Doncaster 1-1 Blackpool (p): Five things we learned
Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' penalty shootout win against Doncaster Rovers in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Taking a fine was the right thing to do
After last night's match, Gary Bowyer revealed only three players from Saturday's game had been fit enough to train before the Checkatrade Trophy tie. A number of Pool players had also been struggling for fitness the previous week, which is why I was so surprised to see only one change for the FA Cup tie against Brackley. Bowyer would have been risking the fitness of his more senior players had he fielded them at Doncaster last night, and the Checkatrade Trophy as a competition just isn't significant enough to be taking that sort of risk. It also provided a good opportunity for Bowyer to see what some of his fringe players and youngsters could do - and they didn't disappoint. The fine is inevitable but the Pool boss had little choice.
New system worked surprisingly well
Bowyer's hand was forced somewhat into playing an unfamiliar 3-5-2 system, but it worked well. Danny Philliskirk and Bright Osayi-Samuel filled in well in the two wing-back spots, while Luke Higham, Eddie Nolan and Will Aimson kept things solid in the back three. Only last week Gary Bowyer was quoted as saying he was a "4-4-2 man" and wouldn't be swayed by the latest tactical trends and formations, only to adopt the "in fashion" 3-5-2 system the week later. But the system suited the players at his disposal and it still allowed him to play with two strikers up front, which he is a big fan of. I'm sure he'll revert back to 4-4-2 for the league game at Stevenage on Saturday, but it's always good to have a plan B.
A welcome return and an exciting debut
It was great to see Jack Redshaw back in action to make his first appearance of the season, having been sidelined for months with shin splints. He still has a long way to go and will continue to be eased back into Blackpool's squad over the coming weeks and months, but once fully fit the former Morecambe man will provide a superb alternative. Blackpool are spoilt for choice for attacking options already, but with a fully fit Redshaw back firing on all cylinders, Bowyer will have a real headache on his hands choosing two strikers from his forward options. It was also great to see youngster Rowan Roache make his professional debut for the club, and the highly-rated forward showed great confidence to stroke his penalty into the top corner.
Sub strikers grabbed their opportunity
Armand Gnanduillet and Mark Cullen were superb last night. They linked up well and looked to have struck up a genuine partnership, which is something they have lacked in the previous times they have played together. The two combined for Pool's goal, with Cullen nodding down to Gnanduillet who volleyed home from inside the box. Cullen himself could, and probably should have registered his name on the scoresheet - but that shouldn't take anything away from his fine performance. It's been a difficult time for the Luton man who has struggled for minutes with the recent form of fellow strikers Jamille Matt and Kyle Vassell, but all he can do is continue to impress when he gets the chance and that's exactly what he did last night.
Trophy run can go hand in hand with league success
In November, the Seasiders won three of their four matches in the league after seeing success in the FA Cup and Checkatrade Trophy, with a win in the FA Cup against Kidderminster and a penalty shootout win against an Everton U21 side. Now, after a win in the FA Cup against Brackley Town in the FA Cup and a penalty shootout win against Doncaster, Pool face four league games in the rest of December. If Bowyer's men can produce another three wins, they would surely find themselves in the comfort zone of the play-off spots with an exciting 2017 to look forward to. Cup competitions can often prove to be an unwanted distraction, but it seems to be the opposite for Blackpool who seem to thrive once they get on a winning run, whatever the competition.