Blackpool 0 Sheffield United 0 - match verdict

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This was always going to be the acid test for Neil McDonald’s Blackpool side.

Two very decent results in the run up to last night’s game were being talked about as a ‘turning point’ and ‘stopping the rot’ inside the Blackpool dressing room, but for me they proved very little.

Blackpool's Will Aimson battles with Sheffield United's Conor Sammon

Blackpool's Will Aimson battles with Sheffield United's Conor Sammon

We’ve seen little flashes of quality from the Seasiders before, they’ve gone on unbeaten runs already this season.

The Scunthorpe hammering was a freak, one which Blackpool earned and deserved, but still a freak, and a 94th-minute equaliser on Saturday, however well deserved, will always be looked upon as pretty fortunate.

But last night Blackpool came up against a rock-solid play-off chasing side, it was what I’d call a ‘proper’ test for Pool and one they probably passed. By that I mean in terms of proving they are at least able to regularly compete in League One, if they don’t play particularly brilliantly they now have the ability to grind out a point.

This Blackpool side isn’t ready to mount a late play-off push, neither will it be filling opposition with fear of coming to Bloomfield Road.

But I also can’t see this side being relegated, they are showing enough to suggest they will gain enough points – but it will go to the wire.

With the recent form being so improved there was no surprises in McDonald’s team selection, naming the same side for the third game running.

It meant Uche Ikpeazu had to wait to make his home debut from the bench, with Kyle Letheren again among the substitutes despite being linked with a move away from the club.

One good bit of news saw Clark Robertson return to fitness, even though he couldn’t force his way into the starting eleven.

As for Nigel Adkins’ Sheffield United there was no place for former Seasiders Chris Basham who missed out after injuring his arm at the weekend.

There was, however, another very familiar face in their starting line-up in striker Billy Sharp.

The hotshot fired seven in seven league games going into last night’s game and always strikes fear into any Blackpool fan.

He’s scored 10 goals against the Seasiders over the years.

After terrible weather on the Fylde coast many would have been forgiven for expecting a mud-bath at Bloomfield Road, that wasn’t the case.

Groundsman Stan Raby appeared to have done a great job to get the surface in decent shape, it looked weathered, but you could see why they didn’t need a pitch inspection.

And it was the away side who used it to their advantage quickest.

Paul Coutts did well down the right and his cross was met by Connor Sammon who turned it wide of the post from seven yards.

Time and time again we’ve spoken about the first goal in a game being important for Pool, and they quickly went looking for it.

After just three minutes Danny Philliskirk showed good movement in the box to head a Mark Yeates cross wide.

It had been a lively start.

Like in recent weeks there was certainly a purpose about Blackpool’s game, and a tempo to their play.

McDonald has introduced a style which gets in the face of their opposition, in the opening stages they gave Sheffield United very little time, if any, to settle on the ball.

And on 11 minutes, Brad Potts had the best moment of the game with a wonderfully struck long-range effort which keeper George Long had to be at his best to beat away.

It’s something Potts should do more of, he has technique which justifies the odd effort from distance.

Despite the comfortable start for Pool, next came Sheffield United for a couple of lively flourishes forward.

First Sammon went down in the box looking for a penalty under the challenge of Hayden White, before than man Sharp curled a 25 yard effort just wide.

For me, referee Ross Joyce’s decision to wave the claims away was spot on, as for Sharp, he’s constantly a danger at Bloomfield Road.

Much of Blackpool’s joy was coming down the left-hand side with new boy Yeates seeing plenty of the ball.

We haven’t spoken much about the former Oldham man in his first three games at the club, but his influence has started to grow.

One thing which stands out a mile with him is his delivery, although so far it’s all come to nothing, I’d like to think there was much more to come from him.

Sheffield United came again on 27 minutes, again Sammon was involved, this time being denied by a wonderful Doyle save.

The striker turned Will Aimson to fire low towards the corner, only for Doyle to deny him brilliantly at full-stretch.

He’s been Pool’s best player this season, ironic when you think he’s missed half of it through injury!

As for Sammon, he’s been around the block a few times in the Football League and he was giving a real test to Aimson, one he struggled with in the opening half hour.

For the rest of the half very little of note happened, Sheffield United boss Adkins will be probably been the happier of the two managers but I can’t imagine McDonald was too displeased.

The watching support, which again was around just 3,000, seemed pleased with what they saw. The break seemed to do Pool the world of good, as it was they who came out the stronger of the two teams.

It took seven minutes for their first sight of goal, with Philliskirk teeing-up McAlister inside the area, sadly the midfielder lost his footing at the key moment.

The away side looked to have lost a bit of purpose, and you got the feeling McDonald sensed that too with his substitution just after the hour.

On came Ikpeazu in attack in place of McAlister with Philliskirk moving to the left wing - it was certainly an attack-minded switch. At Walsall on Saturday the sheer presence of the big man caused trouble and he was at it again just a few minutes after being introduced.

He out-muscled David Edgar before curling one goal wards on the turn, sadly for Pool it landed on the roof of the net.

From then on in there was very little to talk about, neither side created anything like a threatening chance.

It was a 0-0 draw on a cold, wet and windy night at Bloomfield Road, one most people inside the stadium will quickly forget.

But for Blackpool it was another point, and proof they can now at least mix it with the better teams in the division.

We might all forget the game, but the point could be so vital come the end of the season.