Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the first Fylde coast derby of the season.
It's fair to say it wasn't a classic...
How often in football do you hear the phrase: “for a 0-0, that was a great game”? It’s quite a well-known cliché in footballing circles but I can’t imagine it was one that was used by many Blackpool or Fleetwood Town fans traipsing out of Highbury on Saturday as they desperately tried to escape the wind and rain. As you’d expect from a Fylde coast derby, it was a competitive and cagey affair and there was a good atmosphere but it wasn’t a game that will live long in the memory. Blackpool had the best of it with their five shots - three of which were on target - but Fleetwood, the home side, couldn’t muster an effort on target from their four attempts at goal. That stat pretty much sums up the afternoon in one fell swoop.
Conditions ruined the game as a spectacle
In fairness to both sides, it wasn't for a lack of trying. Both tried to play their normal games, with Fleetwood pressing high up the pitch with their high-tempo style and Blackpool attempting to get the ball down, pass it out from the back and find combinations in behind the Fleetwood midfield. In that respect, Blackpool did pretty well in the first half as they dominated possession with Jimmy Ryan, ignoring the boos on his return to his old club, and Jay Spearing dictating play from deep. That saw the Seasiders create the clearest opportunities of the game, the clearest of which fell to Sean Longstaff on the stroke of half time but Fleetwood 'keeper Alex Cairns was equal to his left-footed effort. But the swirling rain and ever-changing direction of the wind made the second half a bit of a non-event. The unpredictably of the conditions reared its head for Cairns, who must have kicked the ball straight out of play on at least five occasions. It wasn't a classic and in those conditions, it was never going to be.
Defences were on top
It was certainly a game where the respective defences were on top and in some respects that will be of comfort to Blackpool manager Gary Bowyer. The Seasiders have now kept two consecutive clean sheets on the road and it would have been three in a row home and away had they held on against Gillingham on Tuesday night. A clean sheet is always welcome, especially when you’re away from home, but it will be the manner of the last two which will have pleased Bowyer the most. Fleetwood huffed and puffed but in reality, it’s fair to say they didn’t have a meaningful opportunity in the entire 90 minutes. Since the 3-1 defeat at home to Wigan Athletic last month, the Seasiders have really sured it up at the back - conceding on average just a goal a game. And even then that stat is skewered by the three goals they conceded against Portsmouth. Even looking at the season as a whole, Bowyer’s men have conceded just one more than Bradford City who are flying high in fourth place, just four points off the top two.
Injuries rear their head again
Bowyer will consider it a job well done on Saturday, but his biggest concern will be in the treatment room which has filled up once again. Both Kyle Vassell and Curtis Tilt, probably Blackpool’s two best performers this season, were brought off with hamstring problems. That was after Colin Daniel had suffered a dead leg in the first half which saw him replaced just after the half-hour mark. All three will be doubts for Tuesday night’s game against Bowyer’s former club Blackburn Rovers - a side that have won their last three and are currently unbeaten in seven - so it’s not exactly a game where you can afford to lose your best players for. Vassell would probably be the biggest miss, seeing as his inclusion in Blackpool’s side completely transforms the way they play. In the half an hour that Vassell wasn’t on the pitch on Saturday, Pool struggled to keep hold of the ball in Fleetwood’s half and the home side subsequently put them under pressure. Compared to his last two games, where he scored a goal in each, Vassell had a fairly quiet afternoon up against the impressive Nathan Pond. But take him off and you soon see exactly what Blackpool are missing.
Bowyer and Rosler are best of friends
Before the game we heard Bowyer's tales of the pair's holidays to Majorca while both showered each other with praise in the lead up to the first Fylde coast derby of the season. Then before the game there was a warm embrace. But it was the 'tussle' between the two of them on the sidelines that will have raised the most smiles. The ball headed out of play towards Bowyer in the Blackpool dugout and Rosler rushed over as if he was going to make a timely interception. But Bowyer showed some impressive strength to hold off the big German, joking afterwards that he expects Rosler to bulk up a little. Both were extremely animated on the touchline throughout the game, as you would expect for a local derby, but once the game was done and dusted the pair would have been able to reflect back on the 90 minutes over a beer or two.