Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' superb win on the South Coast.
How quickly things can change
Cast your mind back to February 13, just 12 days ago, and Blackpool were 19th, just two points ahead of the dreaded dropzone, in the midst of a horrendous run of form having won just two of their last 18 games and looking in danger of an immediate return to League Two. The club, embroiled by the seemingly never-ending chaos off the field, found itself in more than just a spot of bother despite starting the season so well; leading them to look nervously over their shoulder towards the relegation zone. Fast forward to 5pm on a bitterly cold evening on the South Coast on Saturday and the Seasiders were up to 16th, now with a six-point cushion to the bottom four and all of a sudden the Blackpool players were brimming with confidence and looking upwards. One optimistic supporter even made reference to the 11-point gap to the play-offs, but steady on, we'll take it one step at a time. But should the Seasiders beat Northampton Town at Bloomfield Road next weekend, banishing their ten-game winless streak at home in the process, that will take them to 45 points - a more than healthy points haul at the start of March. I'm sure we’d all have taken that at the start of the season?
Blackpool’s extra experience told
Blackpool are a young team, we all know that. Look at the spine of the side and there's Joe Lumley (23), Curtis Tilt (26), Clark Robertson (24), Sean Longstaff (20), Viv Solomon-Otabor (22) and Kyle Vassell (25). These players are still learning and that's been evident in recent weeks with some of the disappointing results, despite performances remaining fairly good. But Blackpool aren't the only youthful looking side in the division. Portsmouth, hampered by injuries, fielded a team with no player over the age of 26. And to be honest, it told. Blackpool just looked that more experienced with that extra bit of know-how and guile, helped by being able to play two senior pro's in Jay Spearing and Jimmy Ryan in the middle of the park. They were up against a young Portsmouth midfield and they never really got to grips with Blackpool's midfield pairing. Many have wondered if Spearing and Ryan are capable of playing together as part of a two and they'll certainly have to produce a few more positive displays like yesterday to convince them, but they were very good together at Fratton Park and long may it continue.
It’s good to see Clark Robertson in the goals
Robertson’s scoring record has been a bit of a running joke between Robertson and his manager Gary Bowyer in the last couple of seasons. For someone so dominant in the air at the back, you'd expect him to have more than two goals to his name at this point of the season. The same goes for Curtis Tilt, who has only notched once this season, meaning they've bagged just three between them. Bowyer wants goals spread around his team and he expects everyone, defenders included, to chip in. So it was a welcome sight to see Robertson find the back of the net and he did so in convincing fashion heading home from Jay Spearing’s pinpoint cross. It capped off a fine display from Robertson, who marshalled the defence superbly alongside Tilt who combined together to keep out the dangerous Oliver Hawkins. Pompey created a couple of openings but apart from that, Blackpool were rarely troubled by an under-par Pompey outfit. Robertson revealed he set himself a target of five goals at the start of the season. Considering he's only got two from 27 league games up to this point, it might be a bit of a tall order to get another three in the last 12. But I wish him luck!
Kyle Vassell, as he so often does, makes the difference
Kyle Vassell will have enjoyed better games for Blackpool, in fact he has done many times already this season. But, still Pool's top scorer with nine goals despite missing large chunks of the season through injury, he proved to be the difference once again. Vassell looked rusty, which is to be expected when you consider he's been in and out of action in the last couple of months as Gary Bowyer continues to manage his return from a recurring hamstring injury. His hold-up play was nowhere near his normally high levels, but that will come with regular game time. He saw two early glimpses of goal inside the opening ten minutes and wasted both opportunities, but made up for it with a clinical finish just before half time to put Blackpool in front. It was opportunistic from Vassell to rob Christian Burgess of the ball in the first place after the centre back has hesitated on the ball just in front of his own box - not for the first time that afternoon either. Vassell nipped in, showed an impressive turn of pace to race clear before drilling the ball home into the bottom corner, giving the goalkeeper no chance. If Vassell had been fit all season, how many goals would he have racked up by now and whereabouts would Blackpool be in the league table?
Lumley's a safe pair of hands
What a difference Joe Lumley has made for Blackpool since arriving on loan from QPR during the January transfer window. Eight games in, one of which was Blackpool's Checkatrade Trophy tie against Shrewsbury Town, and four clean sheets have come his way. Of course the defence and the rest of the team play their part in that, but it is no coincidence things have improved at the back since Lumley has come in. The 22-year-old has only been on the losing on just the one occasion for the Seasiders. He's a goalkeeper that fills the back four with confidence with the way he clears his box to claim any high ball that comes his way. That's something that was sorely missed earlier in the season. Lumley's distribution is also superb; setting up the likes of Viv Solomon-Otabor, Nathan Delfouneso and Kyle Vassell with volleyed kicks from one end of the pitch to the other with perfect precision, very similar in style to Everton keeper Jordan Pickford. I asked where would Blackpool be if Kyle Vassell had been fit all season, well I can pose exactly the same question for Lumley and how the Seasiders would have fared had he been in between the sticks all campaign. That's how important he now is to the Seasiders.