Gillingham 0-1 Blackpool: Matt Scrafton's match verdict on Seasiders' battling return to winning ways
This was more like the Blackpool we've become accustomed to seeing this season.
Gillingham 0-1 Blackpool: Nathan Delfouneso the match winner as Seasiders get back to winning ways
After shipping six goals in their last two league games, the 3-2 defeat to Fleetwood Town and the 3-0 loss to Bristol Rovers, Pool responded in the best fashion possible.
Blackpool battled, they were watertight as a unit and they reduced a side that had just won their last two home games in convincing fashion to very few clear-cut chances.
The foundations of Blackpool’s impressive early season form and their unbeaten run was built on their rock-solid defence, which saw them edge games by the odd goal or two and frustrating their opponents in the process.
That clearly slipped against Fleetwood and Bristol Rovers, but it appears they were nothing more than blips.
Gillingham came into the game last night on the back of scoring seven goals in consecutive home games, conceding no goals in return, dispatching Bradford City 4-0 before seeing off Fleetwood Town 3-0.
Tom Eaves, the league’s top scorer, was in excellent form, scoring five times in his last three games.
With Blackpool looking so tired and jaded on Saturday, and still without some key players through injury and suspension, it all looked set up to be another tough day at the races for the Seasiders.
Football is a fickle game. After the back-to-back defeats, the injuries were beginning to pile up and onlookers predicted Blackpool would begin to drop away from the top end of the table.
Ninety minutes later, the Seasiders find themselves back in ninth, just three points off the top six and with a game in hand still to play.
Mark Howard and Donervon Daniels look close to a return and all of a sudden everything is rosy again, such is the crazy nature of this sport.
This was a game where everyone played their part, with Blackpool excelling as a unit from back to front.
But there were certainly some standout performers, no less than Ollie Turton who produced yet another fine display - this time in midfield.
It doesn’t seem to matter where he plays - be it left back, right back or central midfield - the 25-year-old churns out consistently excellent performances.
The sheer amount of leg work he put in on Tuesday night was immense. He chased down every single loose ball, made a host of vital tackles and blocks and never gave Gillingham a moment’s rest on the ball.
Elsewhere, Ben Heneghan and Curtis Tilt were exemplary at the back. They kept Eaves deathly quiet and, as previously mentioned, reduced the hosts to hopeful pot shots at goal.
Other than an early shot from Connor Ogilvie that clipped the top of the crossbar, and a late effort from Josh Parker that Christoffer Mafoumbi did superbly to save, the Gills offered very little.
Given they have been in such free scoring mood at home of late, that would have been a surprise to many. But anyone who knows what Blackpool are like when they are at their defensive best won’t have been surprised one jot.
Speaking of Mafoumbi, the keeper deserves heaps of credit for his display given how he performed against Bristol Rovers on Saturday, where he was arguably at fault for two of the three goals.
But you wouldn’t have noticed, with the 24-year-old delivering a faultless display, helping Blackpool on their way to their ninth clean sheet of the season with an array of fine stops. The best of which came in injury time, when he stood up and produced a superb reaction save to deny Parker.
It was a save almost as significant as Nathan Delfouneso's goal.
Mark Cullen was tireless in attack and Chris Taylor did well on what was his first league start since August, providing the pinpoint cross for Delfouneso to head home the winner.
Jordan Thompson also provided quality off the bench, calming things down with his quality on the ball as Blackpool looked to wind the clock down. That was another thing the Seasiders did well, managing the game in the final stages to hold onto the result.
All in all, it was a most satisfying evening for the Pool.
The players are clearly still exhausted from last week’s exploits but this was the perfect way to go into the league break, with two cup clashes now coming up before their next league game.
Unfortunately there’s no let-up for the Seasiders in their schedule, with another mammoth journey down south on the horizon this weekend as Blackpool face Exeter City in the first round of the FA Cup.
Pick up a similar result and it might almost make these long trips enjoyable. Almost...