Pool 1 Millwall 1: Blackpool finally breached but spirit can’t be broken

Blackpool's Jack Redshaw is congratulated on scoring
Blackpool's Jack Redshaw is congratulated on scoring
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If there’s one thing this young Blackpool side has developed after its baptism of fire this season it’s character.

Last night, at 1-0 down with 10 minutes to go, you have to say Neil McDonald’s men looked a spent force. Not many would have backed against a comfortable finish for Millwall.

But Pool’s young guns didn’t give up, got themselves an equaliser and could even have won it at the death.

It means the Seasiders continue their most unlikely of unbeaten runs, which now stretches to five, although sadly they finally conceded a goal.

When Mark Beavers fired home in the 34th minute, it ended an excellent run of 304 minutes without conceding a goal and stopped the Seasiders breaking a 13- year record.

Not since 2002 had a Blackpool team gone four league games without conceding, though I’d guess that would have been the last thing on Neil McDonald’s mind – he will be delighted with another point.

Until Jack Redshaw fired home from the spot after 81 minutes, you have to say Millwall looked all set to end Pool’s unbeaten run.

The away side set the tone early on with a high-tempo start, one which saw Blackpool start and remain on the back foot for most of the night.

While I agreed with most McDonald said in his post match press, I’m not sure I agree Pool had the better of the play.

While there was very little between the sides, for me Millwall were more comfortable all evening and will certainly feel a little hard done by.

The last five games have been great, but there’s lots of work to be done yet for the Seasiders and for me last night highlighted an area McDonald really could do with strengthening – his wingers.

There are few better sights in football than a home side playing with two quick and dangerous wingers, something Blackpool haven’t had since Matt Phillips and Thomas Ince.

We almost took those two for granted. How this team is crying out for players like those now.

McDonald does have Henry Cameron and Bright Samuel, of course, but neither is really ready to be relied on for 46 games of a long season at this level.

Both have great futures but need to be eased in, and the lack of options down the wing can leave the Seasiders looking very narrow and easy to play against at times.

That certainly happened last night, and if the recent improved run of form really has made recruitment easier for McDonald, I’d like to think wide-men are high on his wish-list.

After Saturday’s solid display at Coventry, many were surprised to see McDonald change his line-up, though one of those changes was forced – Emmerson Boyce picked up a hamstring strain at the start of the week.

The signing of Hayden White on loan from Bolton seemed to surprise a few, with Boyce finally getting into his stride, but the injury showed why Pool were forced to rush into the loan market.

Pool’s other change of the evening wasn’t so clear, with David Norris coming into the middle to replace Jose Cubero.

For some reason the Costa Rican has been McDonald’s first drop all season. Personally, I think he was unlucky not to keep his place. Otherwise it was the same side that drew 0-0 at the Ricoh as Pool looked to continue their run against a side who went into the game in good form of their own.

They had a familiar face in their starting line-up in the left-back Joe Martin. He played for the Seasiders a few times under Ian Holloway.

If White was a little rusty, having not played a senior game all season, he was given an early test after just eight minutes.

Shane Ferguson got at him down the left and crossed into the path of Steve Morison, who headed over from six yards.

Millwall started the game with real intent and Morison again went close three minutes later.

It was another break down Millwall’s left, this time Aidan O’Brien crossing low into the path of the striker, who turned it just wide of the post.

After three games without conceding a goal, Pool’s back four were getting a real test in the opening stages of last night’s contest.

In fact, Pool hardly had a kick in the first quarter of an hour as Neil Harris’ men totally dominated possession.

On 23 minutes, the Seasiders finally got themselves into the opposing penalty area but the chance probably fell to the one player they didn’t want it to.

While Jim McAlister has gained plaudits of late for his committed displays, I’m not sure he’s known for his finishing. And he showed why not as he lashed a left-footed effort over from a tight angle.

The attack seemed to give Blackpool belief, and moments later they couldn’t have come much closer to breaking the deadlock.

Mark Cullen burst into the box and his low effort was tipped onto the bar by keeper Jordan Archer. A fine save.

Sadly, the good spell wouldn’t last and10 minutes before the break Mark Beevers reacted quickest to fire Millwall ahead.

He was on his toes as Morison’s header cannoned back off the crossbar. The defender blasted it home from five yards.

You have to say it had been coming, with Millwall lively throughout.

At the break McDonald tried to address the lack of action down the wings by replacing Cameron with Samuel.

It did little to liven up a dreadfully dull start to the second half by both teams, although Pool were denied by two superb blocks nine minutes in.

First Tom Aldred had a taste of his own medicine when his shot was superbly blocked by Beevers before Brad Potts’ effort got similar treatment. It was top-class defending from Millwall’s centre- back.

As the hour mark came and went there was very little to talk about, with Millwall happy to sit back and protect their lead.

They did occasionally break forward, though, and probably should have killed the game on 62 minutes.

After David Ferguson gifted them possession on half-way, Morison broke down the right and found O’Brien in the box. He twisted and turned before firing wide, but he really should have scored.

But just as Blackpool were looking dead and buried, they got themselves back into the game.

With 10 minutes remaining, Potts lifted the ball into the path of Redshaw, who was hacked down by Carlos Edwards just as he was set to pull the trigger.

Referee Nigel Miller rightly produced a red card to the full-back and Redshaw made no mistake from the spot, lashing the ball home off the bar.

The goal breathed new life into the Seasiders, who understandably ended the game the stronger and could have had a second penalty with just two minutes left, when Potts’ effort appeared to hit the arm of Shaun Cummings in the area.

Sadly, the referee wasn’t willing to hand Pool their second gift of the evening.

In the end, Blackpool had to settle for a point as they once again showed just how tough they are to beat at the moment.

With struggling Crewe set to come to Bloomfield Road at the weekend, I wouldn’t bet against that unbeaten run being stretched to six.