OPINION: Blackpool’s welcome headache going into a difficult month
Last weekend we expected Blackpool’s clash against Portsmouth to be the sternest test they have faced so far this season – and that turned out to be very much correct.
But two unbeaten sides collide at Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s ground this weekend when the Seasiders take on homeless Coventry City.
The two teams boast identical records, with three wins and three draws from their opening six encounters.
Indeed, the goals scored column is identical, too, with the two sides only separated by the virtue of Blackpool only conceding one fewer goal.
Simon Grayson said last week, for the visit of Pompey, he would remain satisfied should his side’s unbeaten record remain intact by 5pm on Saturday. I’d imagine that will be the case once again this weekend.
I don’t envy Grayson having to pick the starting line-up, because there’s a group of 14 or 15 players that all merit a place in the side.
With Jordan Thompson away on international duty, that offers an opportunity for Callum Guy or Matty Virtue to stake a claim in his absence.
Calum Macdonald did his chances no harm whatsoever in Tuesday night’s demolition of Morecambe in the EFL Trophy, when he made his Seasiders’ debut.
The 21-year-old was accomplished on the ball, neat in possession and prepared to bomb up and down the left-hand flank all night.
James Husband has certainly got a fight on his hands to keep hold of that starting berth and you can imagine the two will regularly chop and change throughout the campaign depending on fitness and form.
It seems just a matter of time until Ben Heneghan reclaims his spot in the centre of defence that he held down so emphatically last season.
But who makes way in the back three? Ryan Edwards, while a little under-par against Portsmouth last weekend, has enjoyed an impressive start to the campaign and can count himself highly unfortunate were he to be dropped.
Ollie Turton is another one that could feel hard done by were he to start on the bench at St Andrew’s and, to be fair, I don’t expect that to happen.
If Nathan Delfouneso returns to full fitness, which is on the cards, does he come straight back into the side? So many questions.
The only players you’d say who have a starting spot nailed down are the likes of Jak Alnwick, Curtis Tilt, Liam Feeney, Jay Spearing, Sullay Kaikai and Armand Gnanduillet.
The player to have received the highest average match rating from yours truly so far this season is Tilt.
But you’d have to say Feeney has been the most eye-catching performer, producing an impressive five assists in his opening eight games in all competitions.
While I don’t have the stats to hand, I don’t think Feeney managed three assists all season, while failing to score in 42 appearances.
But the 32-year-old looks a completely rejuvenated player and it’s almost as if he’s a different footballer to the one we witnessed last term.
Every time Feeney receives the ball on the right-hand flank, where he is normally seen hugging the touchline, he looks to get the ball out of his feet and whip in crosses to the likes of Armand Gnanduillet in the centre. More often than not he finds him, too.
It’s a simple tactic, which is very much being encouraged by Grayson, but it’s clearly an effective one.
With August done and dusted, Pool coming through the hectic opening month with flying colours, the Seasiders now enter a really tricky period of games.
MK Dons, Doncaster Rovers, Accrington Stanley, Lincoln City and a re-energised Bolton Wanderers will provide the opposition after this weekend’s clash against Coventry.
Should Grayson’s men remain in and around the top three or four in the League One table come the end of the month, it might just be time to get excited.