Late setbacks, another home draw and remaining upbeat: Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's frustrating draw against Plymouth
You just hope Blackpool don’t live to regret these late setbacks.
Neil Critchley’s side have now dropped six points in the dying seconds of three of their last six games on home turf, all three outings coming in March alone.
Crewe Alexandra rescued a point four minutes from time, AFC Wimbledon left it even later to level in the third minute of stoppage time. Now we can add Plymouth Argyle to the list, Ryan Lowe’s side pegging Blackpool back in the first minute of time added on.
On all three occasions, you could argue the visitors deserved their point. That was certainly the case on Saturday. But the Seasiders have got to learn to hold on and see out these victories, otherwise it could prove costly.
While you don’t feel like clinging onto the positives when you’re dealt such a last-ditch blow, we must remember Blackpool remain in the play-offs. They’re now unbeaten in 11, the longest streak of any side in League One this season, and haven’t tasted defeat at Bloomfield Road since October 20, a run that stretches back 15 games in all competitions.
But that’s not to say Pool should escape criticism, either. If something unfortunate happens once, you shrug your shoulders and mutter ‘never mind, it happens’. If it happens a second time, you’re a little angrier but you just hope it doesn’t occur again. On the third occasion, you begin to think it’s not a coincidence.
There’s a number of factors at play here though. The Seasiders had their chances to put the game to bed and add a third, but – not for the first time this season, and not by a long stretch – they were unable to capitalise on a series of promising situations.
It wasn’t as if Pool were facing a barrage of pressure late on either and were camped on the edge of their box. It would be a lot more disconcerting if that was the case, but they were dealing with Plymouth well.
But it’s just a rudimentary ball in from the left, Sullay Kaikai allows Joe Edwards to run off him and the Plymouth man guides the ball home with a well-taken first-time volley. On another day, the right-back’s shot balloons over and into the Armfield Stand.
We musn’t forget Blackpool remain in the midst of an injury crisis, too. While Critchley has downplayed it, it’s only to be expected that tiredness and fatigue might play its part when the same core group of players have been playing Saturday-Tuesday-Tuesday for the past month with minimal rotation.
Had Blackpool held on against Plymouth, Crewe and Wimbledon, they’d be sat fourth, six points off second-placed Peterborough United with two games in hand.
If’s, but’s and maybe’s, I know, but it gives you an indication of the fine margins at play here.
It’s ironic though, because Blackpool probably would have snapped your hand off for a point given the level of Plymouth’s dominance in the first-half.
The away side were tactically spot on and Lowe’s players executed his gameplan to a tee. Pool couldn’t make any headway and struggled to pass their way into the Plymouth half. It’s not as if they could beat the press and go long either, as we’ve seen that’s a tactic that doesn’t work particularly well when the Seasiders are without Gary Madine.
Former Pool striker Ryan Hardie caused Jordan Thorniley all sorts of problems with his pace, ably assisted by his nippy forward partner Niall Ennis who was denied by the woodwork early on, turning inside the box before seeing his low shot rebound off the foot of the post.
Ennis hit the same post for a second time a few moments later after Hardie had lobbed the ball over Chris Maxwell into his path, but Plymouth kept the ball alive and Hardie was in the right place at the right time to steer home.
Hardie, who scored just one goal in 12 appearances during his short-lived spell at Bloomfield Road, came into this game having failed to score in his last 11 outings for Argyle. But you just knew he’d score against his former club, and so it proved.
Mitchell, who was Blackpool’s only attacking threat in the first-half, caused all sorts of problems for the visitors in the second 45.
The 24-year-old played a key role in Blackpool's leveller, cutting inside from the right before seeing his shot blocked into the path of Sullay Kaikai, who forced the ball home.
Mitchell then sent a dipping, swerving effort just wide of the upright before being set free by Jordan Gabriel, falling somewhat theatrically to the floor under pressure from Adam Lewis.
The referee bought it, pointed to the spot and Jerry Yates sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to net his 17th goal of the campaign to complete Blackpool’s comeback.
Critchley’s men managed the game pretty well from this point onwards and forced Plymouth’s hesitant backline into numerous errors in and around their own, but they couldn’t take advantage.
They were made to pay for that when Edwards materialised out of nowhere to strike a blow to Blackpool’s play-off hopes just as the fourth official had raised his board to signify six minutes of added time.
It’s a frustrating result, but it’s not the end of the world. It keeps the points tally ticking over and, most importantly of all, the Seasiders remain in the top six.
Pool do need to learn from this though. Their struggles, especially at home, tend to come against sides below them in the league table, teams that set out to spoil and stop them - which I’ve got no issue with whatsoever, by the way. It’s only natural.
As we’ve seen, Blackpool tend to have no trouble beating the top sides, in fact they seem to thrive in those games, beating Peterborough twice, Portsmouth twice and Hull City, Charlton Athletic and Oxford United once.
If Pool are to maintain their current spot, they might need to become flat-track bullies, especially at home where they’ve now drawn five of their last six.
On the road, meanwhile, they’ve won their last four. After a brief, much-needed break, let’s hope that becomes five on Good Friday against struggling Swindon Town.
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