Blackpool 0-0 Fleetwood Town: Fylde coast rivals play out cagey goalless draw on Simon Grayson's return to Bloomfield Road
Blackpool played out a goalless draw against their Fylde coast rivals Fleetwood Town in a tight, edgy encounter on Simon Grayson’s return to Bloomfield Road.
The Seasiders had the better of the game and created the clearer-cut chances, coming closest through CJ Hamilton who clattered the post.
But Fleetwood defended admirably and could have stolen the points themselves late on when former Seasider Kyle Vassell shot over when well placed.
The result means Blackpool are now unbeaten in their last seven outings, having still not been beaten on home turf since October.
In drawing their third straight home game, Neil Critchley's side now sit five points off the top six with two games in hand.
Fleetwood came into the game on the back of a three-game winning run as Grayson returned to Bloomfield Road for the first time since his sacking last year, but the Cod Army will have been satisfied with their point.
Critchley opted to make three changes to the side that held on for a vital 1-0 win at MK Dons on Tuesday night.
Kenny Dougall returned to the starting line-up to make his first start since the away win at Portsmouth on February 20.
Matty Virtue was the man to make way, while both Grant Ward and Elliot Embleton also dropped down to the bench.
CJ Hamilton came back into the side on the right-hand side of midfield, while Ellis Simms also returned to partner Jerry Yates in attack - as the Seasiders reverted back to 4-4-2.
Daniel Gretarsson, Marvin Ekpiteta, Keshi Anderson and Gary Madine all remain sidelined.
As for Fleetwood, they made two changes from their midweek win against Gillingham, replacing Harrison Holgate and Callum Camps with Wes Burns and Sam Finley.
Charlie Mulgrew and Glenn Wheln remain sidelined, while Paddy Madden - who has been linked with a shock loan move to Stockport County - was named among the substitutes.
Buoyed by their recent form, Pool nearly made the perfect start when they created a presentable opening inside the first two minutes.
Their two wingers were involved, as CJ Hamilton pulled the ball back into the danger area from the right towards Sullay Kaikai, whose first-time effort was well blocked.
Fleetwood had penalty appeals waved away shortly afterwards when a Danny Andrew cross was blocked by Dan Ballard, with his arm according to the visiting players.
The Seasiders, who caused plenty of problems for Fleetwood early on, squandered another gilt-edged chance to edge ahead in the 10th minute.
Kaikai pulled the ball back to Luke Garbutt, whose mis-hit shot fell kindly for Jerry Yates inside the six-yard box, but the striker’s stooping header was saved superbly by Alex Cairns.
At the other end, Ollie Turton was required to make a superb last-ditch block to deny his former teammate Kyle Vassell after Fleetwood broke with speed.
Pool were given a let-off midway through the opening period when former Fleetwood keeper Chris Maxwell flapped at a Fleetwood free-kick, but Callum Connolly couldn’t capitalise.
Critchley’s men were dealt a blow 10 minutes before the interval when Kevin Stewart was forced to hobble off with an injury, being replaced by Matty Virtue.
The Fleetwood man involved in the challenge with Stewart, Dan Batty, was already on a booking but escaped further punishment.
Pool missed another opportunity to edge their noses in front when Garbutt picked out fellow full-back Turton in space at the back post, but he couldn’t quite control his rising volley which arrowed over the bar.
The hosts still found time to create another good opening, Yates denied by a block in the fourth minute of stoppage-time after Hamilton had beaten Wes Burns for pace down the right flank.
The two sides exchanged a chance apiece at the start of the second-half, as Fleetwood scrambled back to clear their lines inside their own six-yard box with Ellis Simms ready to pounce, before Garner tested Maxwell with a fierce long-range effort.
This encounter was a physical, combative one throughout, but the referee was a little inconsistent, allowing some challenges to go unpunished while being picky over others.
A clear example of this was his willingness to allow Vassell to wrap his arms around James Husband and wrestle him at every Blackpool corner, despite looking right at the pair.
You got the feeling it wasn’t going to be Blackpool’s day when they wasted another golden chance midway through the second period.
Kaikai put it on a plate for Hamilton at the back post but, with the goal at his mercy, he fired off the foot of the post.
Nevertheless, the Seasiders remained on top for the majority of the second 45 minutes, while Fleetwood were happy to sit back and threaten on the counter.
Luke Garbutt posed a threat from set-pieces all afternoon, with a fierce drive from a tight angle being well tipped over by Alex Cairns.
As the clock ticked down, the away side began to grow in confidence, throwing more men forward on the break.
With nine minutes remaining, former Seasider Vassell squandered their biggest chance when he failed to hit the target from Wes Burns’ pullback.
While Pool tired late on, they almost won it right at the death when Virtue’s effort deflected into the side netting after Turton’s shot had been well blocked, while fellow substitute Demetri Mitchell had a dipping effort well claimed by Cairns.
The Seasiders still found time to create another opening, Mitchell heading over the bar from Turton’s right-wing cross.
Blackpool: Maxwell, Turton, Ballard, Husband, Garbutt, Stewart (Virtue), Dougall, Hamilton (Mitchell), Kaikai, Simms, Yates
Subs not used: Moore, Gabriel, Thorniley, Ward, Embleton
Fleetwood: Cairns, Connolly, Hill, Donacien, Andrew, Burns, Batty, Finley, Rossiter, Garner (Madden), Vassell
Subs not used: Coleman, Holgate, Biggins, Morris, Saunders, Duffy
Referee: Will Finnie
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