While Blackpool were well below-par at Solihull on Friday night, their name will still be in the hat for tomorrow night’s FA Cup third round draw. Ultimately, that’s all that matters.
The Seasiders were clearly not at their best. Spurred on by the prospect of causing an upset on primetime TV against a former winner of the competition, Solihull came close to grasping their big chance.
But will they live to regret not taking their opportunity when it came to them on home turf?
It was in the first half where Pool struggled the most, succumbing to Solihull’s way of playing. Instead of implementing their own style on Solihull, it was the non-leaguers who were able to take the upper hand.
They were first to every ball, they won their headers and flick-ons and they got the ball in Pool’s box at every possible opportunity.
Solihull are physical, they’re direct and they don’t mess about, they get the ball up to Danny Wright and Adi Yussuf up front who are a constant menace. In that respect, the Seasiders can be pleased to hold onto a clean sheet.
To Pool’s credit, they did stand up to the aerial bombardment. The Seasiders are considered a tall, physical outfit in League One, but they found their match in Solihull.
As good as Solihull were in that opening 45 minutes, Mark Howard still didn’t really have any major saves to make.
Pool’s biggest scare came from the ‘offside’ goal which, initially controversial, appears to have been the right decision from the linesman to rule it out.
The home side came close with a couple of glancing headers, but on both occasions their efforts failed to trouble Howard. Wright also whistled a volley past the post when the experienced striker probably ought to have hit the target.
As poor as Terry McPhillips’ men were in that first half, they still produced a couple of good opportunities: an unmarked Michael Nottingham heading over the bar and Armand Gnanduillet blazing high and wide after the Solihull keeper had failed to grasp a long ball into his box.
Still, Blackpool will have considered themselves fortunate to remain level at the break, but there was no messing about at the start of the second period.
They came out a much better side, taking the game to their National League opposition and producing some much improved football.
Within four minutes, Gnanduillet again missed a good chance, shooting straight at keeper Ryan Boot when well-placed in front of goal.
Joe Dodoo, previously anonymous on his return to the side, then forced a fine save out of Boot, looking to catch him out at his near post only to see the Solihull keeper get a strong hand to his effort, forcing it around the post.
Harry Pritchard, coming off the bench, ought to have put Pool’s noses in front when he was sent through on goal by Jordan Thompson, only to be thwarted by the onrushing Boot.
Blackpool, much like their opponents in the first half, failed to take advantage of their period of dominance and were forced to hold on a little bit in the dying stages.
It looked as though Solihull had won it on 88 minutes when Jamey Osborne, who had looked dangerous all night, drilled a low shot towards goal that looked destined to beat Howard and fly into the bottom corner. But Donervon Daniels appeared from nowhere to produce a sublime last-ditch block to clear for a corner.
That proved to be the last action of what was an entertaining, absorbing spectacle, despite the game finishing in a stalemate.
Failing to score and failing to beat a non-league side can never be considered a good night at the office for a side doing so well in League One.
But this isn’t your normal non-league side. Solihull are by no means weak away from home, so the replay certainly isn’t a given, but they are ridiculously strong on home turf.
They’ve only been beaten once at Damson Park this season, conceding just four goals from their 11 home games.
It’s therefore not much of a surprise to see two defensively strong outfits play out a 0-0 draw. At least there was no repeat of last season’s humbling at the hands of Boreham Wood, a side who were also flying high in the National League at the time.