David Bowie, cardboard cutouts, comical complaints and Gary Madine the Star Man: Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's FA Cup win at Eastbourne

For some unfathomable reason, there was a cardboard cutout of David Bowie’s alter ego Aladdin Sane in Eastbourne Borough’s main stand at Priory Lane.
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Matt Scrafton's player ratings: Gary Madine's quality proves to be the differenc...

There he sat, mixed among a gaggle of passport photos depicting various Eastbourne fans as part of a fundraising campaign to raise some much-needed cash for the National League South outfit. Why exactly, I’ve no idea.

But it got me thinking. Sane, Bowie’s sixth studio album, is often said to be the moment Bowie killed off his Ziggy Stardust character. According to a reliable fan website (only the best sources for this column), it was the “transformation from the somewhat playful and charming figure to something darker and more disturbed”.

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As metaphors go, is that a fairly accurate representation of what Blackpool have morphed into in recent weeks?

Gone is the pleasing-on-the-eye Blackpool we salivated over in pre-season, who failed to transform their promising summer displays, which were full of constant pressing, intensity and suave combination-play, into regular League One wins at the start of the campaign.

In its place, appears to be a well-oiled League One side that is capable of doing a bit of everything to grind out results. Yes, Blackpool are still more than capable of turning it on, but as the old-worn football cliché goes: sometimes you have to earn the right to play, none more so than against a highly-motivated non-league side hungry for an upset.

Front and centre of that new approach, if that’s what it is, is Star Man Gary Madine, who finds himself battling and tussling for every long ball forward. And on Sunday, and this is no criticism, we witnessed quite a few of them.

Gary Madine helped fire Blackpool into the second round of the FA CupGary Madine helped fire Blackpool into the second round of the FA Cup
Gary Madine helped fire Blackpool into the second round of the FA Cup
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We found ourselves in the somewhat unusual position of a non-league side bemoaning the physicality and direct play of a third tier outfit coached by a former academy boss who has made no secret of his desire to produce an attractive style of play. Oh, how the tables have turned.

Of those of an Eastbourne persuasion at the game, who were an overly tribal, outspoken bunch, it has to be said - one even complained about northerners and their penchant for swearing! - they felt their team was bullied at times and deserved more protection from the referee.

We should probably let them off, this was the biggest game in their 55-year history after all and Eastbourne were otherwise a delight to deal with.

But their assertion that they were hard done-by is, of course, complete tosh. And that’s even ignoring the two blatant penalties Blackpool ought to have had and the nasty elbow from Chris Whelpdale that completely poleaxed Daniel Gretarsson.

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The Iceland defender, who had recovered and composed himself following a shaky first-half display, wasn’t left looking like the Prettiest Star following the collision, if that’s what it can be called.

At this point in the game, the scoreline remained goalless as the clock ticked towards the hour-mark. And yet, despite Blackpool’s failure to edge their noses in front, you never truly felt nervous or afraid this cup tie wouldn’t go their way.

In truth, the Seasiders had dominated from the first whistle. Indeed, Neil Critchley’s side probably ought to have scored inside the first 60 seconds, Sullay Kaikai clattering the foot of the post after CJ Hamilton had picked him out in the centre after beating his marker for the first of what would transpire to be several occasions.

The same combination produced the same result on 12 minutes, Kaikai again smashing the woodwork after Hamilton had pulled the ball back to him.

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On this occasion, the Seasiders were immediately susceptible to the counter-attack as Eastbourne blitzed their way to the other end of the pitch within a mere few seconds.

Greg Luer found himself one-on-one with Chris Maxwell but the former Hull City man never had the body language of a forward that felt confident about scoring and it was Maxwell who came out on top in this particular duel.

For a five or 10-minute period, Blackpool’s backline looked a little shaky. Whelpdale got around James Husband by the byline and pulled the ball back to Charlie Walker who was denied by a flying block from Marvin Ekpiteta.

But Blackpool soon composed themselves and, from this point onwards, stopped their non-league opponents from creating anything of note whatsoever.

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Instead, a steady stream of chances continued to come Blackpool’s way, Gretarsson, Jerry Yates and Madine exchanging particularly presentable opportunities, before they finally made the breakthrough on 58 minutes.

It had been coming, it was one-way traffic at the start of the second period against a tiring Eastbourne side.

Madine was the man to get the goal, the striker scoring only his second of the season, hooking home in impressive fashion after cheating down James Husband’s left-wing cross.

The Seasiders really ought to have given themselves immediate breathing space in the coming moments but they squandered two quick chances to put the game to bed for good.

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The first fell to Yates, who appeared to have the simple task of tapping home at the far post only to be denied by a superb block from James Vaughan.

The resulting corner produced an unmarked header for Madine but his header was cleared off the goalline.

Thankfully it wasn’t to matter, as Madine completed his brace on 68 minutes to give Blackpool that all-important second goal and his third of the campaign in the process.

He combined well with Yates, who laid the ball off to his strike partner who had the luxury of time and space to pick out the bottom corner with ease.

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A little bit of complacency crept into Blackpool’s game in the dying moments, much to the frustration of Critchley and his assistant Mike Garrity who were furiously barking orders from the dugout.

But any fears about the possibility of a nervous ending were soon put to bed when Yates used his pace to stretch Eastbourne’s backline, latching onto Dan Kemp’s through-ball before steering home in the second minute of stoppage-time.

Job done, as they say. A professional display that avoided a cup upset with minimal fuss. Had Blackpool scored with one of their early opportunities, there’s every chance they would have hit five, six or seven.

Alas, it’s not to matter. Given the shocks we’ve seen elsewhere this weekend, we should be thankful Blackpool were able to get the job done, winning for the fourth time in their last five games.

So long, Ziggy. It's time to love Aladdin.