Blackpool 0-1 Shrewsbury Town: Play-off hopes suffer another big blow as six-month home unbeaten run comes to an end
Blackpool’s play-off hopes took another major blow with their second consecutive defeat on the spin.
Matt Pennington’s second-half header for Shrewsbury Town handed the Seasiders their second 1-0 loss in just five days, having been beaten by the same scoreline at Rochdale in midweek.
That loss at Spotland ended Pool’s 16-game unbeaten run, while this defeat brought about their first defeat at Bloomfield Road in over six months - a streak that stretched back 18 games in all competitions.
Pool were well below-par once again and struggled to break down a side that were happy to sit back and frustrate, something the Seasiders have often performed poorly against this season.
Despite the setback, Neil Critchley’s side remain in the League One play-offs, although they drop down to sixth with their buffer being wiped out ahead of Tuesday night’s trip to Sunderland.
Portsmouth, who sit in seventh, are now level on points with Blackpool, whose goal difference is superior by three.
It was another disappointing result for Blackpool against their bogey team Shrewsbury, who haven’t been beaten by the Seasiders since 1997. Pool haven’t even managed to score against the Shropshire outfit in their last five meetings.
Despite losing their 16-game unbeaten run at Rochdale in midweek, Neil Critchley opted to make just one change to his side.
Jordan Gabriel was the man to come into the line-up, replacing Ollie Turton at right-back to give the Seasiders more of an attacking impetus.
Aside from that, the squad was unchanged with Daniel Gretarsson, Kevin Stewart, Matty Virtue, Keshi Anderson, CJ Hamilton and Gary Madine still sidelined through injury and Bez Lubala still unavailable due to a ‘club matter’.
Shrewsbury, who came into the game on the back of three straight defeats, handed a first ever start to 18-year-old forward Charlie Caton as they made four changes from their midweek defeat to Wigan.
The Shrews continue to be led by assistant Aaron Wilbraham in the absence of manager Steve Cotterill, who has been sidelined by serious ill-health for four months.
Cotterill’s side have usually played in a 3-5-2 system this season, a formation Pool have often struggled against, especially against sides below them who set out to sit deep and frustrate them.
But the visitors reverted to a back four as a response to their recent poor form.
Pool started this game, played in delightful April sunshine, brightly and on the front-foot, but were guilty of a few basic errors when they got into some promising positions in the final third.
After a quiet start to the game, Pool produced two good chances in quick succession, Luke Garbutt having a drilled, low shot forced behind at the near post by Harry Burgoyne before Dan Ballard blazed over after the resulting corner had been nodded down into his path by Jerry Yates.
The Seasiders were given a major let-off a moment later though when the away side were denied by the woodwork.
It came after Grant Ward had been forced into a mistake by Curtis Main and Josh Vela, the latter seeing his shot deflect up and over Chris Maxwell, only to hit the underside of the bar before being cleared away by Jordan Thorniley.
Despite losing at Spotland in midweek, Critchley was happy with how his side worked the ball from back to front against Rochdale, he just felt they lacked the final ball in the final third.
It was very much a case of rinse and repeat of that particular theme, with Pool doing most of the probing without a cutting edge, while the Shrews remained fairly comfortable.
The away side threatened through Blackburn Rovers loanee Harry Chapman down the left flank, but Dan Ballard got across well to make an important interception at the near post.
Sullay Kaikai, playing against his former club, had the last chance of the first half, fumbling an effort into the ground and straight at Burgoyne after some intricate build-up play on the edge of the Shrewsbury box.
Pool wasted two golden chances to edge their noses in front at the start of the second-half.
Ellis Simms caused havoc inside the Shrewsbury box when his dangerous ball deflected over Burgoyne towards the goalline, where defender Matt Pennington somehow managed to clear ahead of Yates.
The Seasiders maintained their attack, working the ball back towards the near post where Yates, Pool’s top scorer, flicked an effort just wide.
Yates did well to even connect with the cross, but he ought to have done a moment later when he was picked out in space following a lovely lofted ball from Jordan Gabriel.
The ball set up nicely for the striker, but he lashed at it too powerfully and it ended up powering into the side-netting.
Just as Pool were finally beginning to look lively, they found themselves going a goal down eight minutes into the second-half.
It was an awful goal to concede too, Pennington left unopposed to head home from Harry Chapman’s corner inside the six-yard box.
The Seasiders responded to the setback by altering their system, replacing the below-par Simms with Demetri Mitchell, allowing Elliot Embleton to move into his favoured position just off the striker.
Kaikai, who looked like the most likely to make something happen, brought a good save out of Burgoyne, who got two strong hands to his curling effort from 18 yards.
Critchley didn’t give Embleton much time to make an impact in a more central role, hooking him off and replacing him with Ethan Robson with 20 minutes to go. Ollie Turton also returned to the fold in place of Jordan Gabriel.
Blackpool had the ball in the back of the Shrewsbury net with 15 minutes remaining when Yates tapped home from the rebound.
But the ‘goal’, which came after Robson’s shot had been saved by Burgoyne, was ruled out for offside.
Brad Holmes was handed his home debut off the bench with 10 minutes remaining, replacing Kenny Dougall after earning his first appearance against Rochdale in midweek.
But Pool were unable to create any late openings and, perhaps more worryingly, looked dreadfully devoid of ideas in the final stages as Shrewsbury held on for the victory.
Blackpool: Maxwell, Gabriel (Turton), Ballard, Thorniley, Garbutt, Dougall (Holmes), Ward, Embleton (Robson), Kaikai, Simms (Mitchell), Yates
Subs not used: Moore, Husband, Ekpiteta
Shrewsbury: Burgoyne, Davis, Pennington, Ebanks-Landell, Ogbeta, Edwards, Norburn, Vela, Chapman (Love), Caton (Whalley), Main
Subs not used: Bevan, Williams, Walker, Sears, Bloxham
Referee: James Bell
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