MATCH REPORT: Rotherham 1-0 Blackpool

Blackpool's Viv Solomon-Otabor battles for possession
Blackpool's Viv Solomon-Otabor battles for possession

Blackpool ended the 2017/18 League One season with a 1-0 defeat to Rotherham United.

Will Vaulk’s second half effort for the play-off finishers was enough to separate the two sides, as Blackpool suffered their first defeat in six.

But the Seasiders performed well and had the chances to get something from the game, but it was that lack of a clinical touch that eluded them.

Despite the defeat, Blackpool finished the season in the top half of the table thanks to Bristol Rovers’ goalless draw at Southend United.

That is quite the achievement for a side that, promoted from League Two last season, were odds on to be relegated straight back to the fourth tier.

Gary Bowyer and his players deserve an enormous amount of credit for not only keeping the club on stable terms, but also giving it a bright future despite the off-the-field problems that continue to beset it.

But now a hugely significant summer awaits the football club as Owen Oyston scrambles to keep control, with Latvian Valeri Belokon and apparent investment groups waiting in the wings.

Bowyer opted to make one change for the game, bringing in Kelvin Mellor for the injured Armand Gnanduillet.

That allowed Nathan Delfouneso to take the striker’s role, with Mellor returning to right wing.

Kyle Vassell also missed out with a hamstring strain that he picked up during the warm-up of last week’s 1-1 draw with Shrewsbury Town.

The game, played in glorious May sunshine, took a while to get going. But when it did, it was the hosts who enjoyed the lion’s share of possession.

The first sight of goal came Rotherham’s way as striker Michael Smith drilled a low ball across the face of goal, seemingly undecided whether to shoot or cross.

Blackpool’s first effort of the game came from Sean Longstaff as he blazed over the bar after surging through the middle of the park.

But we had to wait until 14 minutes for the first genuine chance, which came Rotherham’s way. The ball fell to Josh Emmanuel at the back post but the right back could only curl wastefully over the bar under pressure from Jay Spearing.

Joe Mattock then headed over the bar from Will Vaulks’ clipped free kick, which just evaded Curtis Tilt before falling to the left back at the back post.

The Seasiders were presented with an opportunity to get a shot off at goal when Nathan Delfouneso was fouled just outside the Rotherham box. Sean Longstaff and Jimmy Ryan stood over it, but it was Longstaff who brought a good save out of Marek Rodak after attempting to find the bottom corner.

Ryan Williams missed a golden chance for the hosts when he found himself through on goal, albeit at an angle, only to side foot his shot well wide of goal and out for a throw-in.

Halfway through the opening period, with the tempo beginning to pick up, Blackpool made the unusual tactical change of using Kelvin Mellor - who would normally describe himself as a right back - in attack with Delfouneso returning to the wing.

But that had little effect as the Seasiders continued to struggle, with the ball coming back at them time and time again.

Another chance went begging for the hosts as former Fleetwood Town man David Ball was allowed too much time to cross to Richard Wood, who thankfully toe poked wide at the near post.

Curtis Tilt then produced a wonderful block to deny Michael Smith as the striker looked to shoot on the turn, before Ball failed to get enough contact on a Jon Taylor cross when well placed in front of goal.

For all of Rotherham’s pressure, the Seasiders almost broke the deadlock with five minutes of the first half to go when Viv Solomon-Otabor tried his luck with a curling effort from the edge of the box, which deflected just over and out for a corner.

The second half, much like the first, started at a slow pace with neither side able to gain the upper hand.

But the game soon sprung to life on the hour mark, with Rotherham taking the lead through Will Vaulks. The midfielder was allowed too much time and space to cut back on his right foot before lashing home on his left from the edge of the area, giving Mafoumbi no chance.

But the Seasiders weren’t to be deterred as they almost found an instant equaliser, with Colin Daniel almost finding the bottom corner with a low shot which Rodak was equal to.

Substitute Callum Cooke then unleashed a ferocious dipping effort from 25 yards out which Rodak did superbly to tip over the bar.

Pool continued their positive response to going a goal down as Daniel supplied a teasing cross to Mellor at the back post but he couldn’t quite get on the end of it.

With 25 minutes to go, Bowyer sprung another tactical change as he reverted to a 3-5-2 formation, with Daniel and Turton filling in as wing backs and substitutes Mark Cullen and Dan Agyei leading the line.

The change almost paid dividends on 75 minutes when Clark Robertson flicked the ball on into the path of Nathan Delfouneso and, with only the keeper to beat, he volleyed wide of goal when he really ought to have hit the target.

With just 10 minutes to go, Vaulks thought he had bagged his and his side’s second when he sent a volley heading towards the bottom corner only to see Mafoumbi fly across his goal to tip wide.

The home fans thought it had gone in, as did the club staff who prematurely pressed play on their goal music.

The Seasiders also thought they had scored just a couple of minutes later when Mellor headed towards goal, only to see Rodak claw away his effort from the top corner.

Agyei then fizzed in a drilled effort that somehow missed the far post by a matter of inches, before going close with a similar attempt in injury time.

Agyei then turned provider to pull the ball back to Ollie Turton, but he side footed wide with what was the last action of the game.

Pool had more than enough chances to win the game, never mind draw, but the Millers somehow managed to hold on for the win.

Rotherham: Rodak, Emmanuel, Mattock, Vaulks, Ihiekwe, Wood, Palmer, Williams (Forde), Taylor, Ball (Towell), Smith (Lavery)

Subs not used: Price, Ajayi, Purrington, Yates

Blackpool: Mafoumbi, Turton, Tilt, Robertson, Daniel, Ryan (Cooke), Spearing, Longstaff (Cullen), Mellor, Solomon-Otabor (Agyei), Delfouneso

Subs not used: Williams, Anderton, Clayton, Menga

Referee: Ross Joyce

Attendance: 9.512 (682 Blackpool)