Blackpool 2-1 Blackburn Rovers: Injury-hit Seasiders produce a heroic effort to hold on BIG three points in all-Lancashire affair
Injury-hit Blackpool produced a heroic effort to beat Blackburn Rovers after losing arguably their three strongest players to knocks.
Chris Maxwell, Richard Keogh and Shayne Lavery - the spine of Blackpool’s starting line-up - were all forced to hobble off during this all-Lancashire affair.
With other players going down and complaining of knocks, the Seasiders somehow managed to find a way to see out the win - even when eight minutes of time were added on at the end of the 90.
Goals from Lavery and his replacement Jerry Yates gave Pool a deserved two-goal at the break after producing some scintillating football.
But Blackburn made for a tense second-half when Ben Brereton-Diaz reduced the arrears five minutes into the second-half.
But Neil Critchley’s side held on for a fourth win in six, extending their superb run of form which has seen them avoid defeat in five of their last six.
Pool now move up to 12th, three points adrift of QPR in sixth and seven points clear of the bottom three.
With this game being Blackpool’s final fixture before the international break, Critchley opted against making wholesale changes in a bid to freshen up his squad.
Instead, he made just one change from the midweek draw against Hull City, bringing Josh Bowler back into the fold in place of Demetri Mitchell.
Reece James (foot), Matty Virtue (ACL), Grant Ward (achilles), Owen Dale (foot) and CJ Hamilton (foot) all remain sidelined.
There was still no spot in the squad for Jordan Gabriel, who recently returned to training after being forced to self-isolate after his girlfriend tested positive for Covid-19.
Teddy Howe, Oliver Sarkic, Bez Lubala and Joe Nuttall, meanwhile, continue to be left out having not been registered in Blackpool’s squad.
Blackburn, who began the day in sixth place after a strong start to the campaign, made one change from their 3-2 midweek defeat at Huddersfield Town.
The Seasiders got off to a perfect start when, after just four minutes, in-form striker Shayne Lavery added yet another goal to his collection to send an already pulsating Bloomfield Road into raptures.
The hosts, who had made the brighter start of the two sides, edged ahead as Keshi Anderson picked out the Northern Irishman on the corner of the Blackburn box.
The 22-year-old had a surprising amount of time and space to take a touch to settle himself against a defender that bizarrely backed off him.
Lavery, with three goals in his last three games, certainly doesn’t need an invitation to shoot and that’s exactly what he did, firing low across goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski.
The striker’s shot took a wicked deflection that saw the ball loop up and into the far corner, where a recovering Blackburn defender was unable to clear his lines.
While the goal only came four minutes, Blackpool deserved their lead for the positive manner in which they began the game.
Blackburn almost levelled in bizarre circumstances with their first opening of the game, as Dujon Sterling almost picked out the bottom corner of his own net as he sprinted to make a vital interception.
The hosts were dealt a major blow when their goalscorer and form man Lavery was forced off with a knock after an innocuous-looking 50-50 with Daniel Ayala.
The Northern Irishman, who clutched his thigh as he trudged off, was replaced by Jerry Yates, who couldn’t have had a better introduction.
Barely two minutes after coming on, Yates nodded home to double Blackpool’s lead to send Bloomfield Road crazy.
It was a simple enough finish from the 22-year-old, scoring for just the second time this season, heading home from a few yards after Kaminski had saved Gary Madine’s initial effort.
The Seasiders looked so dangerous every time they came forward and could easily have had another goal or two to their tally.
Critchley’s men were oozing confidence, picking up the ball from deep and playing through the thirds with one and two-touch football.
They were so on top, even 36-year-old centre-back Richard Keogh was getting in on the act, waltzing forward with the ball from his own half to the edge of the Blackburn box.
Pool looked to have fairly strong penalty appeals waved away when Yates appeared to be hauled to the ground as he attempted to reach Madine’s deflected cross at the back post.
Blackburn also lost one of their forward men to injury late on in the half, as Sam Gallagher was forced off with a knock. Left-back Tayo Edun replaced him, which saw Tony Mowbray alter things tactically for the away side.
Yates, meanwhile, tried his luck in the dying seconds of the half after spotting Kaminski off his line, only to skew wide with his effort from near the halfway line.
Pool continued to be the side that looked the most threatening, as Josh Bowler saw a long-range shot blocked after the away side were dispossessed of the ball in their own half.
The hosts were a little fortunate to keep their two-goal lead intact at first-half stoppage-time when Tyrhys Dolan played the ball across the face of the Blackpool goal.
Three Blackburn players were in the vicinity ready to tap home, but fortunately Sterling was there to deflect the ball behind.
Nevertheless, the Seasiders were well worth their two-goal lead and Blackburn would have been hugely fortunate to get on the scoresheet after being second best for the entirety of the opening half.
Pool were forced into making another change at the break, as James Husband replaced Keogh - who was presumingly unable to continue after picking up an injury.
Keogh’s absence was keenly felt when the away side reduced the arrears within five minutes of the second half.
Talisman Ben Brereton-Diaz was the man to score Blackburn’s goal, slotting home from Will Buckley’s pinpoint cross.
Play had to be temporarily halted following Blackburn’s celebrations after a smoke bomb was thrown onto the pitch from the away end.
When play did restairt, Brereton-Diaz could have added a second only for his shot from the edge of the box to be saved by Maxwell after two attempts.
Blackpool’s injury woes went from bad to worse on the hour-mark when goalkeeper and skipper Chris Maxwell was forced off with an injury.
Pool’s number one, who was replaced by Stuart Moore, initially tried to carry on but had no choice but to hobble after being given treatment by the physio for a second time.
The makeshift back four came under increasing pressure in the final 20 minutes, Brereton-Diaz almost breaching Pool’s defence on a Blackpool counter before Daniel Ayala headed wide from a corner.
There was real fear Pool would have to end the game with 10 men when Sterling became the latest player to receive treatment after making a heroic last-ditch tackle on Dolan.
Fortunately the Chelsea loanee was able to continue, although he didn’t exactly look to be 100 per cent.
The home side looked really leggy at this point and were now losing all the second balls, having previously competed so well.
Pool did squander a half chance on the break as Anderson did well to pick out the unmarked Bowler inside the Blackburn box.
The winger did well to turn and swivel before firing a slow shot across the keeper and wide of the far post.
From that point onwards, it was unsurprisingly one-way traffic. James Husband made a complete mess of Reda Khedra’s right-wing cross and was thankful for Ekpiteta to be in the right place at the right time to clear behind him.
Brereton-Diaz then clipped the ball over Moore and into the back of the net, but the linesman’s flag had already been raised seconds before.
Pool, who were holding on desperately, survived another scare five minutes from time when Tayo Edun’s attempted cross took a wicked deflection and bounced inches wide of the far post.
Due to all the stoppages, here was no great surprise when the fourth official indicated EIGHT minutes of time were to be added on at the end of 90.
The stoppage-time was bizarrely uneventful until the fifth minute of eight, when Moore made a BIG save to tip the ball away from goal just when it looked to be dropping in at the back post.
Thankfully that turned out to be the final serious goalmouth action of the afternoon as Pool saw out the eight minutes of stoppage time and held on for a heroic three points.
Blackpool: Maxwell (Moore), Sterling, Keogh (Husband), Ekpiteta, Garbutt, Dougall, Wintle, Bowler, Anderson, Lavery (Yates), Madine
Subs not used: Connolly, Stewart, Mitchell, John-Jules
Blackburn: Kaminski, Magloire (Khadra), Carter, Ayala, Pickering, Travis, Rothwell (Butterworth), Buckley, Gallagher (Edun), Brereton-Diaz, Dolan
Subs not used: Pears, Johnson, Clarkson, Poveda
Referee: Josh Smith
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