'The entertainment can wait': Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's battling and hard-earned win against Wigan

The night began with a cacophony of multi-coloured fireworks piercing the night sky, but what followed on the pitch failed to hit those dazzling heights.

By Matt Scrafton
Wednesday, 4th November 2020, 10:24 am
Updated Wednesday, 4th November 2020, 10:28 am

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Blackpool’s hierarchy have made no secret of their desire to entertain, but after their laboured start to the campaign results were the order of the day.

This hard-earned, battling victory, Blackpool’s second ugly win in just four days, was by no means pretty but it got the job done.

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In the process, it elevated the Seasiders up into the top half of the League One table and produced their first back-to-back wins of the campaign.

Not only that, the whole mood around the dressing room and, by extension, the club and its fanbase has now been lifted. Let’s hope the men in tangerine have turned the corner for good.

If the unfancied and unstylish Wycombe Wanderers proved anything last season, it’s that you get no extra points for playing football that is pleasing on the eye. That’s not to say you can’t get promoted playing attractive football, just look at Coventry City, but you need certain battling qualities if you’re to maintain consistency throughout the season.

In this division, especially when you’re in the midst of such a hectic schedule as Blackpool currently are, it’s about grinding out results in any way you can.

Daniel Gretarsson contests a high ball with Wigan's Joe Garner during Blackpool's ugly victory

Of course, longer term, or even medium term for that matter, Neil Critchley and the club’s board still want to produce a style of play that combines both entertainment value and style with convincing victories. Don’t we all want to see that?

But after a run of six defeats in nine, it was imperative the Seasiders found a way to win and they’ve done exactly that, claiming three victories from their last four outings to ease the pressure and lift the spirit ahead of a mini league break.

There will be people that claim Blackpool aren’t doing a lot different compared to earlier in the campaign, when performances were good but certain moments weren’t going in their favour, whereas now they are.

There’s an element of truth to that and of course, it goes without saying any successful side needs an element of fortune and for the fine margins to go their way.

But that ignores the fact the Seasiders have since altered their system, playing a more rudimentary 4-4-2 in the last two games, and going a lot more direct into Gary Madine. By no means am I knocking that approach, by the way, it’s clearly paying dividends.

It would be far too simplistic to assert Blackpool’s change in fortunes is a result of those tactical tweaks alone, but it’s clearly played its part.

At times, it’s a case of needs must. Blackpool are without a whole host of players at the moment, I counted eight on Tuesday night, through a mixture of injury, suspension or Covid. The Seasiders can’t exactly play three in midfield when they’re struggling to name three midfielders in their squad full stop.

With MJ Williams the latest to be ruled out of contention, Grant Ward returned to the midfield to partner the impressive Kenny Dougall.

At right-back, meanwhile, Jordan Gabriel replaced Ollie Turton to give the defender a much-needed breather and to provide the Seasiders much more of an attacking threat.

That change almost paid off almost immediately, with Gabriel delivering a delightful ball in from the right towards Madine, who saw his header clawed behind by goalkeeper Jamie Jones.

CJ Hamilton squandered another presentable opportunity 10 minutes later, dragging his shot disappointingly wide after taking down Dougall’s clipped ball with a delightful first touch.

I said before the game that, should Blackpool get an early goal against a youthful and equally-depleted Wigan side, then there’s a good chance they could rout their struggling opponents.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and Wigan’s inexperienced but talented youngsters, led by the wily Joe Garner in attack, grew in confidence as the game wore on.

Garner, who gave Daniel Gretarsson a rough ride in the opening 45 minutes, tested Chris Maxwell with a close-range header while Dan Gardner and the gifted 19-year-old Kyle Joseph also both came close.

The better quality chances fell the way of Blackpool though, none more so that the gilt-edged opportunity Hamilton passed up when Sullay Kaikai’s shot was blocked right into his path.

With the goalkeeper stranded on the floor, all the winger had to do was tap it home into the empty net but he somehow managed to blaze his shot over the bar. Yes, the ball was coming to him quickly but he really ought to have done better.

The home side continued to look a threat in attack but defensively they were nervy. That’s why it was so important to get their noses in front, as they did just two minutes into the second-half, to give them something to hold onto.

Kaikai was the man to net for the second game running in an almost carbon-copy of the match-winning goal he scored against MK Dons last month. Jerry Yates pulled the ball back from the right and Kaikai was there, timing his run to perfection, to steer home what proved to be the decisive goal.

Joseph was denied by an important stop from Maxwell, while at the other end Jones did well to keep out Madine’s close-range effort. But other than that, the action wasn’t exactly thrilling.

Will Blackpool care one jot? Not right now they won’t. The entertainment can wait.