Special and spontaneous moment with the fans offers precious perspective on Blackpool's excellent campaign

We can analyse the finer details of this game until we’re blue in the face - and I’ll get onto that.

Saturday, 16th April 2022, 9:30 am

Read More

Read More
Blackpool fans share 'special moment' with Neil Critchley and players despite si...

But my main takeaway from this Good Friday encounter was a special, spontaneous moment at the final whistle.

Barely 60 seconds had passed since Blackpool conceded a last-gasp sucker punch in the second minute of three added on, when all of a sudden thunderous chanting bellowed down from the terraces.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

No, it wasn’t the West Brom fans celebrating a dramatic late winner that keeps them within touching distance of the play-off spots, in fact most of them had already gone home.

Believe it or not, it was the Blackpool supporters. They were wafting their tangerine scarves proudly above their heads and jumping up and down like they were in the first few rows of a gig.

Neil Critchley marched straight over to the away end and stood there applauding, almost in awe. His troops soon joined him as they were serenaded.

I can’t think of many other fanbases that would issue that sort of response. It was a special ending to an admittedly underwhelming game.

Blackpool fans were in high spirits despite their side's cruel late defeat

Blackpool’s performance between both boxes was fine, as it normally is. It’s the finer detail at both ends of the pitch that was the problem - but that’s nothing particularly new, as Critchley conceded himself in a fairly forthright post-match interview.

You certainly can’t question the effort or endeavour of these players, either. Whatever happens in these last five games, it’s been an excellent first season back in the Championship for the Seasiders.

But Critchley knows if his side are going to progress next season and take that next step, they’re going to have to deliver more quality.

This was a game that was there to be won against a pretty average West Brom side, despite their sizeable budget and impressive squad.

Despite only sitting five points off the top six, all is not well at the Hawthorns. You could tell that by the number of empty seats in the home end and of those that did attend, not many seemed particularly motivated to create any sort of noise.

To be fair to them, you can see why they’ve had such a disappointing season by their high standards. There’s not a great deal to them, other than posing a threat from crosses into the box.

Blackpool will have been expecting that too, which made it all the more frustrating both of West Brom’s goals came from wide positions.

The first goal, the game’s opener, was an especially poor goal to concede. Callum Connolly, forced to fill in at right-back again after Jordan Gabriel was forced to hobble off, stood off his man, allowing the West Brom player to deliver a cross into the box completely unopposed.

Andy Carroll, who had won a flick-on in the build-up under no pressure whatsoever, was then allowed to sprint a good 20 or 30 yards on his own to meet the cross and bundle it home off his knee.

Blackpool probably ought to have been ahead at this point in the game, so to go a goal down was doubly frustrating.

Saying that, I struggle to recall many clear-cut chances they missed. It’s not like they hit the post, forced the keeper into a string or saves or put a few just wide.

Instead, they forced themselves into attacking positions at an alarming regularity thanks to their ability to win the ball back high up the pitch. But, as has been the story of their season, they weren’t able to capitalise and add the final touches.

Too often a player would hesitate when a ball needed to be slotted across the six-yard box. Too often they would play an early ball when they needed to slow it down and wait for runners to arrive. It’s all about decision-making, speed of thought and showing quality on the ball when the moment requires it most. Unfortunately Blackpool weren’t able to.

If we’re being honest, the first-half wasn’t much of an occasion though. There was no intensity to the play from either side and it had all the marks of an end-of-season affair.

To Blackpool’s credit, they were much improved at the start of the second-half and began to take the game to the Baggies.

They got their reward when Marvin Ekpiteta scored for the second game running and the fifth time this season by expertly hooking the ball into the top corner after the home side had failed to deal with Kenny Dougall’s free-kick.

It’s quite striking that Blackpool’s last four goals - that have come in their last six games - have all been from set-pieces. They’ve not bagged from open play since the late win at Stoke City at the start of March.

It’s just a shame they weren’t able to show that set-piece prowess to hold out in stoppage time, when Karlan Grant was left free at the back post to steer home a cruel late winner.

Steve Bruce barely celebrated it. He conceded afterwards it was “debatable” whether his side deserved to win and revealed he was still frustrated with many aspects of the performance.

The fact the winning goal came so late, and out of absolutely nothing, will have hurt. But perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised.

Only Barnsley, Bristol City, Peterborough United and Reading have conceded more goals in the final 15 minutes of Championship games this season.

The Seasiders have scored 49 goals this season and 15 of them have come from the 75th minute onwards. A good proportion of those will have arrived in the dying moments too. That tells its own story.

But as the Blackpool fans demonstrated shortly afterwards, there’s still so much for them to be proud about.