MK Dons 0-1 Blackpool: Jerry Yates scores his 14th goal of the season as Seasiders avoid a third late setback
Jerry Yates scored his 14th goal of the season as Blackpool secured a vital win against MK Dons.
The striker’s composed first-half effort was the difference between the two sides in a tight, cagey affair in Buckinghamshire.
Having suffered two late setbacks on home turf, the Seasiders bounced back in the perfect fashion to give their play-off challenge a huge shot in the arm.
Neil Critchley’s side, who remained solid and organised throughout, are now unbeaten in their last six and have lost just one of their last 10 league games.
They’ve also won their last three away games.
On the back of conceding so late on against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, Neil Critchley opted to freshen things up by making four changes.
Jordan Thorniley was replaced by Luke Garbutt, which saw James Husband shift over from left-back into the centre of defence.
Elsewhere, Saturday’s goalscorer Ellis Simms was given a breather, dropping down to the bench as the Seasiders reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
This saw Sunderland loanee Elliot Embleton come into the side to play in a number 10 role behind lone striker Jerry Yates with Grant Ward and Sullay Kaikai on the flanks either side of him.
Demetri Mitchell and CJ Hamilton were the two to make way for Ward and Kaikai, while Daniel Gretarsson, Marvin Ekpiteta, Keshi Anderson and Gary Madine all remain sidelined.
The home side, keen to impress after losing 3-0 to relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic on Saturday, got off to the brighter start.
Russell Martin’s men ought to have edged ahead as early as the eighth minute, when James Husband was required to make a vital, last-ditch block to deny Cameron Jerome.
MK Dons worked the ball back into the danger area from the left flank, the ball falling nicely for Ethan Laird just six yards out from goal, but he somehow managed to blaze over Chris Maxwell’s crossbar.
Blackpool’s continued to look lethargic early on, lacking snap and intensity to their play, while Yates lacked support at the top end of the pitch.
MK, a side that like to build from deep, were given too much time and space to launch their attacks, with Pool failing to get in their faces and make life difficult for their opponents.
While MK were winning the tactical battle and getting into some good positions, the game was relatively dull and Maxwell was, by and large, relatively untroubled in goal.
The one time Blackpool did press from the front, it paid dividends 12 minutes before the interval.
Sullay Kaikai forced a mistake from Harry Darling, who was looking to play the ball out from the back, allowing Yates to go through on goal one-on-one.
The striker showed impressive composure to round goalkeeper Andrew Fisher to roll the ball home into the empty net for his 14th goal of the campaign.
Having been second best for the majority of the half, Blackpool almost doubled their lead within six minutes of breaking the deadlock.
Yates was adamant he ought to have been awarded a penalty when he was dragged to ground inside the box, before Ollie Turton headed agonisingly over from the resulting corner.
While the visitors were in the ascendancy after their goal, closing down with more pace and intensity, they relied on some sterling defensive work from Grant Ward to sniff out an MK counter after the home side had broken well from a Blackpool corner.
Blackpool and Yates had a second strong penalty appeal waved away 10 minutes into the second-half when the striker was hauled to the ground inside the box as he looked to meet Ward’s cross from the right.
The referee waved away the protests though with an emphatic wave of the arms.
For all of MK’s tidy play, they struggled to create any clear-cut chances as the Seasiders did well to keep them at arm’s length.
Substitute Will Grigg, who was briefly linked with a move to Bloomfield Road under the management of Simon Grayson, headed wide for the hosts from Laird’s right-wing cross.
That came a moment after Embleton had volleyed an ambitious effort two or three yards over the bar from 25 yards out.
With Pool still holding a slender one-goal lead, Critchley opted to freshen things up with just over 20 minutes remaining when he made a double change.
Demetri Mitchell and CJ Hamilton were brought on for their pace on the counter, while Kaikai and Embleton were the two to make way, as Pool lined up in a 4-1-4-1 system, Kevin Stewart the man to sit deep.
The Seasiders were given a major let-off on 70 minutes when former Premier League striker Cameron Jerome hit the crossbar.
The striker did well to let the ball roll past him after being fed by Scott Fraser before clipping the ball over the onrushing Maxwell, only to see his effort clip the underside of the woodwork and away to safety.
Husband continued to look solid as a rock in the centre of defence, getting back to make another vital block to clear Grigg’s dangerous cross into the six-yard box.
Blackpool had a chance to put the game to bed 12 minutes from time when Hamilton capitalised on some hesitancy in MK Dons’ backline, but was thwarted by Fisher as he burst through on goal.
With the Seasiders aiming to avoid a late setback for the third game running, Critchley was constantly at his players from the touchline in the dying stages - rollicking Hamilton after the winger failed to hold the ball up before substitute Kenny Dougall also got an earful for giving the ball away in the middle of the park.
On this occasion, Blackpool pressed high from the front and refused to sit back and defend, with Critchley continuing to bark orders from the touchline.
It paid off, as Blackpool held on for a vital victory.
MK Dons: Fisher, Lewington, Darling, Laird, O’Hora, Surman (Grigg), O’Riley, Sorinola, McEachran (Thompson), Fraser (Brown), Jerome
Subs not used: Nicholls, Jules, Harvie, Mason
Blackpool: Maxwell, Turton, Ballard, Husband, Garbutt, Stewart, Virtue (Dougall), Ward, Embleton (Hamilton), Kaikai (Mitchell), Yates
Subs not used: Moore, Gabriel, Thorniley, Simms
Referee: Lee Swabey
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