Northampton Town 0-3 Blackpool: Seasiders just need one more point to guarantee play-off spot after coasting to comfortable win
Blackpool just need one more point from their final two games to guarantee their spot in the League One play-offs after beating doomed Northampton Town in comfortable fashion.
A Jerry Yates brace and an early Luke Garbutt strike made it back-to-back wins for the Seasiders, relegating the Cobblers in the process.
With Oxford United and Portsmouth both winning and Charlton Athletic only drawing, the Seasiders remain in fifth, three points ahead of Oxford.
Pool still have two games left to play though, hosting Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday before taking on Joey Barton’s already-relegated Bristol Rovers on the final day.
Oxford, meanwhile, only have one game remaining, while the Addicks can only draw level with the Seasiders, despite also having two games left.
Nevertheless, results elsewhere shouldn’t really matter too much as Blackpool’s destiny remains very much in their own hands.
Pool, who kept their 20th clean sheet of the campaign in their final away game of the regular season, dominated at Sixfields from start to finish, but had to remain patient - eventually getting their reward with two late goals.
Neil Critchley opted to make just one change to the side that claimed a priceless 1-0 win at Sunderland in midweek.
Grant Ward was the man to miss out after picking up a calf injury at the Stadium of Light, with Ellis Simms taking his spot in the side.
Sullay Kaikai was originally due to start despite suffering a hamstring knock against the Black Cats, but he was replaced by Elliot Embleton at the last minute having taken part in the warm-up.
The Seasiders kept faith with three at the back, with Embleton playing slightly further ahead of Kenny Dougall and Ethan Robson in the centre of midfield.
Keshi Anderson returned from a four-month lay-off to be named among the substitutes, having been kept out of action after undergoing surgery on his hamstring in January.
Kevin Sewtart was left out despite making his return from ankle injury on Tuesday.
Bez Lubala is still unavailable due to a ‘club matter’, while Daniel Gretarsson, Matty Virtue, CJ Hamilton and Gary Madine all remain sidelined.
Northampton, who named an unchanged side, knew they had to win unless they would be relegated back to League Two at the first attempt.
The Cobblers almost made the perfect start when they got in down the left a little too easily after Jordan Thorniley had made a hash of his attempted clearance.
Alex Jones delivered a dangerous ball into Pool’s six-yard box but James Husband did well to turn it over the bar and behind.
The Seasiders survived a couple of penalty shouts in quick succession from the game’s first corner, but the home side’s appeals weren’t particularly convincing.
The home side were dealt an early blow when they lost their skipper Joseph Mills to injury following an innocuous challenge with Ollie Turton, who had his eyes on delivering a cross into the Northampton box.
It was an otherwise scrappy start to the game though, with Pool struggling to make much of an attacking impression.
Northampton’s direct, no messing approach, meanwhile, gave the Seasiders plenty to think about, but they weathered the early pressure.
Their reward was the game’s first goal, which was delivered to them in emphatic fashion by Luke Garbutt in the 19th minute.
It came after Jerry Yates was picked out well by Embleton and the striker did superbly to hold up the ball and wait for the run of Garbutt.
The left-back took full advantage of the space ahead of him, but Yates was fouled by his marker, leaving Garbutt with few options in the centre.
Instead, he opted to shoot and what a shot it was, his low, drilled effort flying into the far corner for his fourth goal of the campaign.
The goal was met with delight from the 20 to 30 Blackpool fans housed on the hill behind the goal, who responded with a chant of “Pool are going up”.
A few moments later, Ellis Simms used his power to see off his marker before volleying wide from the edge of the box. It was only a half chance for the Everton loanee, who was off balance and did well to even get a shot off at goal.
Following on from Kaikai’s knock during the warm-up, Pool were dealt another injury blow 10 minutes before half-time when Ethan Robson went down and indicated he couldn’t continue.
Full-back Jordan Gabriel was the man to replace him, which saw Turton move into the centre of the park.
Top scorer Jerry Yates wasted a golden chance to double Blackpool’s lead when he found himself through on goal.
The 20-goal striker bore down on goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell after a long ball down the centre of the pitch deceived a Northampton defender, bouncing over him.
Yates was initially caught in two minds and considered lopping the onrushing Mitchell, but he ended up opting to fire it low towards goal, where he was denied by a smart save.
Due to the sheer number of stoppages with players from both sides going down injured, the fourth official indicated for six minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first-half.
In the fourth minute, space opened up nicely for Garbutt on the edge of the box but, with Ellis Simms in space to the left of him, the wing-back opted to shoot, but the ball bobbled up off the hard pitch and his shot flew over the bar.
The home side were a little fortunate to end the half with 11 men after Peter Kioso was only shown a yellow following an aerial collision with Husband, who appeared to take an elbow to the face.
The Cobblers, who were a little reserved in the opening half despite knowing they simply had to win to stay up, made a double change at the break.
Pool were almost pegged back after momentarily switching off, Sam Hoskins acrobatically volleying over after Kioso’s cross had looped up from a block.
At the other end, the Seasiders came within a whisker of adding a second when Dan Ballard’s header from Garbutt’s corner was cleared off the line.
Embleton then saw a close-range piledriver deflect wide, before Turton headed off target from the resulting corner.
Northampton began to cause a few more problems for the Seasiders, with Hoskins seeing his shot from the edge of the box deflect off substitute Jordan Gabriel and up towards goal, where Chris Maxwell took no chances and palmed the ball over his bar.
Nevertheless, the chances continued to come Blackpool’s way, even Kenny Dougall getting in on the act with an accurate low effort.
His bullet appeared to be creeping into the bottom corner, much like Garbutt’s goal, but Mitchell somehow managed to fling himself across goal to make the save.
Three minutes later, Mitchell could only palm Embleton’s stinging cross back out into the six-yard box but no Pool player was there to take advantage, otherwise it would have been a simple tap-in into the back of the empty net.
A third chance of the game came the way of Garbutt after being teed up by Embleton on the edge of the box, but he dragged his low shot wide.
Critchley’s men remained dominant, but they were lacking that second goal to put the game to bed for good and calm their nerves heading into the final 15 minutes.
Thankfully, those nerves were well and truly calmed when Yates deservedly doubled Blackpool’s lead.
It was the easiest goal of the season for the striker, who tapped home after Mitchell had fumbled Simms’ shot into Yates’ path.
Soon after the goal, the Seasiders handed a return to Marvin Ekpiteta, who came off the bench for his first outing since February to replace the booked Husband.
Pool almost added a third in the 84th minute, but Mitchell pulled off a smart save to deny Ellis Simms’ powerful effort.
The third finally arrived two minutes later, when Yates tapped home again after Garbutt’s fourth good chance of the game had been blocked into the striker’s path.
Yates was immediately taken off and preserved for the final two games and replaced by Demetri Mitchell. Brad Holes and the returning Keshi Anderson, making a cameo for the first time since January 2, also came on, as Embleton and Simms made way.
Pool could have made even more comfortable for themselves late on with chances on the break, but they coasted home to all-but secure their play-off spot.
Northampton: Mitchell, Horsfall, Miller (Marshall), Kioso, McWilliams (Rose), Morris, Mills (Harriman), L. Jones, Watson (Chukwuemeka), A. Jones (Edmondson), Hoskins
Subs not used: Bolger, Woods
Blackpool: Maxwell, Ballard, Thorniley, Husband (Ekpiteta), Turton, Garbutt, Dougall, Robson (Gabriel), Embleton (Anderson), Simms (Holmes), Yates (Mitchell)
Subs not used: Moore, Shaw
Referee: Peter Wright
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