Ignore Strictly, the real star of the show was at Bloomfield Road - Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's win against AFC Wimbledon

Strictly Come Dancing may have been in town this weekend but the real star of the show in Blackpool on Saturday was at Bloomfield Road.

Sunday, 17th November 2019, 6:00 am
Gnanduillet was in a buoyant mood after his two goals for Blackpool on Saturday

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Matt Scrafton's player ratings: Armand Gnanduillet and Jay Spearing make a mark ...

Armand Gnanduillet brought some continental flair to the Fylde Coast with a vital brace that saw him dance up the League One scoring charts.

The big Frenchmen now sits on 12 goals for the season from just 20 outings.

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To give you some context, the 26-year-old managed just 14 goals during the entirety of last season in what was – at the time – his most prolific campaign of his career.

That record is now likely to be smashed before the year is out, never mind the season.

Gnanduillet, who has five goals in his last four games for the Seasiders, sits proudly among the league’s top scorers Mo Eisa, Ivan Toney and Paddy Madden.

The race for that all-important personal gong – the top scorer award, not the Glitter Ball Trophy – is well and truly on.

It might not have been perfect 10s across the board for Gnanduillet on Saturday, but he wasn’t far off it.

Gnanduillet’s all-round game was magnificent for the 84 minutes he was on the pitch, regardless of the two goals he managed to notch.

Since being surprisingly dropped for the bore draw against Burton Albion last month, the striker has responded in the best fashion possible.

Not only has Gnanduillet run in five goals in just 307 minutes – an average of a goal every hour – he’s also addressed the flaws that were blighting his game.

He’ll never be twinkle toes, but Gnanduillet has improved on his first touch and his hold-up play has been better than anything else we’ve previously seen from the Frenchman.

As Simon Grayson recently said, when Gnanduillet is on song and bringing others into play, more often than not the Seasiders play well and win. When he’s having one of his off days, Pool struggle.

With flair players Sullay Kaikai and Nathan Delfouneso dancing and darting around him, all Gnanduillet has to do is keep hold of the ball, lay it off to his fellow forwards and get into the box – where he is at his most dangerous.

He was certainly at his clinical best when he finally broke the deadlock for the patient Seasiders six minutes into the second half.

Grayson’s men were constantly knocking at the door against a Wimbledon side that insisted on sitting deep and frustrating them, while showing no inclination to attack whatsoever.

Pool have shown on more than one occasion this season that they tend to struggle when conceding the first goal. It was therefore crucial they were the side to find the breakthrough.

Gnanduillet did so in emphatic fashion, noticing goalkeeper Nathan Trott had left a gap open at his near post to slide a powerful shot into the back of the net via the inside of the post.

The goal owed much to Nathan Delfouneso’s persistence in the build-up, the forward waltzing his way past two or three defenders despite almost losing possession on a couple of occasions.

The forward, who was in impressive form himself, then had the presence of mind to look up and play in Gnanduillet who did the rest himself.

If his first finish was well-taken, his second was as simple as they come.

Assist king Liam Feeney capitalised on some hesitant defending from the Dons to break through down the right, before looking up and seeing Gnanduillet in space at the back post.

Feeney rolled the ball across the face of the six-yard box, a chance Gnanduillet was only too happy to gobble up by steering confidently home into the back of the net.

While Wimbledon offered virtually nothing in the way of an attacking threat, that second goal was always going to be important.

The visitors would undoubtedly have become increasingly desperate in the dying stages and would have resorted to desperate punts into the 18-yard box, where anything can happen.

Fortunately it didn’t come to that, because if Wimbledon had come away with anything other than a defeat would have been a travesty.

While Glyn Hodges’ side clearly have their limitations, I was surprised at their lack of willingness to ‘have a go’ at Blackpool.

But, in turn, the Seasiders deserve credit for the way they controlled proceedings virtually from the first whistle to the last. It was the type of performance a team that has its eyes firmly set on promotion would deliver. Confident and professional without being too arrogant.

Jay Spearing summed up that approach, delivering a masterful display in the middle of the park.

The skipper has had the shackles removed in recent weeks and has been given more license to get forward and dictate play. And dictate play he did.

Spearing led the charge with his high pressing, distributed well with regular switches of play while remaining his usual feisty self when it came to those trademark crunching challenges.

Thanks to their latest win, Blackpool – who have still only been beaten three times in 17 league games – now find themselves back in the top six.

A four-game winning streak should provide them with the confidence and momentum that will be required to go and get a result against league leaders Ipswich Town next week.

But there’s no reason why the Seasiders shouldn’t waltz to Portman Road with swagger.