'It would have been a travesty had Blackpool drawn, never mind lost': Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's heroic comeback win against Reading
Cast your minds back to deadline day, when Crewe Alexandra fans were falling over to convince themselves they weren’t bothered about losing Owen Dale.
Well, he’s just bagged a goal and assist on his Championship debut while the Railwaymen languish at the bottom of the third tier with just one win to their name. Funny how football works out.
Dale’s first outing in tangerine couldn’t have gone any better. Within nine minutes of coming off the bench he scores to reduce the deficit before setting up Blackpool’s equaliser.
The winger, who bears a striking resemblance to Elliot Embleton given his quality on either foot, helped turn the game in Blackpool’s favour.
Thank god they did manage to fight back, because it would have been an utter travesty had they drawn this game, never mind lost.
I can’t recall seeing such a dominant first-half performance yielding a two-goal deficit, it left me in the press box - and Neil Critchley and the fans housed behind the goal - scratching their heads wondering what they had just witnessed.
Let’s be frank about this, the Seasiders dominated from start to finish. Yes, goals change games but they can also alter perspectives, because there were a lot of viewers of a Reading persuasion feeling very smug at half-time.
They shouldn’t have been though, because their side had been battered. And this is a Reading side that had won five of their last six games coming into this encounter, let’s not forget. But Blackpool made them look distinctly average.
When Reading opened the scoring in the 11th minute, it was the first time they had even delivered the ball into the Blackpool box.
To their credit, they took full advantage, as Scott Dann glanced home a header from John Swift’s free-kick delivery.
The Royals showed a clinical side to their game once again to capitalise on a rare Marvin Ekpiteta error, George Puscas dispossessing the centre-back near his own box before setting up Josh Laurent, who unselfishly laid the ball on a plate for Tom Dele-Bashiru to tap home.
Blackpool, who had done all the running, were passing through Reading at ease and creating chances on a fairly regular basis, were left utterly shell-shocked to find themselves two goals down. Enter Owen Dale.
Up until his arrival, the Seasiders had done everything right up until the final third, where their execution let them down at an alarming rate and their decision-making was found wanting. It was déjà vu, in many respects.
But in the second-half, and inspired by Dale’s arrival, the Seasiders were simply relentless and wouldn’t let up. It was wave after wave of Blackpool attacks and the home side couldn’t get out of their box, never mind their half.
As 45-minute displays go, it’s arguably the best I’ve seen from a Critchley side and boy is that saying something.
A word for Dan Grimshaw, because Pool’s fightback wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the keeper’s crucial save at the start of the second-half.
Puscas had managed to breach the Blackpool defence, getting in behind Ekpiteta to go one-on-one with Grimshaw. But the ex-Manchester City youngster stood tall and made a superb stop with his outstretched leg.
It laid the foundations for what was to come, which was 45 minutes of a continuous battering ram.
While it looked at one stage that Blackpool’s good work would be undone and they wouldn’t find a way through, they finally reduced the deficit in the 69th minute when a partially cleared corner fell for Dale on the edge of the box, who rifled home via the aid of a slight deflection.
Four minutes later, the Seasiders were level. Dale showed another flash of quality by cutting inside and providing a tantalising cross for Jerry Yates to head back across goal and into the far corner. It was Shearer-esque.
Having trailed by two goals, most run-of-the-mill sides will take a point and sit back, take a breather and see the remainder of the game out. Not Blackpool though.
To be fair, they simply had to go for the gauntlet. Reading looked exhausted while Critchley’s side looked like scoring every time they surged forward.
After what seemed like four genuine, strong penalty appeals had been waved away - two resulting in bookings for Demetri Mitchell and Yates - Pool were finally awarded a spot kick six minutes from time.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Yates fired home to make it four goals in his last three games, finding form at just the right time in Shayne Lavery’s absence.
Another quick word for the man who was fouled for the penalty, Sonny Carey, because he was simply sublime on his first league start.
The midfielder, who is only 20 and arrived at Bloomfield Road from non-league, no less, was like a prime Juan Roman Riquelme popping up in-between the lines and threading through eye-of-the-needle passes.
It was only his fourth appearance for the club, but what a way to announce yourself.
In fact, when you look at the ages of Blackpool’s standout performers on Wednesday night - Grimshaw (24), Dale (22), Carey (20) and Yates (24) - the future is looking very bright for the Tangerines. But then again, we knew that already.
“Are you watching PNE?” was the chant from the jubilant Pool fans as they made their way to the exit gates come full-time.
Having created a bit of history by becoming the first Blackpool side to beat Reading away in 41 years, it’s now time to put another statistic to bed - ending that 24-year wait for a derby victory at Bloomfield Road.
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