Matt Scrafton column: Blackpool face some key matches at this stage of the season

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Blackpool are now entering a crucial period of games with their next three fixtures coming against sides currently sitting in the top eight in League One.

I can’t help but feel the Seasiders are approaching something of a crossroads in their season.

Sitting seven points off the play-offs with two games in hand, they’ve still got everything to play for.

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Come through these next batch of games with a decent points haul and Neil Critchley’s men will be right in the mix with games in hand still to play.

Keshi Anderson scores the only goal in Blackpool's win against Portsmouth in DecemberKeshi Anderson scores the only goal in Blackpool's win against Portsmouth in December
Keshi Anderson scores the only goal in Blackpool's win against Portsmouth in December

Conversely, were they to suffer another bad patch, the risk is they’ll have too much to do to catch up those sides above them in the league table.

It does seem ridiculous that we’re only a week-and-a-bit away from March and yet Blackpool have only played 25 of their 46 league games.

The frustrating thing is that, since the defeat against AFC Wimbledon at the end of October – a game in which they almost snatched a point despite finishing with nine men – the Seasiders have, by and large, remained pretty consistent.

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If Blackpool miss out on the play-offs, the likelihood is it will be their disastrous start to the campaign, where they lost six of their opening nine games, that will be their undoing rather than anything else.

Without wanting to jinx it, the chances of enduring another run such as that seems rather unlikely.

Since losing to Wimbledon, Critchley’s side have won 12 games in all competitions.

During that spell, they have drawn five and lost five, with one of those defeats coming in the FA Cup against top flight side Brighton and Hove Albion.

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Boasting a win rate of 54 per cent, that’s a record that, if sustained throughout a 46-game season, will traditionally see you finish in the play-off positions.

Of course, I’m well aware that’s only a snapshot of Blackpool’s season and all clubs could group together a selection of fixtures and use those statistics in their favour.

The figures are interesting because it shows that, if Blackpool are able to maintain similar form between now and the end of the season, then they’re certainly in with a shout.

On paper, Blackpool might have some daunting games coming up but they shouldn’t be overawed.

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Take this weekend’s game for instance. The Seasiders have already beaten Portsmouth once this season and will be looking to complete an impressive double over Kenny Jackett’s side.

Speaking of Jackett, he won’t be in the dugout on this occasion as he’s temporarily stood down for health reasons.

His absence has already been felt with Pompey slumping to a surprise 3-1 defeat to managerless Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night.

Nevertheless, Jackett’s side remain in the hunt for automatic promotion and are only four points off the top two.

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Blackpool tend to perform well against the better sides and there’s no reason why they can’t go to Fratton Park and claim a fourth win from their last five games.

Next up in that run is Doncaster Rovers, who are suffering a little bit of a wobble with three straight defeats against Fleetwood Town, Sunderland and Accrington Stanley, conceding eight goals in the process.

Again, Darren Moore’s side are handily placed in fifth place with games in hand on the top two, but are they the same side they were a month ago?

They lost their star man Ben Whiteman to Preston North End during the January transfer window.

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As Blackpool found out at the Keepmoat Stadium earlier in the season, he was absolutely integral to the way they play, linking things up from defence to attack and picking out those pinpoint passes.

While Donny came out on top in the first fixture between the two sides, they were a little fortunate to do so.

Blackpool were certainly kicking themselves come full-time, having squandered a deserved two-goal lead at half-time.

As for Charlton Athletic, they’re another side that claimed all three points back in October.

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There were extenuating circumstances though, the Seasiders having to play 89 minutes with 10 men following James Husband’s red card in the first minute.

Even then, the Addicks – who admittedly looked strong on the night – took until the 83rd minute to find their winning goal.

They have dropped off a little since then and now sit nine points off the automatic promotion places, which is surprising given they only dropped down from the Championship last season.

Lee Bowyer’s side have only won three of their last 12 games in League One, which goes some way to explain their recent malaise.

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So yes, these next three matches are difficult but, dig a little deeper, and you’ll see why there are still grounds for confidence.

If Blackpool are going to haul themselves back up the league table from their current position of 14th, they’re going to need a bit of luck with injuries.

Hopefully Gary Madine returns at Fratton Park this weekend, but it looks like Marvin Ekpiteta will now be absent with a hamstring injury.

Fingers crossed Daniel Gretarsson and CJ Hamilton aren’t a million miles away from a return.

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They could still play an important role for the Seasiders in the remaining 21 games.

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