Why Blackpool were left with a mixture of feelings after hard-earned draw against Luton Town
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Neil Critchley’s side were the better team in terms of general play in front of the TV cameras in the lunchtime kick-off at Kenilworth Road, but the better chances came Luton’s way.
We can argue until we’re blue in the face about some of the referee’s bigger calls, but he was equally poor for both sides.
I’m not entirely sure what Luton midfielder Allan Campbell had to do to get booked, while others appeared to see yellow for relatively minor infractions.
CJ Hamilton, meanwhile, was bizarrely penalised for daring to get hacked down as he sprinted past his marker. It was an afternoon to forget for the man in black.
Luton fans were incredulous that their stoppage-time winner was disallowed for an apparent foul on Richard Keogh in the build-up and, having had the benefit of watching it back on a replay, I can see their point.
But as Critchley argued, should it have been a free-kick leading up to the opportunity? And shouldn’t Blackpool have had a second penalty earlier in the game?
Who knows and frankly, who cares? A point was fair and I’m sure John Brooks will go away and reflect on the decisions he got wrong. But this constant referee-bashing is tiresome at the best of times.
What matters to me is how Blackpool perform and once again, as they’ve done virtually all season, they went toe-to-toe with the best the Championship has to offer.
That sentence might sound slightly bizarre to some who turn their noses up at a club like Luton, with their ramshackle ground and their cheaply-assembled squad, but they’re fourth in the table for a reason and they’re exactly the sort of side Blackpool can take inspiration from.
I was a little bit surprised by their approach, I must say. I know they’ve been badly affected by injuries in recent weeks but there didn’t seem to be an awful lot more to them than crosses into the box from wide positions, lofted balls into the channels and long throws hurled into the box.
But if it’s effective, why not eh? Sometimes the best things in life are the most simple.
It has to be said, the quality of their crossing was sublime at times. Robert Snodgrass was the main culprit. At 34 I suspected his best days might have been behind him but he proved there’s no substitute for class.
Oh how Blackpool could do with a player who delivers quality into the box on such a regular basis…
It was a bit of an odd game in that Blackpool actually started quite well and looked bright from the off, despite Luton scoring with their first venture forward.
Elijah Adebayo is some player, he’s 6ft 4ins and he looks as strong as any striker I’ve seen this season, so I won’t pretend it’s easy to simply shrug him off the ball.
But nevertheless, it was a poor goal to concede from Blackpool’s point of view. James Husband was beaten far too early down the right flank by Adebayo, whose shot somehow ended up in the far corner, taking a heavy deflection off Richard Keogh before nestling in Chris Maxwell’s net.
The Seasiders responded well and continued to stick to their game plan, which was to avoid Luton’s press by bringing new strike partnership Jake Beesley and Gary Madine into play.
I have to say, it worked well in the first-half, as the duo linked up superbly - both working tirelessly off the ball and Beesley in particular impressing once again with his movement.
They were less effective in the second-half, but by that point the game had become bitty and frustratingly stop-start to a number of soft refereeing calls.
Thankfully one of said calls went in Blackpool’s favour 10 minutes into the second-half when CJ Hamilton, who had looked dangerous all afternoon, was tripped inside the Luton box.
With Jerry Yates on the bench, Madine took on the responsibility of smashing the spot kick into the back of the net to level.
At this point, with Luton going all out for a play-off spot and with Blackpool with little to play for, you had the feeling the game could end in a ding-dong battle. But it never really transpired.
The Seasiders, a little bizarrely, opted to take the sting out of the affair during the dying minutes, almost as if they were happy to settle for a point.
That surprised me as they had Luton on the ropes at one point. Nathan Jones’ side were tiring and hit with even more injuries.
Were they wary of suffering yet late heartbreak? Perhaps. But it felt like another one of those away games where the three points were there for the taking.
We were left with a feeling of ‘what if?’ again, but at the same time the Seasiders also probably know they got away with one two minutes into stoppage-time. So it’s swings and roundabouts.
Critchley’s men now find themselves in the somewhat bizarre position of facing the three relegated sides in their final three games of the campaign - starting at Oakwell on Tuesday night.
Fingers crossed the Seasiders can claim a healthy haul of points to finish an excellent season with some momentum to head into a fascinating summer.