MATCH REPORT: Blackpool 4-1 Middlesbrough U21s
A Danny Philliskirk brace helped Blackpool ease past Middlesbrough U21s to clinch their progression through to the next round of the Checkatrade Trophy.
Philliskirk's goals and impressive long-range efforts from Sean Longstaff and Sessi D’Almeida capped off a convincing display in front of just under 700 spectators - one of the lowest crowds ever seen at Bloomfield Road for a competitive game.
Blackpool now sit atop of their group and have an unassailable four-point gap over Accrington Stanley in third, who play their final group game against second-placed Wigan Athletic next week.
The Seasiders fielded a much-changed side from the one that lost 1-0 at Northampton on Saturday, with Kelvin Mellor, Curtis Tilt and Sean Longstaff the three to keep their place in the first eleven.
On-loan midfielder Callum Cooke dropped out of the squad altogether as he was unable to play against his parent side, while young full back Caleb Richards returned from his loan spell at Warrington Town to start for the second time in the competition this season.
Blackpool made a bright start to proceedings with the first chance of the game coming their way, but Danny Philliskirk was unable to control his shot from the edge of the box and sent it flying high and wide.
However the visitors returned in kind and came inches away from taking the lead through Lewis Wing, whose well-controlled shot was blocked on the line by Richards.
The Seasiders continued to string together some tidy passing sequences in their build-up but as has been the story in recent weeks, were struggling to find that killer pass in the final third.
That was until the 19-year-old Richards provided a teasing cross for Philliskirk, who got the slightest of touches to direct it into the bottom corner to break the deadlock.
Curtis Tilt had a good chance to double Pool’s lead but could only direct his shot wide of the post after beating his man to get on the end of Sean Longstaff’s dangerous cross.
Viv Solomon-Otabor was causing all sorts of problems for Middlesbrough from the wing and had a good opportunity to grab a second for Blackpool, only to miss the target after an impressive mazy run.
But the Seasiders’ second came just before the half-time interval but it was well worth the wait as Longstaff slashed home from outside the box with one of his trademark long-range finishes.
The two-goal lead was no more than Pool deserved for their first-half display, but they were pegged back just ten minutes into the second period after Luke Armstrong pounced on a mistake by Ben Williams to shoot low into the bottom corner.
However the Seasiders restored their two-goal advantage two minutes later when Sessi D’Almeida produced a thunderous strike from 25 yards out which flew into the top corner.
Richards showed good instincts to clear a shot off the line for the second time to stop Armstrong’s shot from finding the bottom corner.
Middlesbrough U21s had a couple of half chances come their way in the final stages but they were unable to reduce the arrears.
In fact Blackpool extended their lead in the final minute of normal time when Philliskirk tapped home from close range to finish off a smart team move to bag his second goal of the game.
Blackpool: Williams, Mellor (Taylor), Tilt, Anderton, Richards, D'Almeida, Longstaff (Spearing), Philliskirk, Solomon-Otabor, Clayton, Quigley (Gnanduillet)
Subs not used: Mafoumbi, Aimson, Turton, Delfouneso
Middlesbrough U21s: Mejias, Shotton, Coulson, Miller, Armstrong, Brewitt, Wing, McGinley, Hegarty, Liddle, Sylla (Malley)
Subs not used: Reading, Cook, James, O’Neill
Referee: Martin Coy
Attendance: 691 (28 Middlesbrough)