Match report: Battling spirit rubbing off at Pool

Blackpool's Tom Aldred scores Blackpool's winner
Blackpool's Tom Aldred scores Blackpool's winner
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When most footballers opened their curtains to see almost monsoon-like conditions on Saturday morning they’d have been filled with dread – Tom Aldred probably punched the air with joy.

For the Blackpool defender, the idea of a battle was music to his ears, and didn’t half enjoy himself at the DW.

At times over the last couple of years I’ve been quick to point the finger at various Pool squads, often questioning their ability and sometimes even their desire.

But if there’s one thing this current Pool squad have - it’s a willingness. Aldred is the ring leader, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player throw himself into so many 80/20 tackles in my life, and it’s starting to rub-off.

And with Pool 1-0 and 70 minutes on the clock at the weekend, came the most obvious of proof.

As the ball bounced in the area for Wigan’s Reece James a free shot at goal, Clark Robertson had a decision to make - get hurt or concede.

In the end he flung himself into a tackle he had no right to win, got a right old crack on the ankle but saved a goal, it was a match saving moment and one his pal Aldred next to him was clearly proud of.

While this sort of attitude alone won’t get teams promoted, it may well just be the difference between this season and what happened last.

On Saturday Blackpool won their second on the bounce and climbed out of the League One relegation zone, and I think they were worthy winners for the way they played in the first half of the game.

But again it was far from perfect. Despite a blistering start to the game, Pool still have a problem with the amount of chances they are creating and from the hour mark onwards simply sat deep and defended.

That said, I don’t think Neil McDonald will care for a minute, it’s all about getting points on the board at the moment for Blackpool.

Ironically Saturday’s win may not have happened at all, the game was in doubt when we arrived at the DW Stadium.

As many games in the North West fell foul of the battering rain, referee Philip Gibbs had two looks at the surface before declaring it playable. It’s fair to say conditions were less than ideal when the game kicked-off and in hindsight Wigan’s Gary Caldwell may have wished it rained a little more.

The team news gave everyone an indication of McDonald’s intentions with a unquestionable defensive look to the side.

In midweek the Pool boss talked about frustrating Wigan from the off, he opted to play 4-1-3-2, with no wingers and Will Aimson sat just infront of the back four.

This was all aimed at stopping Wigan getting the ball into striker Craig Davies, and you have to say it worked a treat. Surprisingly, as the rain continued to batter down it was Blackpool who started in a more attacking style than their hosts, forcing two corners within the first two minutes.

The second following a very decent effort from range by David Ferguson who forced keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen to tip the ball over his bar.

It was clearly an instruction from the manager to start the game quickly, and it seemed to unnerved the home side. After going the whole game against Fleetwood without testing the keeper, it was refreshing to at least see an early effort.

For the next 15 minutes there was very little in terms of quality as both sides struggled on a testing surface, that until a glorious chance fell to Mark Cullen.

Jim McAlister’s lofted ball into the box found Cullen with all the time and space in the world, sadly his glancing header was far too easy for the keeper. I’m not sure Cullen quite realised the space he had around him, either way it was a big opening.

That lack of finishing touch has been a trend for Blackpool this season so far, and something McDonald still needs to address.

In Lee alongside Cullen they have a clearly decent footballer on loan from West Ham, and on Saturday he showed more than enough on the ball.

But one thing which stood out a mile was the youngster’s lack of sharpness, something shown on 25 minutes.

As play opened up in front of him at the edge of the area, his slight hesitation saw a very good chance drift away before his shot was blocked.

We’ve seen enough so far to suggest he’ll have a part to play in the coming weeks.

While Blackpool were the better side in the opening half hour Wigan were showing signs of promise around the area without breaking a resolute looking back five.

But on 33 minutes a lovely bit of quick passing play saw things open up for Will Grigg in the box who turned and fired goalwards from eight yards, only for Aldred to block in typical style.

It was a warning sign for McDonald’s men.

That said, it was the Seasiders who opened the scoring just moments later, and you had to say it was well deserved.

Ferguson’s superb left-footed dead ball was met at the near post by Aldred who powered a header past Jaaskalainen. As the conditions got worse, Aldred seemed to be having more and more fun.

Committed at the best of time the defender flung himself around in the mud all afternoon and was outstanding at the back for the Seasiders.

While some of Wigan’s flair players didn’t fancy it one bit, Aldred was loving it. If Blackpool started the first half the brighter, it was the home side which came out on the front foot after the break.

I suppose it’s to be expected Wigan would be fired up after a poor 45 minutes, and to be fair to Pool they coped with Gary Caldwell’s side’s initial flurry reasonably well.

One of the changes Caldwell made at the break was to switch to three at the back to match Pool’s trio in the middle of the park.

That saw the introduction of former Seasiders loan man Donervon Daniels, and ironically it was he who had a golden chance to level 10 minutes into the second period.

He met Max Power’s inviting near post corner only to get his angles totally wrong and head miles wide.

Daniels punched the ground in frustration, he and everyone inside the DW Stadium knew it was a big moment and a big chance. After putting so much into the opening stages Blackpool were always going to tire, but it was a little worrying just how early, soon after the hour mark in fact.

McDonald’s men got deeper and deeper, almost inviting Wigan on to them. In an attempt to liven things up the boss introduced Martin Paterson in place of Lee, who had run himself into the ground.

The effort and commitment of Aldred which we talked about before appears to be rubbing off on his defensive partner Clark Robertson, who showed real bravery to keep Pool ahead on 70 minutes.

As the ball bounced around the box it fell to full-back Reece James seven yards out, only for Robertson to dive into an 70-30 challenge to save the day. He hurt himself in the process, but it was a superb interception which Aldred was quick to applaud.

Wigan were really growing into the game at this point, and only a superb full-stretch save by Lyness kept them out on 75.

Power did well down the right to pick out striker Grigg who fizzed an effort goal wards, only to be denied by the excellent Pool keeper. This prompted McDonald into a change of personnel and formation, with Emmerson Boyce coming on for Aimson, seeing Pool switch to a 4-4-2.

Boyce, a Wigan hero after captaining them to a famous FA Cup win in 2013, was given a standing ovation by the home support. Soon after McDonald opted to firm things up even more, introducing John Herron in place of Cullen.

Pool once again relied on the safe hands of goalkeeper Lyness, who held the ball in all the right places to really take the pressure off. He’s been a top signing and it will be interesting to see how quickly Colin Doyle regains his place when fit.

McDonald will be delighted to see his side out of the relegation zone after back-to-back wins. It just shows how far a bit of determination and organisation can take you. A job well done.