Blackpool v Stevenage: dominant Seasiders bag fifth win of season to put play-off places within reach
The Seasiders move to within a point of the play-offs following eye-catching win against Stevenage
Blackpool fired themselves to within a whisker of the top six as they saw off Stevenage in impressive style, writes Simon Smedley.
After picking up just one point from their previous two games, Jordan Rhodes’ seventh goal of the season helped them to a well-deserved 3-0 victory at Bloomfield Road.
Stevenage had no answer to a particularly eye-catching second-half performance from Neil Critchley’s men.
In the wake of the 2-2 draw at Charlton seven days earlier in the Seasiders’ last League One outing, boss Critchley opted to make a couple of changes to his starting XI.
Northern Ireland international Shayne Lavery was dropped to the bench, while in his place up front came young Kylian Kouassi. He had clearly been rewarded following his midweek hat-trick heroics in the 5-2 win over Liverpool’s youngsters in the EFL Trophy group stage.
Kouassi was now up to five goals for the campaign, with Critchley clearly showing faith in the talented summer capture from Sutton United. Elsewhere, Dominic Thompson dropped out altogether following his first league start at The Valley in that 2-2 draw, with Owen Dale stepping up in his place.
After torrential rain had been falling as the game kicked off, it was Stevenage who carved out the first half chance in the 10th minute. Jamie Reid darted menacingly down the left before crossing in for Aaron Pressley, only for James Husband to intercept just in the nick of time.
Reid was clearly an early danger man, as he then fired in an arrowing 20-yard drive, which was saved smartly by Dan Grimshaw.
The hosts had to be patient and eventually threatened themselves after 15 minutes. Kouassi’s looping header from Husband’s cross was punched clear under pressure by visiting keeper Taye Ashby-Hammond.
The Seasiders were building up a head of steam, and veteran Rhodes slid an effort inches wide after meeting Kouassi’s knock-down.
The home side were well on top by the half-hour mark, at which point they went close again. CJ Hamilton produced some great trickery before crossing in for Sonny Carey, who lashed a low shot into the side-netting.
Blackpool finally grabbed their breakthrough seven minutes before the break, thanks to poacher Rhodes’ instincts. He reacted quickest to divert skipper Ollie Norburn’s initial shot past a flat-footed Ashby-Hammond.
There was then drama with almost the last action of the first period when Stevenage boss Steve Evans reacted furiously when a late linesman’s flag ruled out a Reid effort, so 1-0 it remained.
The Seasiders came mighty close to a second goal nine minutes after the restart. Stevenage were saved by the woodwork as Kenny Dougall slammed an arrowing 25-yard free-kick against the crossbar.
Blackpool did make it 2-0 bang on the hour mark, though. Owen Dale notched, firing in from an angle via a deflection off Terence Vancooten.
Hamilton then bagged a third with 11 minutes left, coolly slotting past Ashby-Hammond following a terrific one-two with Rhodes.
That wrapped up a hugely satisfactory victory for a Blackpool side who had been dominant against a Stevenage outfit who were third in the table going into the game.