Matt Scrafton column: Perfect time for Blackpool to bury Shrewsbury Town hoodoo

It was only a matter of time until Blackpool’s unbeaten run came to an end – but not many of us would have expected Rochdale to be the side that broke it.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 12:30 pm

It’s a fantastic achievement to avoid defeat for 16 games, especially in League One where the margins between wins and losses are so fine.

Achievement is probably the wrong term to use though, as Blackpool haven’t achieved anything yet – other than putting themselves in a strong position with five games to go.

While Tuesday night’s setback at Spotland was a disappointing one, we shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

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Blackpool lost at Shrewsbury Town in their final game of 2020

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Neil Critchley on the chances of handing further game time to Blackpool's Brad H...

The Seasiders still have a decent buffer to Oxford United and Portsmouth and the chances are they’re probably only a win or two away from sealing their spot in the top six.

I have to say, the reaction to the Rochdale defeat was a little over the top, but perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised given the age we live in with social media and fan message boards analysing and critiquing everything to the nth degree.

That isn’t to say Blackpool should have escaped scrutiny because they were lackadaisical and out of sorts on Tuesday night.

As I wrote earlier in the week, it was a bit of a nothing game.

The two sides cancelled each other out and 0-0 probably would have been the fairest result but well done to Rochdale, they took their chance when it came and three points in their bid to avoid the drop.

As for Neil Critchley’s side, they must regroup and refocus to ensure one defeat doesn’t become back-to-back losses when they take on their bogey side Shrewsbury Town on Saturday.

Blackpool haven’t tamed the Shrews since 1997, when they claimed a 3-1 victory at Gay Meadow.

Since then, they’ve suffered nine defeats from the subsequent 12 games between the two sides.

The nagging concern ahead of this weekend’s encounter is Blackpool generally tend to struggle a little bit against sides like Shrewsbury and Rochdale.

If teams set up to stop Blackpool first and foremost, they’ve often been wanting this season as we saw on Tuesday.

Shrewsbury, like Rochdale, have played a lot of football in a 3-5-2 system this term which, again, is something they’ve struggled against.

It often sees them outnumbered in the middle of the park, so don’t be surprised if Critchley switches things up a little bit tomorrow.

If I was a guessing man – and that’s all it would be because Critchley regularly springs surprises – I could see Elliot Embleton being brought into a more central position, playing in a number 10 role where he’s more likely to get into the gaps and see more of the ball.

Otherwise, the Sunderland loanee – who can’t play against his parent club again when Pool make the trip to the Stadium of Light on Tuesday – is fairly ineffective over on the right flank, even when he looks to cut inside.

Sides like Rochdale and Shrewsbury sit so deep in their defensive block that there’s just no room for creative players to get on the ball.

When that happens, it’s down to Pool to move the opposition out of their settled positions and move the ball with purpose, urgency and intent, something they failed to do during their defeat against Dale.

It’s vital we keep perspective though.

Tuesday night’s defeat was Blackpool’s first in 17 games, having avoided a setback since the 2-0 loss at Ipswich Town on February 6. It was only a fifth defeat from their last 32 league games.

The Seasiders are still motoring well and heading in the right direction.

More often than not, they’ve found answers and solutions to the problems I mention. Now they’ve just got to do it again.

While it’s true that Pool have often struggled against sides below them in the table, as I’ve already alluded to, you still have to remain pretty confident that they’ll churn out four or five points from their remaining games.

Starting against Shrewsbury this weekend, Pool face three teams who are down at the wrong end of the table between now and the end of the season, with Northampton Town and Bristol Rovers also to come.

Sunderland away will obviously be a tricky one but Doncaster Rovers at home in their penultimate game of the campaign is one they should be confident of winning.

Donny haven’t looked like the same side since losing Ben Whiteman in January, which was quickly followed by the exit of former manager Darren Moore.

They find themselves in the bottom half and the chances are they’ll have nothing to play for when they make the trip across the Pennines to Bloomfield Road.

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