OPINION: Blackpool face their first real test with the visit of Oxford United

The last time Blackpool started a campaign with three straight victories in the league was back during the 2012/13 Championship season.

Friday, 16th August 2019, 11:00 am
Blackpool will be hoping to celebrate again on Saturday after seeing off Bristol Rovers and Southend United

It didn’t result in anything particularly memorable happening on the pitch, the Seasiders finishing in mid-table obscurity, but of course, Blackpool being Blackpool, there was plenty to talk about off it.

Ian Holloway packed his bags and went down south to take the Crystal Palace job, his replacement Michael Appleton lasted a couple of months and Pool ended the season with Paul Ince as gaffer and his son Tom as the top scorer.

Many supporters will have fond memories of the third win in that mini-run of victories, Ince scoring twice in the 6-0 thrashing of Ipswich Town.

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There were 14,200 fans inside Bloomfield Road that day and, while I highly doubt that many will attend this weekend’s game against Oxford United, a similar margin of victory would certainly do nicely.

In all seriousness, a scrappy, hard-fought 1-0 win will do the trick to maintain Blackpool’s perfect start to the new season and the Simon Sadler era.

It won’t be easy though, Oxford promise to provide the sternest test Simon Grayson’s men will have faced to date – although that’s not exactly saying much given how toothless both Bristol Rovers and Southend United were.

But let’s give due credit to the Seasiders, who swatted both teams aside with relative ease to put themselves on top of the table with two games played.

Oxford make the long journey up to the north west on the back of two impressive results against two of the league’s promotion favourites.

They earned a creditable 1-1 draw against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on the opening day before grinding out a 1-0 win against Peterborough United last weekend.

Despite a slow start to the summer, Karl Robinson has recruited well, somehow managing to persuade Liverpool to loan out their highly-rated attacking midfielder Ben Woodburn.

The 19-year-old, who has already earned 10 caps for Wales and has featured for Liverpool’s first team, is a player that should outshine most others at this level with his quality on the ball.

The U’s have also brought in Tariqe Fosu, an exciting winger who did well at Charlton Athletic last season, and a striker Pool fans will recognise in Burnley loanee Dan Agyei.

Oxford finished in 12th position in League One last season but have the capability to cut that gap to the top six.

Indeed, if you pay any attention to bookies’ odds, you can find Oxford at a similar price for promotion as the Seasiders.

I’d expect it to be an entertaining watch, both sides will look to get the ball down and play an attractive brand of football.

We know from watching Pool so far this season that’s exactly how they intend to play, and having seen plenty of Robinson’s sides in the past, I expect Oxford to do similar on Saturday too.

There’s certainly no excuse for the Seasiders not to keep the ball on the deck, with the pitch looking in pristine condition.

The surface looked tip-top for the season opener against Bristol Rovers but somehow the grounds team managed to improve further for the midweek Carabao Cup tie against Macclesfield Town. It looked like a carpet.

Speaking of the cup defeat, I hope there isn’t too much of a knee-jerk reaction to what was an unfortunate loss.

Yes, Blackpool were trailing as the game entered stoppage time but let’s not forget they were utterly dominant throughout. Macclesfield won’t get a more fortunate victory all season, even if it did end up coming via a penalty shootout.

Sol Campbell’s men deserve credit for holding in there and providing a solid rearguard display, but had they been beaten 5-1, I don’t think it would have been anything too untoward.

For those that didn’t go, that might sound a little over the top.

But Pool produced 27 attempts to Macclesfield’s five and both of the opposing side’s goals came directly from mistakes.

One of those mistakes came from skipper Jay Spearing, who hobbled off the pitch late on with a shoulder injury.

Fingers crossed that both he and Joe Nuttall, who was left out after injuring his calf in training, will be fit and raring to go for this weekend’s test.