'The Seasiders never looked in danger': Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's goalless draw at Rochdale
When the opposition goalkeeper is named Man of the Match, that usually tells you all you need to know about how a match went.
Saturday’s game at Spotland was an odd one in that genuine, clear-cut chances were few and far between.
And yet the Seasiders exerted a level of control we’ve yet to witness this season, other than the dominant away win at Southend United, perhaps.
Simon Grayson’s men never looked in danger of losing the game, which is some going given the rave reviews Rochdale had received pre-match.
We were told how Brian Barry-Murphy’s men had dominated against Sunderland in midweek and were robbed of a win, never mind a draw, when they went down to a harsh 2-1 defeat.
But it didn’t take long for Blackpool to work them out, just 10 minutes in fact.
The home side started brightly and in the early stages it looked like Pool might be in for a long afternoon. But it never transpired.
The Seasiders took command of the game from that point onwards and never looked back, it was just a shame their authority didn’t result in three points to keep them on top of the League One table.
Grayson’s men did have their chances, though.
The first and only real opportunity of the opening half came the way of in-form striker Armand Gnanduillet, who thought he had bagged his fifth of the season when he produced a rocket of a header that looked destined to bulge the back of the net.
And yet, somehow, keeper Robert Sanchez got a hand to his effort, directing it over the bar and out for a corner.
The fact the shot stopper had even made contract with Gnanduillet’s powerful header was impressive enough, but to make the required contact to push it over the bar? All you can say is fair play, and that’s exactly what Gnanduillet did when he went over to congratulate the keeper on his stunning stop.
The second half was one-way traffic, with Blackpool constantly peppering the Rochdale goal. The home side simply couldn’t get out of their half and had nine, sometimes even 10 players behind the ball at all times.
To Blackpool’s credit, they kept to their principles and continued to play the same way. At no point did they look frustrated or resort to simply lumping it forward.
Jordan Thompson, who was head and shoulders above most players on the pitch, thought he had broken the deadlock with just 12 minutes remaining.
The midfielder arrived late in the box to make contact with Joe Nuttall’s lay-off, making the perfect connection to drill a shot towards goal.
Unfortunately for the Seasiders, the effort flew straight at Sanchez. As Grayson said post-match, had Thompson actually ‘shanked’ his effort a little bit, the keeper wouldn’t have stood a chance. It’s a bit of a cliche, but the midfielder probably hit it too well.
It appeared as though that would be Pool’s last chance of the game to come away with a deserved three points, but they still found time at the end to cause a bit of drama.
In the fourth minute of stoppage time, James Husband delivered what looked to be a fairly innocuous cross in from the left.
It took a deflection which saw it loop towards goal but even still, it should have been a comfortable take for Sanchez, who had been the thorn in Blackpool’s side all afternoon.
And yet he almost gifted the Seasiders the three points right at the death, allowing the ball to go straight through him and right across the goalline.
There, as time stood still, the ball hit the inside of the post. But rather than ricochet over the goalline, it bounced straight to a Rochdale defender who managed to desperately clear it away. That summed up Blackpool’s day.
They were subsequently forced to settle for a point, their second on the road in quick succession, but there were plenty of encouraging signs.
Grayson’s side exerted a lot more control and were more balanced than we had seen against Oxford United and Gillingham, where the games were far too end-to-end and unpredictable.
The pace and driving runs of Nathan Delfouneso were a miss, but the forward should come back into contention for the game against Portsmouth next week.
Liam Feeney enjoyed another impressive display at right wing-back, delivering dangerous crosses into the Rochdale box time and time again.
The only thing I would say is that, while Feeney’s deliveries have probably been Blackpool’s main threat so far this season, there is a risk they’re beginning to become a bit too predictable.
As soon as Feeney gets the ball over on the right he takes a touch before immediately looking to pick out a teammate in the middle.
And when his crosses have proved so successful this season, can you blame him? Absolutely not.
But there were a couple of occasions on Saturday where the crosses started to become meat and drink to Dale’s centre halves when other options might have been preferable.
But things are still looking very promising for the Seasiders, who received superb backing from the 2,014 Pool fans who never stopped signing all game.
While their team remains unbeaten, they did drop down to second courtesy of Ipswich Town’s 5-0 thrashing of Bolton’s kids, the third game running the Trotters have conceded that amount.
How’s that ‘integrity’ of the league you keep banging on about, EFL?