'Seasiders were in rampant form': Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's away day win at Southend
The alarm bells should have been ringing for Southend United fans when their manager Kevin Bond, in his pre-match press conference, said Blackpool’s main threat was their physical presence from set pieces.
It was a lazy assertion and it almost came across as if Harry Redknapp’s former number two hadn’t paid any attention to the Seasiders’ opening day victory against Bristol Rovers, where Simon Grayson’s men were in scintillating form in the final third.
Or, if he had watched any clips, the Shrimpers boss clearly hadn’t been watching closely enough.
It’s fair to say if Bond – who is clearly not as sharp as his namesake James – wasn’t aware of Blackpool’s attacking and entertaining brand of football before Saturday’s one-sided affair, he certainly does now.
The Seasiders were in rampant form, running in two goals inside the opening exchanges before the hosts could even manage to put their foot on the ball and exchange a couple of accurate passes.
Ironically Pool’s opener first goal did come via a set piece, although the manner in which it ended up in the back of the net had more to do with Southend’s own ineptness that anything the men in tangerine did.
The troublesome blustery conditions saw Jordan Thompson’s delivery cause havoc in Mark Oxley’s congested six-yard box.
The goalkeeper, who has been a thorn in Pool’s side in recent seasons, made a complete hash of his attempt to claim the high ball, which had swerved around in the coastal winds.
He fumbled his attempted claim and the ball dropped onto his teammate Harry Lennon before inadvertently trickling back towards goal and over the line.
If the first goal was fortunate, the second was sublime.
The Seasiders, as they did throughout the opening half, broke at speed, with the triumvirate of Sullay Kaikai, Nathan Delfouneso and Armand Gnanduillet wreaking confusion across Southend’s befuddled backline.
Kaikai took advantage of the space afforded to him in the pockets in between defence and midfield to slide in a deliciously-weighted ball for Delfouneso to run onto, the forward making no mistake by calmly slotting his shot past the onrushing Oxley and into the back of the net.
The game was barely 12 minutes old and yet it was good as decided because, as exciting as Blackpool are in attack, they’re equally as adept at keeping goals out at the other end, too. Not a bad combination, eh?
Grayson has struck the right balance, combining an exciting, skillful front three with a professional, diligent and brave backline and midfield that will throw their bodies on the line to get the job done.
While the personnel might not be a whole lot different to last season, with just four newcomers starting on Saturday, just as was the case last week, it’s the new system that has allowed these players to blossom.
Kaikai, Delfouneso and Gnanduillet have almost been given a free license to express themselves at the top end of the pitch while at the other end, the Seasiders are incredibly difficult to break down.
Given Pool’s dominance there was an expectation that third goal was just a matter of time, and so it proved.
Southend’s defence, now a feeble mess after being terrorised for almost 40 minutes, simply watched on as Delfouneso scrambled home his second of the day after Curtis Tilt’s close-range effort had been denied on the goalline.
Rather than emerge a different side at the start of the second half, Southend simply carried on as they had done in the first. They clearly hadn’t learned their lesson.
They were fortunate the lead remained at three goals, with Kaikai crashing a deflected effort onto the post before Gnanduillet came inches away from getting on the end of Liam Feeney’s threatening ball in from the right.
Southend simply had no answer to the pace, power and dynamism of Kaikai and Delfouneso, who – just two games into the new season – appear to have already developed an almost telepathic level of understanding.
Blackpool were enjoying themselves and there were no nerves or ill-feeling that the hosts would get back into it, it just wasn’t on the cards.
In fact, 68 minutes were on the clock when Southend eventually had a ‘chance’ of sorts, Isaac Hutchinson curling a harmless effort over the bar.
That came just eight minutes after the Seasiders had been reduced to 10 men in senseless fashion, James Husband the man to be shown a straight red for a ridiculously late and dangerous challenge.
Elvis Bwomono was the unfortunate man on the receiving end of the cowardly tackle, left in a heap on the floor by the corner flag.
It was an act of sheer stupidity from Husband and left a sour note on what was an otherwise almost-perfect away day win.
As you would expect with a man advantage, Southend finally exerted some pressure in the final 30 minutes of the game but they could only manage the one goal, Simon Cox heading home from inside the six-yard box.
But it turned out to be little more than a consolation and, if we’re being honest, even if Pool had won the game 3-2 that would have done them a disservice. Their dominance merited the comfortable nature of the scoreline they eventually ended up with.
So it’s now two wins from two for Simon Grayson’s Blackpool and the dull, turgid nature of last season’s 'means-to-an-end' football is a distant memory.
The Seasiders have now plundered five goals in their opening two games of this campaign, meaning they’ve already reached 10 per cent of last season’s goals tally.
The league table counts for absolutely nothing at this early stage of the season but, with everything seemingly going right for Simon Sadler, it must be nice to see Blackpool’s name atop of that League One table.