Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' last-gasp draw against the Saddlers.
Another frustrating afternoon
Blackpool played well and ought to have won - again - but they continue to be let down by individual mistakes and lapses in concentration. Walsall offered very little on Saturday, and yet they were five minutes away from stealing a victory their performance did not deserve. In fact the Saddlers, just two points ahead of Pool in the league table, are struggling themselves and their fans were continuously calling for their manager Jon Whitney to be sacked during the game. As bad as they were, it is testament to Pool’s own failings that they were so close to snatching three points despite creating just two shots on target. Of course you can look at it from another point of view; they showed a clinical touch in front of goal and defended well. But, being honest, there was a touch of fortune involved in some of their defending. It was desperate at times and they relied on defenders clearing off the line on three separate occasions. They also escaped a glaringly obvious penalty call; a defender going unpunished despite blocking Curtis Tilt’s goalward header with an blatant handball. Pool have been awarded just one penalty all season though, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. But referees aren’t to blame for Blackpool’s recent form, those failings lie squarely at their own door.
It's the same old story
Blackpool make a good start to a game, they miss some chances and then the opposition score with their first opportunity on goal. Rinse and repeat. That was the tweet I posted in the wake of Walsall’s first goal on Saturday, a relatively easy finish for Joe Edwards to put the Saddlers in front against the run of play. How many times have we heard that this season? Clark Robertson, normally a reliable and steady performer at League One level, was guilty of a defensive error for the second week running as he carelessly gave the ball away inside his own half. Walsall took advantage, finding the back of the net with their first shot on target as Edwards converted from Kieron Morris’ pullback. Their second shot on target, which came in the 76th minute, also resulted in a goal; Jon Guthrie tapping into an empty net after Ollie Turton had made a hash of a simple clearance, instead deflecting the ball into the Walsall’s players path. Thankfully Blackpool managed to draw level for a second time when Armand Gnanduillet came off the bench to finish smartly.
Smells like team spirit
You can level a lot of accusations at the Blackpool players, but you can't question their team spirit. Going behind not once, but twice, the Seasiders could have easily folded and accepted their fate. But they fought back to claim a point which was the least their efforts deserved. In fact Pool almost went on to win it in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time; Jay Spearing's free kick causing havoc inside Walsall's six-yard box and Clark Robertson having his close-range effort cleared off the line - the third time that had happened. It was Blackpool's substitutes that changed the game. Former Walsall loanee Dan Agyei came off the bench to make his home debut and almost made an instant impact, drilling in an effort from range that goalkeeper Luke Roberts did well to parry away. He then turned provider for fellow sub Armand Gnanduillet, who latched onto his through-ball before coolly slotting home. It is this sort of character and determination that will prove crucial in the final run-in, with Blackpool having 15 games to save their season.
Could that point prove crucial?
Gary Bowyer is right to say this point could prove crucial come the end of the season - it keeps them two points ahead of the dropzone after all. All that matters between now and the end of the season is keeping their heads above the parapet and avoiding an instant return to the fourth tier. Any neutral watching on Saturday would agree that Blackpool performed well and deserved to win. But they didn’t, meaning they’ve just won one of their last 12 games. Bowyer pointed out Blackpool’s form was equally as bad this time last season - and he would be correct. As we all know, the Seasiders corrected their form and eventually went on a stunning run that ended with them sealing promotion in the showpiece final at Wembley. But it is a very risky tactic to take relying on such an impressive run of form to help keep them in the division. Last season they won eight out of their last 13 games, taking them from 15th in League Two to 7th - a position only sealed on the last day of the campaign. But last year was last year. It was a different season with a different squad of players. This time round Blackpool, of Bowyer’s own admission, are an incredibly young and perhaps naive side. They weren’t able to strengthen during the January transfer window, yet last season they were. This is also a division above, the opposition are a lot stronger. With all respect to League Two, there’s a lot of poor sides in the division who wouldn’t look out of sorts in non-league.
The Fonz had his best game of the season
To Nathan Delfouneso’s credit, he had probably his best game of the season putting in all-action display - equalising in the first half with a composed finish. It begs the question, why can’t he do it more often? Why has he only found the back of the net on three occasions this season? When you look at Delfouneso's goals this season, all three have been impressive finishes - the long-range effort away at Plymouth, and two clam and composed goals against Rochdale and now Walsall. He was played in by a smart ball from Callum Cooke, who found Delfouneso in space inside the box. But he didn't panic, he took a touch, took the ball past the last defender and slotted home confidently into the bottom corner. It was the finish of a 20 goal a season striker. Post-match Delfouneso admitted he could do with scoring some scrappy goals to take his tally up. A player of his quality should be finishing the season in double figures, no excuses. But it says it all that last week, in the 1-1 draw against Bury, he failed to convert a simple tap-in from a couple of yards out only to find the back of the net a week later with an impressive finish.