The unbeaten run goes on as Blackpool channel the spirit of 53: Matt Scrafton's verdict on the pivotal win against Sunderland
Fifty-three really is the magic number for Blackpool, isn’t it?
In 1953, Matthews, Mortensen, Perry and co staged a stunning comeback to beat Bolton Wanderers to clinch the FA Cup, the club’s most famous triumph.
In 2017, 53 Blackpool fans attended a hearing in London where Justice Marcus Smith handed down his historic judgement against the Oystons, ordering them to pay Valeri Belokon £31.2m after being found to have “illegitimately stripped” the club of funds.
It’s now 53 years since Blackpool last enjoyed an unbeaten run similar to the one they’re on now, which now stands at 16 league games following Saturday’s pivotal victory.
The Seasiders won their last seven games of the 1967/68 season to finish third in the old Division Two, missing out on promotion by goal difference.
Pool, managed by Stan Mortensen at the time, continued their impressive form into the following campaign, where they avoided defeat in their opening 10 games, making it 17 consecutive league games without defeat for the Seasiders.
Call me biased, but I don’t think an unbeaten run really counts when it’s spread across two seasons, so for me Blackpool’s current run is the best the club has ever embarked upon, certainly post-war.
What’s been most impressive about Blackpool’s hot streak of form, which has seen them win nine and draw seven, is how they’ve adapted to each game.
Against the likes of Gillingham, Charlton Athletic and Peterborough United, they’ve blown sides away with their incisive, attractive football. In other games, they’ve rolled their sleeves up and ground out results.
Saturday’s hard-earned win against Sunderland was probably more about the latter, but it was no less satisfying.
Blackpool were absolutely superb defensively, which should come as no surprise because, from what I’ve witnessed, they’re the best side in the division when it comes to out-of-possession organisation.
Going forward, however, they weren’t at their best. They countered well at times and got into some promising positions, but their final ball wasn’t quite there.
You have to give credit to Sunderland though. I was impressed by Lee Johnson’s side and I’d have to concur with Critchley that the Black Cats are probably the best side Blackpool have faced this season.
I’ve certainly not seen another side come to Bloomfield Road and dominate for such large periods as the Wearside outfit did. They were very controlled and measured in theri build-up play too, it was all done with a purpose rather than passing it around for the sake of keeping possession.
That only makes it all the more impressive that Blackpool stood firm and kept a clean sheet, their 18th of the campaign, against such a dangerous side.
This game appeared to be following a similar pattern to the Accrington Stanley game in midweek, with Pool failing to capitalise on a bright start allowing the visitors to gain the upper hand.
But, unlike Stanley, Sunderland were happy to take the game to the Seasiders, which did leave the odd gap to exploit.
Ellis Simms probably ought to have broken the deadlock midway through what was a cagey opening period when he blazed over from 10 yards out.
The dangerous Aiden McGeady slowly but surely began to become increasingly influential for the away side, but by and large Blackpool dealt with his crosses well and 24-goal striker Charlie Wyke was kept quiet by the stupendous Dan Ballard and Daniel Gretarsson.
So the game wore on into the second-half, where – without wishing to over-simplify things – the match was decided in a pivotal minute at both ends of the pitch.
McGeady looked to have given Sunderland the lead when he twisted and turned Ollie Turton before sending a dipping effort into the far corner. Or so it seemed, at least, but somehow his effort stayed out after crashing against the foot of the Blackpool post.
Sixty seconds hadn’t even passed when the Seasiders raced up the other end and made Sunderland pay.
I’m still not sure how the ball ended in the back of the net, but Blackpool won’t care. Both Luke Garbutt and Ellis Simms have been credited with the goal by different sources, but Sunderland defender Bailey Wright seems most likely.
It followed a powerful cross into the six-yard box from Garbutt, where the ball certainly flicked off someone before squirming underneath the body of goalkeeper Lee Burge.
The fact that Garbutt didn’t overly celebrate and Simms looked more bewildered than anything points in the direction of an own goal.
Nevertheless, the goal gave the Seasiders a vital lifeline to hold onto. Sunderland retaliated with a barrage of pressure, but a full-on onslaught of the Blackpool goal never really came.
The excellent Ballard recovered well to clear off the line after Maxwell had failed to deal with a loose ball, while Maxwell would then go on to make a sterling stop to deny Josh Scowen late on, pushing his effort behind.
This wasn’t really a case of Blackpool retreating back to their own goalline and hanging on, this was Critchley’s men fronting up to the challenge and meeting it head on. It almost seemed like they were perversely thriving upon and enjoying Sunderland’s attempts to level.
Life certainly could have been made more easier for Blackpool, who ought to have had a one-man advantage.
How Callum McFadzean escaped a second yellow for a blatant bookable offence on Demetri Mitchell, I’ve no idea. The Sunderland full-back poleaxed Mitchell, who was only a yard or two outside the box and would have been in acres of space ready to pull the ball back into the six-yard box.
Sunderland knew they had got away with one and Johnson immediately brought McFadzean off to avoid any further punishment. Thankfully it had no bearing on the end result.
How many words have I used in this piece? 953. It's a sign...
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