Southport 0-4 Blackpool: Neil Critchley's men cruise to comfortable pre-season win on long-awaited return to action

Blackpool cruised to a comfortable 4-0 win against National League North side Southport in their long-awaited return to action.

By Matt Scrafton
Saturday, 8th August 2020, 4:52 pm
Updated Sunday, 9th August 2020, 10:28 am

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Southport v Blackpool as it happened

After a 151-day absence, the Seasiders made the short journey to Haig Avenue for what was their first pre-season friendly of the summer ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.

A Grant Ward stunner gave Neil Critchley’s men breathing space at the interval but they came alive in the second half, adding further goals from Sullay Kaikai and debutants Keshi Anderson and Jerry Yates.

Grant Ward opened the scoring for the Seasiders

The Seasiders, who named different line-ups in either half, showed plenty of promising signs and will be satisfied with their day’s work.

But Critchley will be only too aware there’s still plenty more to work on as they continue to prepare for the September 12 restart date.

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Despite a flurry of summer signings, just two new arrivals were named in Blackpool’s starting line-up in Marvin Ekpiteta and CJ Hamilton.

Ekpiteta was part of a back four which also included Calum Macdonald, James Husband and Teddy Howe, while Matty Virtue, Cameron Antwi and Grant Ward took the three midfield spots.

Joe Nuttall and Hamilton flanked number nine Gary Madine in attack, while the likes of Keshi Anderson, Sullay Kaikai and Jerry Yates were all named among the substitutes.

While Chris Maxwell and Oliver Sarkic both travelled, neither were included in Blackpool’s matchday squad, while new arrival Ethan Robson was unavailable.

In years gone by, Pool fans have become accustomed to seeing teams packed full of trialists but on this occasion, there was only one, a young goalkeeper who started the game in between the sticks.

As you’d expect, it was Neil Critchley’s men who were straight onto the front foot but, just two minutes in, the Seasiders were almost undone on the break.

Pool’s backline were caught out by a routine ball over the top, but thankfully Ekpiteta showed a good turn of pace to recover well and deny Jack Sampson, who took too long when he ought to have shot earlier.

Despite the searing heat, the encounter was played at a fast tempo, with Pool showing some promising touches in and around the Southport box only for the hosts to keep them at arm’s length with a solid defensive block.

But with 23 minutes on the clock, Blackpool broke the deadlock with a superb individual strike from Ward.

The midfielder, signed on a free transfer by former boss Simon Grayson last season, cut inside his marker in Southport’s final third before lashing home a powerful effort into the top corner, leaving Dan Hanford rooted to his spot.

Southport responded well to their setback as they looked to produce an instant response, but Ward let fly at the other end for a second time only to see his low, drilled shot well charged down.

The Seasiders continued to show some promising signs in the way they passed and moved the ball, often playing in little triangles.

With 10 minutes until the interval, Virtue surged through towards the edge of the Southport box only to slip at the crucial moment. Howe ran onto the loose ball but he could only slam a first-time effort over the bar.

Virtue almost doubled Blackpool’s lead on the stroke of half-time, the midfielder having a low effort deflect just wide of the upright after the home side had only partially cleared a corner to the edge of the box.

The Seasiders changed their entire line-up for the second half, with Anderson and Yates making their debuts in attack while the likes of Thorniley, Feeney and Kaikai were introduced into the fray.

Ollie Turton, meanwhile, took the captain’s armband from Husband having recently pledged his future to the club by penning a new contract.

The home side also made a number of changes, their keeper Hanford the only player to survive from the opening period.

The Seasiders, who started the second half well despite their wholesale changes, had two or three individuals playing out of position, most noticeably striker Adi Yussuf who was deployed at left back.

Critchley’s men created a promising opening for Kaikai thanks to some good work from Nathan Shaw down the right, but the forward was crowded out and his eventual shot was blocked.

A second chance came Kaikai’s way a few moments later and he made no mistake this time, tapping home into an empty net to double Blackpool’s lead.

It came after Jerry Yates’ shot on the turn had been well saved by the Southport keeper after being found in space by Shaw.

Two almost became three just two minutes later when Yussuf, marauding forward from left back, saw his low shot saved by the feet of Hanford after being played in by Yates.

It was one-way traffic at this point and only a matter of time until Blackpool found that third goal.

Just after the hour mark, it duly arrived as Keshi Anderson netted a debut goal with a well-taken run and finish.

It started when the referee played a good advantage, allowing Anderson to surge past his marker and, thanks to Kaikai’s run creating space for him, waltzed into the Southport box before directing a low effort across the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

Ben Garrity, a calming influence in the middle of the park, then glanced a header narrowly wide from Ollie Turton’s inswinging cross.

Not for the first time, Kaikai and Yates combined well in attack for Pool allowing the former to get in behind Southport’s backline, only to see his drilled effort blocked. Garrity came close once again from the resulting corner with another blocked shot.

Pool continued to create a steady stream of chances against Southport’s assorted line-up of trialists.

Kaikai had Shaw in space to the side of him but he ignored his teammate, instead opting to let fly from 20 yards only to shoot wastefully over the bar.

Yates joined Anderson in adding his name to the scoresheet on his debut when his former Swindon Town teammate was clattered in the Southport box.

Despite the keeper diving the right way, Yates nonchalantly picked out the bottom corner to cap off a promising first appearance for his new club.

The home side wasted a golden chance to net a late consolation when the Seasiders were unable to clear their lines, a trialist driving a shot high and wide from just 10 yards out.

Despite Critchley continuing to drive on his team from the touchline, the tempo noticeably dropped in the last 10 minutes as both sides appeared happy to see out the rest of the game.

The impressive Yates almost turned provider for Shaw with three minutes remaining, but the off-balance winger could only shoot over after being played in by Blackpool’s frontman in what proved to be the final action of the game.

TEAMS

Southport: Hanford, Challinor, Doyle, Anson, Oliver, Ali, Benjamin, Morgan, Trialist, Sampson, Newell

Subs: Sinclair, Vasselo, Roberts, Winnard, Wilson, Jones, Woods, Watson, Carver

First-half XI: Trialist, Howe, Ekpiteta, Husband, Macdonald, Antwi, Virtue, Ward, Hamilton, Nuttall, Madine

Second-half XI: Trialist, Turton, Thorniley, Nottingham, Shaw, Garrity, Feeney, Anderson, Kaikai, Yates, Yussuf