Matt Scrafton column: Blackpool's promising signs ahead of reunion with Simon Grayson

Because of Blackpool’s games in hand, it’s difficult to get a true reflection of the league table at this moment in time.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Friday, 12th March 2021, 12:44 pm

Neil Critchley’s side, who are unbeaten in their last six and have lost just one in 10, now sit 11th, four points off the play-offs having played three games fewer than sixth-placed Portsmouth.

Ultimately, that’s the only table that matters but it is interesting to note how league placings look on average points-per-game (PPG): a term we’ve all become accustomed to reading and hearing ever since coronavirus struck and last season’s campaign was curtailed.

The PPG method simply takes the total points scored by each team and divides it by the number of games played.

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Neil Critch;ey's first game as Blackpool boss was against Fleetwood Town last year

Intriguingly, Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory against MK Dons saw Blackpool climb into the top six in the PPG table for the first time this season.

That basically means, should the Seasiders continue in a similar vein to how they’ve fared so far this season, they should – all being well – find themselves in a play-off position once they have played their games in hand.

Of course, this doesn’t take into account a drop in form or any other factors, so the method clearly isn’t foolproof but it gives us an interesting indication of where Critchley’s side are at right now.

Blackpool were at a stage a couple of weeks ago where they needed to win all of their games in hand just to haul themselves back into the mix. That isn’t necessarily the case anymore, they’re in the mix already.

Because of their recent form, the men in tangerine have now given themselves a little bit of breathing space.

Obviously they won’t be taking this approach, but they could even afford to lose one, perhaps even two, of their three games in hand and still be right on the cusp of the play-off spots.

On the flip side, and thinking more positively, should the Seasiders win all three games, they’ll be looking at the top four – but hey, let’s not get too carried away.

As I’ve written previously though, this isn’t just a good patch of form for Blackpool, this is a prolonged spell of encouraging results that stretch back five months or so.

Since losing six of their opening nine games, Critchley’s side have only been defeated a further four times in their subsequent 21 games. That’s promotion form.

That’s why the PPG table is an interesting one.

If Pool can continue to win on a pretty consistent basis as they’re currently doing, draw the odd game here and there and only lose one in five, as they’ve done since the end of October, then a spot in the play-offs is there for the taking.

It’s fascinating that Blackpool continue to perform so well in terms of results and yet the return to winning ways at Stadium:MK on Tuesday night seemed to be fairly lukewarm.

Granted, the Seasiders weren’t at their best and it wasn’t the most entertaining of spectacles, but at this point of the season it’s about grinding out results and Critchley’s side are currently doing that.

Those concerned with Blackpool’s performance levels might suggest the recent displays may come back to haunt them between now and the end of the season. We’ll simply have to wait and see.

The Seasiders are incredibly tough to beat. Yes, they don’t score many but they don’t concede many at all.

In fact, they boast the league’s second best defence having shipped just 28 goals in 30 games.

That results in tight affairs and, early on in the campaign, those encounters were going against Pool – but from November onwards, that has been turned on its head.

The Seasiders are 11 points better off this season than they were at this point last term, which brings me onto this weekend’s opponents.

Simon Grayson and his deputy David Dunn make their returns to Bloomfield Road on Saturday for the second and final Fylde coast league clash of the season.

‘Larry’ has Fleetwood Town in good form themselves, having made it three wins on the spin in midweek against Gillingham.

It’ll be interesting to see how Grayson approaches this one, given the manner in which his second spell with the Seasiders ended in February 2020.

He was clearly unhappy with his sacking, despite having overseen a dismal run of results that saw Pool plummet from the play-offs to lower mid-table.

I’m sure Grayson will have plenty of motivation to try and prove a point to Simon Sadler and co, which adds an extra layer of spice to what is already a tasty match-up.

It’s just a shame there won’t be any Blackpool and Fleetwood supporters there to witness it.

On the topic of former Seasiders, it isn’t surprising to see Kyle Vassell rediscovering his scoring form at Highbury in his loan spell from Rotherham United.

The striker, who has scored in back-to-back games, was a big player for Blackpool during his time at Bloomfield Road.

If he hadn’t endured such bad luck with injuries, there’s no doubting the 28-year-old would be playing his football higher up the pyramid on a far more regular basis.

It will be great to see ‘Vass’ back, but let’s hope he goes home empty-handed on this occasion.

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