Reasons to be encouraged after Blackpool’s not-so-friendly Southport clash

Well who says pre-season friendlies are boring, eh?

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Blackpool's friendly against Southport temporarily halted due to fan trouble

It turns out Blackpool’s opener at Haig Avenue on Saturday wasn’t so “friendly” after all, as some argy-bargy between the two sets of fans caused the game to be halted by five minutes or so, prompting a warning from the referee it could be abandoned altogether.

In truth, it was much to do about nothing. A group of over-exuberant teenagers, who bizarrely decided to walk around the entirety of the ground to confront the away end - produced one hand-signal too many to their Blackpool counterparts who decided enough was enough, causing the youngsters to scarper back behind the goal.

Southport’s PA - who had previously appealed for calm in an ironically over-the-top manner - obviously saw the funny side, playing Kaiser Chiefs’ “I Predict A Riot” over the tannoy at half-time, before swiftly changing it after a quick talking-to.

As for the actual football, there were some encouraging signs, especially during the first-half when the Seasiders played some tidy stuff - albeit after a fairly rusty opening 10 minutes or so.

Starting in a 4-3-3 system, Michael Appleton’s favoured formation at Oxford United and Lincoln City, Pool showed plenty of attacking intent, switching the ball wide with some raking crossfield balls - many coming via midfield pivot Callum Connolly - and working the ball into the feet of the two advanced midfielders Sonny Carey and Keshi Anderson, who caused plenty of problems.

Carey in particular handled the ball excellently and he could be a player that thrives this coming season in this more possession-based approach.

Southport's captain and Sonny Carey attempt to calm down supporters by the side of the pitch

Appleton conceded himself post-match that the side doesn’t require a great deal of work off-the-ball, that was Neil Critchley’s forte and you don’t try and fix what isn’t broken.

But the Seasiders’ build-up play and ability to play out from the back is something that requires improvement - and that’s what Appleton believes he can bring to this side.

Rob Apter also showed plenty of promise, as he always does when he gets a chance to shine. The diminutive attacking midfielder might have been in the unusual position of having to fill in at right-back, which was somewhat unorthodox, but he still managed to show what he’s all about with some terrific touches of the ball.

CJ Hamilton and Beryly Lubala - playing his first game for the club in almost 18 months - were the two goalscorers in what was a comfortable, routine victory for the visitors.

Blackpool's CEO Ben Mansford talks to fans after the trouble on the terraces in the first-half

Hamilton’s effort was a close-range finish after Carey had been crowded out, while Lubala emphatically headed home from a Carey corner. The winger could have bagged another couple as well had things gone his way, while fans’ favourite Richard Keogh almost delighted the tangerine away end when he came close to scoring, only to rattle the woodwork with a powerful header.

After the drama on the terraces, the second-half was much more of a non-event. In fact, not a great deal happened at all other than a couple of Matty Virtue efforts and a somewhat out-of-sorts Josh Bowler being denied by the keeper.

Dan Grimshaw was also called into action to thwart Southport’s Nyal Bell with the hosts’ one and only opportunity of the match.

But otherwise, there wasn’t a great deal to take away from the second-half display, other than the change of system - a return to last season’s 4-4-2 - seemed to stifle Blackpool’s approach.

But then again, this is what these friendlies are for, to experiment and try new things. But judging by what Appleton told me, expect the Seasiders to line up in a 4-3-3 this season (or a variant of it, it could well be 4-2-3-1, for example).

We’re likely to learn a lot more on Thursday, when Pool ramp things up a notch with a clash against top flight side Leeds United.