stewart, Matty Virtue, Keshi Anderson, CJ Hamilton and Gary Madine all remain sidelined.
Former Seasider Michael Nottingham lined up for Accrington, who made two changes from their surprise 5-1 thrashing at the hands of relegation-threatened AFC Wimbledon.
Nottingham was involved inside the opening 60 seconds, forced to take no chances and head away under pressure following a miscommunication with 19-year-old keeper Toby Savin.
The young shot stopper looked a little nervous but he boosted his confidence shortly afterwards, making a smart stop to deny Sullay Kaikai.
The winger had poked the ball through the legs of his former teammate before unleashing a low shot towards the Stanley goal, but Savin did well to get down and make the save.
Pool, who were well on top in the early stages, worked some space for the returning Jordan Gabriel down the right but his powerful cross in from the right was too close to Savin.
Grant Ward, who had practiced his long-range shooting during the warm-up, then came close with a 25-yard piledriver, but Savin was there to tip his rasping drive over the bar.
The visitors have been decimated by injuries in recent weeks, so much so that 18-goal striker and former Pool youth-team striker Dion Charles had to play out wide and do a lot of tracking back.
As a result, it meant they offered much less of an attacking threat than they normally would and Pool were able to take the initiative.
Stanley’s first opportunity of the night came via Sean McConville’s 25-yard free-kick, which took a deflection off the wall and flew two or three yards over Chris Maxwell’s crossbar.
The Seasiders were denied the chance to surge through on the Accrington goal when Jerry Yates was fouled by David Morgan as the Seasiders countered. The Accrington man was booked, but Critchley was left furious his side weren’t allowed to play on with the hosts just a pass away from going one-on-one with the keeper.
Having seen off Blackpool’s fast-tempo start, Accrington slowly but surely grew into the game and caused one or two problems for the home defence.
Paul Smyth cut inside and unleashed an ambitious effort which sailed high and wide, while Maxwell and his backline were continuously tested by long-throws, set-pieces and corners.
Blackpool’s quick, incisive passing of the opening 10 minutes or so had completely disappeared by this point as Stanley’s tireless closing down forced them into long, hopeful balls up to the front two who struggled to make the ball stick.
Pool have enjoyed plenty of success in recent weeks building attacks from the back with the help of Kenny Dougall and Grant Ward dropping deep to collect the ball, but Stanley did a good job of marking the duo tightly and gave the home side no choice but to hit long.
The half ended with Accrington stabbing the ball into the back of the Blackpool net after a corner had been headed back into the six-yard box, but the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.
The first chance of the second-half came the way of the visitors as Colby Bishop, at full stretch, headed over from a corner.
The start of the second 45 continued in the same vein as the end of the first-half, with Stanley closing the gaps well and Pool looking slow and lethargic in their build-up play.
Saying that, the Seasiders ought to have taken the lead on 55 minutes but there wasn’t much more they could have done.
Ellis Simms, who had endured a frustrating first-half, found strike partner Jerry Yates in space inside the Accrington box. Instead of shooting, he unselfishly set up Sullay Kaikai who appeared to have a simple tap-in at the back post.
But young Stanley keeper Savin had other ideas, flying across goal to make a miraculous save.
At the other end, Daniel Gretarsson made an important block at the near post after Adam Phillips had been found in a pocket of space behind left-back Luke Garbutt.
Charles, who had his blushes spared a minute before when he missed a gilt-edged chance before being ruled offside, let fly with an effort on his weaker left foot but Maxwell stood firm to make the save.
Both sides continued to be frustrated by referee Samuel Barrott, who appeared quite happy for the game to be delayed and slowed down.
Accrington’s players were left furious by the man in the middle on 68 minutes when he ignored their penalty appeals after Cameron Burgess went to ground inside the Blackpool box.
With 17 minutes remaining, Blackpool created their clearest opening of the game when they were denied by the woodwork.
Garbutt was the man to let fly from 25 yards and his effort caught out Savin, but the shot rebounded off the post and away to safety.
Pool were fearing the worst when, with just two minutes remaining, the visitors were awarded a penalty, Jordan Gabriel the man penalised for a clumsy foul.
Colby Bishop stood over the spot kick, but Maxwell stood firm to make a crucial save to earn Blackpool a point.
Blackpool: Maxwell, Gabriel, Ballard, Gretarsson, Garbutt, Dougall, Ward, Embleton, Kaikai, Simms, Yates
Subs not used: Moore, Turton, Husband, Ekpiteta, Mitchell, Robson, Holmes
Accrington: Savin, Rodgers, Nottingham, Burgess, Barclay, Conneely, McConville, Morgan (Phillips), Smyth (Butcher), Charles, Bishop
Subs not used: Buckley, Russell, Maguire, Scully, Sama
Referee: Samuel Barrott
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