'If you don't believe now, you never will': Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's win against Peterborough and rise into League One play-offs
When Darren Ferguson admits you deserved to win the game, you know you’ve performed well.
When Fergie Jr graciously concedes you’re one of the best teams to have faced his Peterborough United side this season and fully deserved to complete the double over them, there’s a chance you just might be onto something special.
I’ve been banging the drum about Blackpool’s chances for months on end now, so I’m not surprised they now find themselves in the top six for the first time this season.
It was only a matter of time given their form, a term that doesn’t really fit the bill given Blackpool’s result have, by and large, been positive for five months now.
I must, however, hold my hands up and admit I didn’t see this performance and result coming.
Like many, I thought this one could prove to be a step too far. With their three first-choice centre-backs unavailable, seven key first-team players out injured and another one away on international duty in Dan Ballard, it felt like the worst time possible for Pool to be playing second-placed, free-scoring Posh, whose goalscoring exploits are only bettered by league leaders Hull City.
While the Seasiders felt frustrated to draw their last four home games, the general feeling among the fanbase and the press box was that another draw would have done just fine to keep the unbeaten run going. How naive we all were.
Neil Critchley’s side never ceases to amaze me. Makeshift defensive pairing Jordan Thorniley, Pool’s fourth choice centre-back and Ollie Turton, a full-back, were the club’s ninth partnership of the season.
This is nothing against either player, but it was only natural there were doubts over how the duo would cope with the league’s most potent front three, which includes 24-goal frontman Jonson Clarke-Harris. Even the best centre-backs in the third tier would struggle.
But they didn’t just cope, they thrived. Turton, who continues to be written off by some, shut the doubters up once again with a marvellous display. I’ve been watching the 28-year-old at Blackpool for the last four years now and not once has he let the club down. So why would he do it now?
As for Thorniley, one mishap aside, which led to Peterborough’s goal, he was solid as a rock and helped keep Peterborough’s dangerous frontline quiet.
Blackpool’s ability to maintain their performance levels with so many players missing is the clearest sign of a side that is well coached, where each and every player knows their defined role down to a tee.
To have a player as good as Ballard head out of the side and not really notice a difference is the biggest praise I can give to Critchley and his staff.
This was arguably Blackpool’s best display of the season, right up there with the 3-2 win against Hull, the two victories over Portsmouth, the away win at Peterborough and the recent triumphs against Charlton Athletic and Oxford United, both of which came on the road.
The significance and the timing of it only serves to make it all the more impressive.
The manner in which Blackpool began this game told us all we needed to know. Critchley had no interest in setting his side up to sit deep and hit Peterborough on the counter, an approach that would have been more than understandable given their current injury crisis and the opposition in question.
Instead, the Seasiders were high-energy, high-octane, high-intensity, high everything. They were in Peterborough’s faces right from the off and never gave them a chance to think, never mind pick out a pass.
They were helped in their endeavours by their lighting-fast start, handed to them by Jerry Yates in emphatic fashion with just a minute on the clock, the striker picking out the bottom corner with a rocket from 25 yards.
But the hosts maintained their high press at an alarming rate, forcing Posh’s backline – who looked like deers caught in headlights – into mistake after mistake.
The longer this went on, the nagging thought lingering in your head told you Blackpool couldn’t maintain this without getting a second goal.
They had opportunities to do so and more than deserved to double their lead, which is why it was so cruel when Posh levelled in first-half stoppage-time.
It was a goal out of nothing. Thorniley misjudged a hopeful long ball down the middle of the pitch, which gifted the visitors the chance to pile on some pressure in the final third for the first time. A ball towards the back post fell nicely for Joe Ward who, to his credit, produced a sweet strike that flew into the net via the inside of the post.
Pool could have been forgiven for traipsing back to the dressing room with their heads bowed, it was a cruel blow they didn’t deserve.
But they proved their character by coming out at the start of the second-half with the bit between their teeth, scoring twice in the first 13 minutes.
Yates completed his brace from the penalty spot after Thorniley’s acrobatic effort had been handled by Ethan Hamilton – who was bizarrely only shown a yellow – before Luke Garbutt exchanged a quick one-two with the impressive Elliot Embleton from a short corner to rifle home Blackpool’s third, via the aid of a slight deflection.
With a two-goal cushion, something they’ve not often had the luxury of at home, the Seasiders were able to sit back and soak up the pressure late on, which there was plenty of. But they stood firm.
The result means Blackpool are now unbeaten in 10 and remain unbeaten at Bloomfield Road since October, a run that stretches to 14 games in all competitions.
In fact, they’ve only lost four of their last 25 games in League One. No other side in the third tier has a better record during that time.
Let’s face it, if you don’t believe now, you never will.
Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here