Match verdict: Team spirit on show as Blackpool defy striker woes to produce inspirational comeback

Blackpool's players celebrate Curtis Tilt's late winner
Blackpool's players celebrate Curtis Tilt's late winner

If Blackpool had a striker capable of sticking the ball in the back of the net on a regular basis, they’d be in with a shout of a play-off spot in League One.

MATCH REPORT: Blackpool 3-2 Bradford City

Terry McPhillips with new Bradford boss David Hopkin before the game

Terry McPhillips with new Bradford boss David Hopkin before the game

It’s some statement, I admit, but I stick by it. This is a very good side put together by Gary Bowyer and Terry McPhillips and they’ve got all the ingredients required for success.

As it is, that last remaining piece of the jigsaw is currently eluding them and it might end up being their downfall.

Fortunately it didn’t cost them against Bradford, although they weren’t far away from suffering what would have been an unwarranted defeat. Six minutes away, in fact.

Bradford’s record at Bloomfield Road is a poor one, having won just four times from their 26 visits. Last year, it was another five-goal thriller - although that time they all came Blackpool’s way as Nathan Delfouneso bagged a hat-trick.

Marc Bola was in impressive form at left back

Marc Bola was in impressive form at left back

This time, the two sides shared the goals but once again, it was the Seasiders who edged it. Quite rightly too. But no one could have predicted how the game would have unfolded.

Barring a crazy five-minute spell, Blackpool were the better side, let’s have it right. Bradford barely made an attempt to attack Blackpool and when they did venture into their box, it was normally as a result of a mistake or slip-up from the home side. On this evidence, new Bradford manager David Hopkin has a big job on his hands, especially seeing as after the game he thought their performance was “magnificent”.

It was one-way traffic from Blackpool as they dominated possession and continued to pepper the Bradford goal, but it was to no avail as chances came and went.

Eventually, they were made to pay for their wastefulness as Bradford were gifted a penalty on the hour mark after Curtis Tilt rashly brought down former Seasider Kelvin Mellor. Bradford had offered nothing yet found themselves a goal up as Eoin Doyle stuck the spot kick away.

Jay Spearing scores his first goal in a Blackpool shirt to reduce the arrears

Jay Spearing scores his first goal in a Blackpool shirt to reduce the arrears

Five minutes later, their lead was doubled as some hesitant Blackpool defending allowed Jack Payne - the only Bradford player who looked capable of posing a threat - to slip a shot in between Donervon Daniels’ legs and into the far corner of Mark Howard’s net. Blackpool were shell-shocked.

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It looked as though it was just going to be one of those days for Blackpool, especially when Jordan Thompson and Daniels both saw close-range efforts cleared off the line with 10 minutes to go. But that’s when the madness started.

On 84 minutes, Bradford failed to deal with a routine long ball down the field from Howard and they allowed the ball to bounce inside the box. Substitute Armand Gnanduillet beat goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell to the ball and received a clattering in the process. Blackpool were awarded a penalty, which Jay Spearing converted to bag his first goal in a tangerine shirt.

Jay Spearing gets Blackpool back on level terms after netting his second

Jay Spearing gets Blackpool back on level terms after netting his second

Four minutes later, referee Simon Hooper awarded another penalty for Pool and the third of the game when Tilt was tripped in the box. Spearing opted to go the same direction but O’Donnell guessed right and made the save, but Spearing reacted quickest to convert the rebound. Comeback complete, surely?

But Blackpool had other ideas. Tilt, who had decided to throw himself up front after Spearing had pulled it back to 2-1, tapped home into an empty net after O’Donnell had spilled a cross into his path to send Bloomfield Road into pandemonium. Maybe Tilt is the answer to Pool’s striking crisis? I jest.

But on the balance of play and judging by the number of chances created, Bradford could not have complained had Blackpool won 3-0.

As satisfying as the comeback was, it doesn’t hide the fact Pool are still short on quality in the forward department. They can’t rely on being awarded two penalties and capitalising on a goalkeeping errors every week.

But what they can rely on is their team spirit, their character, desire and determination. It’s clear these players are playing for Terry McPhillips who, having now taken charge of nine games, has lost just once.

There’s quality in that squad, too. Jay Spearing has started the season superbly and almost looks a dead-cert for the Player of the Season award. Jordan Thompson once again impressed alongside him, bringing quality from set pieces, while Marc Bola and Ollie Turton were impressive in the full-back positions. Liam Feeney and Nathan Delfouneso were a threat from the wings.

Curtis Tilt is mobbed after scoring a last-minute winner

Curtis Tilt is mobbed after scoring a last-minute winner

The likes of Paudie O’Connor, Callum Guy, Chris Taylor, Jimmy Ryan and Joe Dodoo weren’t even in the squad on Saturday. So away from the forward department, there’s certainly strength in depth.

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I’m not sure Steve Davies is going to be the answer up front, but the Seasiders are desperately lacking a third option to compete with Mark Cullen and Armand Gnanduillet.

The former cut a frustrated figure against Bradford. He spent most of the game with his back to goal, which doesn’t really suit his game, and he barely saw a sniff of goalscoring opportunities, instead resorting to conceding needless fouls.

Gnanduillet, meanwhile, did well off the bench and used his size and strength to his advantage - winning the first of Pool’s two penalties.

But can he be relied upon to start every game? I’d argue not. The stats would back me up, too, seeing as he only scored five goals in 31 games last season and six in 27 the previous year.

It’s a problem that can’t be ignored but Blackpool deserve nothing but credit for the performances they have produced so far this season.

They’ve been in every game - even the 2-1 reversal to Portsmouth - and they should have beaten Walsall and Accrington Stanley.

Terry McPhillips celebrates at the full-time whistle

Terry McPhillips celebrates at the full-time whistle