Blackpool demonstrate why they're so hard to beat - Matt Scrafton's verdict on the Seasiders' point away at high-flying Ipswich Town

Blackpool’s Portman Road hoodoo might live on, but you won’t find any Seasiders complaining at this result.

Sunday, 24th November 2019, 8:00 am
Sullay Kaikai is brought down by Luke Chambers for Blackpool's penalty, which was dispatched by Jay Spearing
Sullay Kaikai is brought down by Luke Chambers for Blackpool's penalty, which was dispatched by Jay Spearing

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The Gazette's player ratings from Blackpool's 2-2 draw against high-flying Ipswi...

The Seasiders have never tasted victory in deepest Suffolk, with their record at Ipswich now reading: no wins, six draws and seven defeats.

Clearly it’s not been a happy hunting ground down the years, although labelling their winless streak a “jinx” might be stretching things a little given Blackpool haven’t exactly been regular visitors to Ipswich during their long, rich history.

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While a long-overdue three points would have been most welcome – not only to end the winless run at Portman Road but also to propel themselves into the automatic promotion picture – a draw is certainly not be sniffed at.

Every man, woman and child of tangerine persuasion will know the value of that solitary point. In numeric terms it might not seem like much, but symbolically it counts for a lot.

For this wasn’t a case of Blackpool desperately holding on and being fortunate to get a point, they were well worthy of the draw.

If one side just edged it then it’s fair to say that was the Tractor Boys. But most onlookers, other than Ipswich boss Paul Lambert, that is, are happy to accept a share of the spoils was probably the correct outcome.

Ipswich are where they are in the table, which is second as things stand, for good reason.

The Tractor Boys won’t bundle in as many goals as Peterborough United this season, or play as eye-catching a brand of football as Oxford United, but they appear to have struck the right balance that makes a promotion challenge inevitable.

As such, this was always going to be a big test of Blackpool’s promotion credentials.

That test got much tougher for Simon Grayson’s men when they found themselves a goal down after just eight minutes.

While the game had barely started, it would be remiss to say the home side didn’t deserve their early breakthrough.

The hosts are notoriously fast starters, something Grayson had pinpointed prior to kick-off. But there’s one thing doing your homework and another putting that knowledge into practice.

The Seasiders had already been given a major scare just three minutes in, when tricky winger Danny Rowe struck a low shot just wide of goal after pouncing upon a wayward Ben Heneghan pass.

But they didn’t have to wait much longer for another sight of goal, only this time it was gifted to them by Blackpool’s sloppiness at the back.

Jonai Donacien lofted a harmless-enough looking deep cross that all of a sudden became threatening when Liam Feeney was beaten in the air by Luke Garbutt.

His header back across the face of goal fell to the feet of Gwion Edwards, who was inexplicably left unmarked to ghost into the box to slam home a simple effort from just eight yards out.

While it was a soft goal to concede, Pool, significantly, weren’t fazed by the early setback, despite the momentum and crowd firmly backing the home side.

Grayson’s side were a constant threat on the counter and managed to get Feeney – far more comfortable when attacking – into acres of space time and time again down the right.

But it was Sullay Kaikai who was instrumental in their leveller, the winger turning well on the halfway line to help launch a devastating break.

Joe Nuttall then took over to feed Calum Macdonald down the left who, in turn, fed the overlapping James Husband who lofted a pinpoint cross to Nuttall to slam home a close-range header...or so it seemed.

The striker’s effort was somehow blocked by an Ipswich man but the 22-year-old, desperate for that first league goal and desperate to capitalise on a surprise start owing to Armand Gnanduillet’s thigh injury, rifled home at the second attempt.

It was a long-overdue goal for a striker that was considered by many to be the club’s marquee signing in the summer, yet until now has endured a mixed time of it. Hopefully this will be the goal that kickstarts his Blackpool career.

The second half was even more frenetic, breathless and as end-to-end as the first was, which is no mean feat.

In simple terms, it was a case of two controversial penalties – one for each side.

The first came the way of Blackpool and, on first viewing – from the press box at least – looked pretty cut and dry.

Kaikai did well to keep the ball alive in the Ipswich box on what, it has to be said, was a rare Blackpool attack at the start of the second period.

He took the ball past Luke Chambers, who clumsily dangled out a desperate leg which saw Kaikai sprawl to the floor. Was there contact? Replays still remain inconclusive.

Either way, there’s no VAR in this league – amen for that – and the penalty stood. Jay Spearing subsequently dispatched the spot kick despite the keeper diving the right way.

The lead lasted just five minutes though, as Ipswich issued an immediate riposte with a penalty of their own.

Joe Nuttall made a hash of an attempted headed clearance, which saw the ball drop from the sky and straight onto his arm. The referee took his time to make his mind up but eventually pointed to the spot.

Did the ball hit Nuttall's arm? Yes. Did he intentionally mean to block the ball with that particular part of his body? No. Does anyone have the faintest idea what the handball rule is nowadays? No, me neither.

There was no question about the finish though, as Luke Garbutt sent Jak Alnwick the wrong way to level matters once again.

Ipswich came as close as physically possible to winning it when Anthony Georgiou thought he’d bundled the ball home from close range, only to see Spearing somehow hook it off the goalline.

The Ipswich players and fans were insistent it had crossed the line, but without goalline technology there was no sure-way of knowing.

While Pool had chances to snatch it at the death with a couple of threatening counter attacks, Alnwick was called into action in stoppage time to tip Alan Judge’s glancing effort around the post.

To lose so late on would have been the ultimate kick in the teeth for the Seasiders. Thankfully Alnwick made the all-important stop to send the Seasiders back up to the North West with a point to show for their efforts.

Pool's sheer will to remain in games is one of their biggest strengths. There's a reason why they've only been beaten on three occasions in 18 league games this term.

That elusive Portman Road win might remain beyond their grasp, but do Blackpool care? Do they heck.