Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' bore draw at Stadium MK.
Blackpool edge another point closer to safety
Blackpool’s run of one defeat from their last nine games means they are now within touching distance of confirming their League One status for next season. While there have been just three wins in that spell, there’s also been enough draws in there - five to be exact - for them to stretch the gap to the bottom four to seven points. With just eight games to play, the Seasiders will surely only need another win or two to ensure safety. Had Gary Bowyer been offered that at the start of the season, and taking into account all that has happened since, I’m sure he would have taken it. Speak to the club’s underfire owner Owen Oyston and he will tell you with a worrying amount of confidence that his daughter Natalie Christopher has had a lot to do with the club’s upturn in form. The club’s new chairwoman has apparently been a “breath of fresh air”, creating a “positive environment” among the manager and players. But those farcical comments should be treated with the contempt they deserve. Instead, Gary Bowyer and his players are the ones who deserve the praise.
Lumley was absolutely fabulous - again
There was one man in particular who warranted the credit on Saturday and that was Blackpool goalkeeper Joe Lumley. The 23-year-old played a starring role for Blackpool as they battled their way to a 0-0 draw at MK Dons - an underwhelming result but one that keeps their points tally ticking over. That’s all you can ask for between now and the end of the season as the Seasiders look to maintain their current mid-table position. Lumley just exudes confidence, claiming high ball after high ball to relieve the pressure on the defenders in front of him. He must be brilliant to play in front of. But not only that, he made a string of fine saves to earn his sixth clean sheet for the Seasiders. That’s some record seeing as he’s only played 12 times since joining Blackpool in January. It was also a joy to listen to Lumley speak post-match. He talks just like he plays - with conviction and confidence. There was a moment towards the end of the game where he came for a high ball only to spill the cross, almost allowing MK to snatch a late winner. His reaction? 'That's what I do, I've been taught to come for crosses because of my height. I won't claim every one but it won't stop me coming for the next one'. What a refreshing attitude that is. If Pool can hold onto the on-loan QPR man for next season, that would be quite the coup.
Centre backs continued their fine form
Lumley’s presence has clearly been a major factor in Blackpool’s climb up the league table, but he’s not done it on his own. The two players in front of him, centre backs Curtis Tilt and Clark Robertson, have been superb in recent weeks and on Saturday they delivered another sturdy display at Stadium MK. They had their hands full with the powerful and in-form striker Chuks Aneke, and at times it’s fair to say they struggled. On a couple of occasions Aneke used his physicality to turn Tilt inside the Blackpool box but Lumley came to the rescue on both occasions. But there’s no shame in that, he would pose a challenge for any defender in League One. But Tilt and Robertson ploughed on regardless and battled admirably to earn a vital clean sheet. At times it was a case of putting their bodies on line to produce some last-ditch blocks and tackles, but that's what you've got to do at times to battle your way to results in this division.
Seasiders surprisingly impotent in attack
At the other end of the pitch, it’s fair to say Blackpool struggled as they only managed to produce one shot on target. It was a strange game in the fact Pool were pretty average, yet arguably produced the two clearest chances of the game. Viv Solomon-Otabor had the first, as he blazed over from close range, while the second fell to substitute Sean Longstaff in the final minute as he hit the crossbar from close range. In between those chances, the Seasiders struggled to get out of their own half and Kyle Vassell was left isolated up top on his own. With no one around him, there were no teammates to provide support and as a consequence the striker failed to hold the ball up. The only time they looked dangerous was when Solomon-Otabor broke at speed on the counter. To MK’s credit, they retained possession well and were a good side for two-thirds of the pitch. But that final third, Blackpool’s box, is where they lacked any quality and Blackpool were thankful for that. Pool weathered a late storm where MK knew they had to throw numbers forward in a desperate attempt to pick up the three points. They remain in the bottom four and only wins will do. But Blackpool kept them at bay and almost snatched it at the death, which would have been the ultimate insult for the home side.
Longstaff has to start
Sean Longstaff, who found himself dropped to the bench for this game, came on with 25 minutes to go and unsurprisingly, he made an impact. But we had to wait until the final minute of normal time for a chance to fall his way – but boy, what a chance it was. As he had done so often on Saturday, Solomon-Otabor skipped past his marker with ease before reaching the byline where he pulled the ball back for Longstaff who smashed his effort against the underside of the crossbar. It was a carbon copy of his effort against Southend United last week, where the midfielder also arrived late in the box to reach a Solomon-Otabor cross before firing against the woodwork. It would have been a smash-and-grab win to end all smash-and-grab wins, but Blackpool would have taken it. But, in the grand scheme of things, it shouldn’t matter too much. For Longstaff, he's only got eight games remaining at Bloomfield Road before he returns to his parent club Newcastle United. I understand the need for a breather, all young players do at certain points in the season. But it didn't work with Danny Philliskirk in the number 10 role and Nathan Delfouneso, the player to come in for Longstaff, was underwhelming over on the right-hand side. Given the threat Longstaff poses in and around opposition boxes, he has to start every game between now and the end of the season - fitness permitting.