Blackpool needed to find a way to stop the rot against Birmingham City and they did it, but it was far from pretty

After four straight defeats, Blackpool needed to find a way to stop the rot and they stopped the rot. In that regard, this was job done.
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It wasn’t pretty though and it wasn’t particularly convincing either. The Seasiders looked uninspired for large parts of the game and devoid of ideas in dribs and drabs.

The clearer-cut chances came Birmingham’s way, the xG backs that up (0.45-1.71). But for once, and some would say finally, the luck was on Blackpool’s side with the visitors side-footing over from four yards, hitting the post and having two goals ruled out for offside.

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The Seasiders, meanwhile, struggled to create anything of real note aside from one or two bits and pieces in the second-half, where a potential smash and grab was admittedly on the cards.

But let’s focus on the positives for now because there weren’t too many for the tangerine faithful to celebrate prior to the World Cup break.

Shutout

A clean sheet can never be sniffed at, especially for this Blackpool side who had only kept four in 21 games leading up to this encounter.

Jerry Yates had a quiet day at the office on Blackpool's return to actionJerry Yates had a quiet day at the office on Blackpool's return to action
Jerry Yates had a quiet day at the office on Blackpool's return to action

Perhaps the hosts rode their luck on occasion, but in the Championship you’re going to have to do that every now and then.

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But the back four, five if we’re including Chris Maxwell, performed well. Luke Garbutt deserves special praise given this was only his second start of the season and he didn’t exactly have the best of games in his first against Hull City back in October.

The 29-year-old, preferred to Dom Thompson at left-back with the services of James Husband required in the centre, performed well at both ends of the pitch, defending solidly by crunching into challenges while also supporting well down the flanks.

Rhys Williams and Husband also did well up against some tricky customers in Birmingham’s frontline, managing to keep Troy Deeney relatively quiet in particular.

Luke Garbutt was one of Blackpool's better performers on only his second start of the seasonLuke Garbutt was one of Blackpool's better performers on only his second start of the season
Luke Garbutt was one of Blackpool's better performers on only his second start of the season

Maxwell, meanwhile, made two or three vitally important saves to maintain Blackpool’s clean sheet – one coming right at the end in stoppage-time.

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The seemingly never-ending Maxwell/Dan Grimshaw debate was allowed to rage throughout the month-long break in the absence of games but Appleton opted to stick with the former, who repaid his trust with a top display.

Ineffective

But ahead of the defence, that’s where things got a little tricky. The midfield three were largely non-existent while the front three struggled to make any sort of impact as a result of the lack of service.

This result gives Michael Appleton's side something to build on, but he will know the Seasiders need to be much better in futureThis result gives Michael Appleton's side something to build on, but he will know the Seasiders need to be much better in future
This result gives Michael Appleton's side something to build on, but he will know the Seasiders need to be much better in future

Too often, in the first-half especially, Pool’s backline were forced into a slow and ponderous approach due to the lack of options ahead of them.

As a result, what we were given was a plethora of sidewards and backwards passes that made it far too easy for Birmingham to sit in their shape and pick their moments to nip in and press.

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It made for a dull and drab affair, mirrored by the flat atmosphere off the pitch. The cold temperatures won’t have helped but there’s no doubt the noise levels inside Bloomfield Road aren’t what they were last season.

In fact, the only time the North Stand roared into some sort of life was when Birmingham had a goal disallowed, having previously clipped the post courtesy of the lively Tahith Chong.

In first-half stoppage time, Maxime Colin slotted past Maxwell but – after a short delay – the linesman belatedly raised his flag after spotting two players in an offside position obscuring the eyesight of the goalkeeper.

Having already been given a couple of major let-offs earlier in the half, you got the feeling this might just be Blackpool’s day.

Gary Madine was forced off late on, but thankfully it was only illness and not another injuryGary Madine was forced off late on, but thankfully it was only illness and not another injury
Gary Madine was forced off late on, but thankfully it was only illness and not another injury

Blunt

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To their credit, the Seasiders improved in the second period and began to cause one or two problems, Gary Madine heading wide, Sonny Carey failing to hit the target from the edge of the box and Charlie Patino having a shot blocked.

But other than that, the home side struggled to threaten. The fact they failed to register a single shot on target tells its own tale.

Then again, Birmingham only managed one and that came in the 91st minute, so that gives you some impression of what a lifeless affair this was.

It was the complete antithesis of what we witnessed when the Blues made the trip to the Fylde coast back in April.

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Unlike this bitterly cold, grey day, the sun was shining on that occasion and there were goals galore on the menu – six to Blackpool and only one to Birmingham.

Since then, it’s fair to say it’s been tough going for the Seasiders, losing 13 of their following 26 games, winning only seven times across the back end of last season and the start of this.

Injury crisis

Performance-wise, it would be fair to say we witnessed no real improvements from Blackpool in this game than what was served up before the break.

But there’s a major caveat in all of this, whether people want to hear it or not, that injuries continue to wreak havoc on the squad.

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Eight key first-team players were absent for this affair, seven through injury and Marvin Ekpiteta through suspension.

When that’s been the case for the past two or three months – nay, virtually the entirety of the season – you have to start asking questions. It’s simply not sustainable.

But if we’re looking for positives on that front, seeing Jake Beesley make his first appearance of the season was most welcome. But we might be waiting a little while longer for some further returns.