'Joey Barton provided Blackpool's team talk for them': Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's feisty victory over Fylde coast neighbours Fleetwood

“We play much better football than them. We’ve got better players, we’ve got the better youth academy, everything’s better.”

Sunday, 8th December 2019, 6:00 am
Did the Seasiders need any extra motivation for yesterday's game? Probably not, but Joey Barton still decided to give it them anyway

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Oh Joey, do you want help scraping that egg off your face?

I suppose if the title was handed out to the side that plays the prettiest passes without penetration, then Fleetwood would be champions by Christmas.

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For Town’s glorious 66 per cent possession, they could only muster two attempts on target against “little old” Blackpool.

All joking aside, Fleetwood are a good side and this was an important victory for the Seasiders. But Barton just doesn’t help himself.

What benefit whatsoever were his Fleetwood side going to gain from his inflammatory, juvenile comments in the build-up to Saturday’s Fylde coast clash?

It was only going to cause damage by providing extra motivation to the Blackpool players and that’s exactly what happened, as confirmed by Liam Feeney post-match, who accused Barton of being “disrespectful” to fellow professionals.

Grayson needn’t have bothered with a team talk prior to kick-off because the man in the opposing dugout had already done it for him.

I know the Fleetwood boss might find this difficult, but sometimes in life you just have to learn when to say nothing.

When you decide to go on the attack and purposely wind up the opposition, there’s always the risk your ill-advised comments could come back to bite you.

In the end, his Fleetwood side were well-beaten at Bloomfield Road as they suffered their sixth defeat of the season.

While Blackpool are, in his esteemed opinion, an inferior outfit to Town, it’s peculiar then how they’ve suffered just three losses having played two extra games.

While the league table remains skewed by a number of clubs having games in hand, Pool’s win on Saturday elevates them up to fourth ahead of Simon Grayson’s reunion with flailing Sunderland next week.

They can go there brimming with confidence having completed a bizarre run of games that has seen them play nine of their last 11 fixtures at home.

It’s an oddity they’ve taken full advantage of, however, winning six of their last seven fixtures on home turf – with Fleetwood becoming their latest victims.

Barton and co can turn their noses up at Pool’s style of play as much as they want but there’s no questioning its effectiveness.

Grayson, who deserves more respect from Barton given he’s now in his 15th year of management and has won promotion from this division on four separate occasions with four different clubs, delivered a defensive masterclass on Saturday.

While they were certainly clinical with their finishing, it was the manner in which they frustrated their supposedly higher-ranking overlords which caught my eye.

Grayson, who laughed off Barton’s attempted mind games before the game, sprung a surprise by reverting to a back four when three at the back with wing-backs had been proving so successful in recent weeks.

Ollie Turton came back into the side for his first start since the Burton Albion stalemate in October and produced a typically assured performance.

The two men next to him barely put a foot wrong as Ben Heneghan and Ryan Edwards didn’t give Paddy Madden a sniff. Edwards in particular was a colossus.

Feeney, as he has been so often this season, was involved in the all-important game-changing moments, scoring the early opener with a well-taken low finish before providing the assist – yes, another one – for Armand Gnanduillet’s towering header for Pool’s third.

Sullay Kaikai was also involved in much of Blackpool’s good attacking play, also getting in on the act by scoring at a vital time at the start of the second half.

Pool were so-so in the opening period but edged ahead thanks to their opportunistic early strike. They kept Fleetwood at arm’s length but, at times, were in danger of dropping too deep.

The players clearly heeded that exact warning at the interval as they came out at the start of the second half on the front foot.

On 47 minutes, they were awarded a soft-looking free kick between the 18-yard box and the touchline when former Fleetwood loanee James Husband went to ground too easily.

Kaikai took full advantage, catching out keeper Billy Crellin – who would have been expecting a cross – by curling a beauty into the far corner.

Gnanduillet’s header put breathing space in between the two sides, before the Seasiders threatened to run riot.

But they squandered some presentable opportunities to add more goals to their tally which would have served to embarrass their neighbours, who are still yet to win at Bloomfield Road.

The less said about the farcical scenes that greeted Blackpool’s third goal the better, as the pitch invasions saw the game temporarily halted for a couple of minutes.

The away side threatened an unlikely comeback when substitute Conor McAleny reduced the arrears by curling a well-struck shot into the bottom corner.

With nine minutes of stoppage time added on, owing to the earlier fracas, Barton’s men still had time to make things a little nervy for the Seasiders.

But when Madden flashed an effort onto the woodwork in the fourth of those nine minutes, Fleetwood knew their game was goosed.

They didn’t deserve to get back in the game anyway and even a scoreline of 3-2 would have made things appear closer than they actually were.

Grayson did a job on Barton, who will do well to remember he’s not on talkSPORT anymore and doesn’t need to run his mouth off every time a speakerphone is placed in front of him.