Entertainment is the name of the game for Simon Sadler's Blackpool - Matt Scrafton's verdict on opening day win against Bristol Rovers

Three points, two goals, a clean sheet and a raucous 11,300-crowd chanting your name – all in all it wasn’t a bad start for Simon Sadler.

Saturday, 3rd August 2019, 11:39 pm
Simon Sadler can't hide his delight as he watches on from the directors' box

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The club’s new owner quite literally failed to hide his delight on Saturday, grinning from ear to ear as he burst out of his seat to wave to his loyal new followers.

At times it looked as though Sadler was struggling to contain himself and to be honest, who could blame him?

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A lifelong Blackpool fan who grew up watching the mighty Tangerines from the old West Paddock, he’s now the man at the helm. It must still feel like a dream.

He merrily sang along to the chants as if he was watching among the singers in the North Stand and gleefully took the applause and adulation that came his way – which there was plenty of.

As first days at the office go, Saturday’s routine win against Bristol Rovers was pretty much as perfect as they come.

The sun shone brightly, the pitch looked in pristine condition, the stadium has been given a lick of paint and the place, quite aptly, appears to have been given a much-needed facelift. The club has been completely re-energised.

The players more than held up their end of the bargain, too, delivering a professional performance in entertaining fashion.

I wouldn’t like to second guess Sadler, but having heard what he had to say after his unveiling, I think it will be Blackpool’s thrilling display, more than anything, that will have pleased him the most.

Of course, serving up entertaining football is essentially useless if the three points don’t accompany them, but you’ve got to give the masses something that will make them want to come back on a regular basis.

That certainly happened against Bristol Rovers, and that surely will be the most pleasing thing for Sadler and the board.

Simon Grayson might have only handed debuts to four new players from the start, but this was a very different Blackpool to the one we saw last season.

They’ve retained that defensive solidity, which accompanies their never-say-die attitude and backs-against-the-wall mentality that saw them keep so many clean sheets last term.

But they also appear to have added a potency at the other end of the pitch, which should – you would hope – see them dwarf their poor record of just 50 league goals in 2018/19.

I wouldn’t attribute that improvement to one man and one man only, that would be far too simplistic, but Sullay Kaikai has made a huge difference.

The 23-year-old is going to be an absolute nightmare for opposition defences this season and I expect him to wreak havoc on a regular occurence.

He’s also brought out the best in Nathan Delfouneso and as an attacking duo, they’ve brought a whole new dynamic to the team.

While that was clear from the offset, the Seasiders did have to ride their luck in the opening exchanges when Ollie Clarke scraped the outside of the post for the visitors.

Thankfully that’s as much as we saw from the Gas in an attacking sense until the final kick of the game, when Tyler Smith was also denied by the woodwork with a close-range header.

Between those two moments, Blackpool were very much in the ascendancy and were in control of proceedings.

Once they took the lead halfway through the opening period, which came via Jay Spearing’s cool penalty, it was more of a case of when the Seasiders were going to add a second rather than when they were going to be pegged back.

We didn’t have to wait too long to find out, as just 50 seconds into the second half last season’s top goalscorer Armand Gnanduillet struck his first of the campaign by emphatically heading home from Spearing’s delightful ball to the back post.

From that point onwards, Pool looked comfortable and rode out the remainder of the game with relative ease – keeping Bristol Rovers at arms’ length throughout.

It was the display of a side brimming with renewed confidence, ably managed by a manager who knows exactly what is required to win games on a regular basis in League One.

That, perhaps more than anything, is what impressed me most about Pool in the second half: their game management.

Jak Alnwick ran the clock down by taking time over his goal-kicks and opting to launch himself onto the loose ball inside his own box, even when no opponent was in near proximity, just to waste another second or two.

Defenders walked, rather than jogged, over to the touchline to take throw-ins and the Seasiders played far more sensibly in the final stages to maintain that two-goal lead.

It might not sound like much, but I’d argue it’s the hallmark of any side aiming to be successful, regardless of the level.

While this is a new era stacked with new players, 10 arriving so far this summer, it was one of those who were already at the club in Curtis Tilt who shone the brightest on Saturday.

The defender was in full ‘Rolls Royce mode’, as I like to call it, and delivered a display as good as any I’ve seen from him in a Blackpool shirt. That’s quite a statement given the performances we’ve already witnessed.

He seemed like a man possessed, he was everywhere, making vital last-ditch tackles one moment before embarking on marauding 40 and 50-yard runs the next.

Should he sign that new contract, it could be a signing as significant as any arrival at Bloomfield Road this summer. Other than Simon Sadler, of course.