Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' comfortable home win which clinched a play-off spot.
Pool got the job done
It's fair to say it was an odd game on Saturday. Blackpool knew all they had to do was beat a team of Leyton Orient youngsters and they'd secure a play-off spot and that's exactly what they did. But the match was more akin to a senior side’s behind closed doors friendly against their youth team. Because that’s essentially what it was, with Leyton Orient's first team being dissembled in January leaving their youth team with the impossible task of keeping them in the Football League. Pool got the job done but it wasn’t particularly convincing - which is a worry considering the opponents. And yet on another day Blackpool could have scored six or seven. In truth, other than a ten-minute spell in the second half. the win was never in doubt but that’s nothing to write home about. They were playing against an Orient side who took until the half-hour mark to enter Blackpool’s penalty area for the first time after all.
We shouldn't underestimate Pool's achievement
Just like their opponents, Blackpool are no strangers to off-the-field issues but unlike Orient, they’ve at least managed to stabilise on the pitch this season and are now just three games away from an immediate return to League One. Whether that should be considered such an impressive feat given the squad and budget at their disposal is another matter altogether, with many arguing they ought to have been in contention for an automatic spot. But given the circumstances at the club when Gary Bowyer took over, he certainly deserves a lot of credit. As if the club suffering successive relegations wasn't bad enough, he had to deal with all the off-the-field issues that came as part of the Blackpool package. So in that respect, he's done a sterling job. As have the players and staff who also deserve credit for focusing on their jobs and getting the club over the line. Two games against Luton Town now separate the Seasiders from yet another day out at Wembley.
Pool can't afford to be that wasteful against Luton
All seemed well for Blackpool when Neil Danns steered in an impressive header after getting on the end of Jack Payne’s sublime pinpoint cross with just 11 minutes on the clock. But they didn’t capitalise on their opener as they should have done and chances came and went to a worrying degree before Mark Cullen punished the Orient defence for some lax defending by drilling home from the edge of the box. The only talking point at the half-time break was how many Blackpool would end up running in but the Orient players had other ideas.
Jens Janse took advantage of a slip from Andy Taylor to latch onto a through ball and produced a composed finish to squeeze the ball in between Sam Slocombe’s legs.
They obviously hadn’t read the script. But the two-goal lead was shortly restored when Taylor made up for his unfortunate mishap by firing home into the far corner after a quick one-two with Mark Cullen. Clear cut opportunities continued to come and go with Brad Potts and Kyle Vassell missing five or six between them. Show that lack of cutting edge against Luton Town in their two play-off games and any talk of another Wembley final can be quickly forgotten.
Protesters a busted flush? I don't think so...
Despite the significance of Blackpool’s win it was the action outside the ground that will have garnered the most attention. Thankfully there were no pitch invasions or any other form of disturbance that had been predicted in the lead up to the match, but that’s not say the protest didn’t have its desired effect. The vast majority of the thousands in attendance would have been Blackpool fans but it was noteworthy there were supporters representing Leyton Orient, Coventry City, Leeds United and many others among them. Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston described the protesters as a “busted flush” earlier this season but if Saturday proved anything, other than Pool’s ability to labour to a win against a team full of youngsters, it was that the Blackpool fans are in this for the long haul. Irrespective of league position or form, they will not step back inside the ground they used to think of as their second home.
Strange end to a strange day
The day ended in bizarre circumstances when the players emerged from the tunnel to enjoy a celebratory end-of-season lap of honour, only to discover the vast majority of the home supporters had already left. It seemed depressingly fitting that the Blackpool players were greeted by a virtually empty Bloomfield Road, because it’s been the story of their season after all. How sad that Pool’s successful league campaign - and that is what it has been thus far - failed to be recognised by those 'fans’ who continue to part with their cash at the turnstiles while thousands around them boycott. This was a moment where Gary Bowyer and his players and staff should have earned deserved recognition for their efforts this season. But instead those who took to the pitch were left to clap the remaining Leyton Orient fans instead. It was a strange end to a strange day. Only at Blackpool FC.