Match verdict: Blackpool dig deep to maintain impressive unbeaten streak

As the old adage goes: if you can't win a game, try your damn hardest not to lose it either. Right now that sums Blackpool up to a tee.

Sunday, 23rd September 2018, 11:50 am
Updated Sunday, 23rd September 2018, 12:57 pm
Michael Nottingham challenges for the ball

The Seasiders have now played nine games this season, 12 in all competitions, and just been beaten the once.

Even that loss, the 2-1 reversal against Portsmouth the Saturday after Gary Bowyer’s resignation, was a narrow defeat which could have quite easily ended in a draw.

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Michael Nottingham challenges for the ball

Blackpool don’t give anything away for free, as you can clearly tell from their watertight defensive record.

It’s fair to say Blackpool’s games – in the league anyway – aren’t the most entertaining of spectacles.

From Pool’s nine league games so far this season, just 13 goals have been scored. Eight of them have come their way, while just five had been conceded.

You don’t need me to tell you where they’re doing well and at what end they need to improve, but right now things are going along quite nicely.

Gary Brabin was in the Blackpool dugout for the first time since being appointed assistant manager

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Blackpool, despite being far from their best on Saturday, earned a draw to take them up to eighth place in the League One table.

They had to work their socks off to maintain their 10-game unbeaten run, but in truth it was a bit of a nothing game against the Hatters.

Blackpool were so far off the pace in the first half they could easily have found themselves a couple of goals down at the interval.

Jordan Thompson had Blackpool's clearest chance of the game

But they didn’t, as Luton found Mark Howard in fine form – once again – while the back four in front of hi, while a little shaky at times, did what was required to keep the ball out of their net.

We shouldn’t take anything away from Luton though, they played some lovely one and two-touch football, interchanging in and around the Blackpool box and getting themselves into some promising situations.

But, a bit like Blackpool, that’s where it all fell apart. For all of Luton’s good play in the first half, where they utterly dominated, I don’t recall too many clear-cut chances being created where you thought to yourself ‘they should have scored that’. There was no cutting edge.

Most of their chances were well-struck long rangers that Howard did well to beat away from goal, eventually seeing off Luton’s pressure to keep his sixth clean sheet of the season.

Ben Heneghan did well in place of the suspended Donervon Daniels

Luton did cut Blackpool apart at will though, constantly finding gaps in between the lines as the hosts failed to get to grips with their diamond formation.

Blackpool did eventually improve in the second half, helped by the introduction of Callum Guy, who impressed making his league debut for the Seasiders.

He came on in place of John O’Sullivan, who didn’t quite do enough to stake a claim for a regular starting spot in the absence of the injured Harry Pritchard.

Guy played a disciplined role beside Jay Spearing in the centre of midfield, allowing Jordan Thompson to play further up the field in the number 10 role – a position that suits his creative talents.

And it was Thompson who had Blackpool’s best attacking moments of the game. In fact, for all of Luton’s good play, there’s a good argument to make that Thompson had the clearest opportunity of the day.

It came from a long throw from substitute Michael Nottingham – who can count himself unfortunate to not be a regular starter for Pool – which was flicked into Thompson’s path by Curtis Tilt.

Mark Cullen made his 100th appearance for the Seasiders

It looked a nice height for Thompson, but he blazed his effort well over the bar when he had a clear shot on goal. He had to hit the target.

The Northern Ireland international also went close with a header, where he arrived late in the box to meet Nathan Delfouneso’s vicious cross only to nod wide of goal.

But as goalscoring opportunities went for Pool, that was about it.

Mark Cullen, making his 100th appearance for the club against the side he joined from, once again had little to work off up front.

You have to feel sorry for the 26-year-old. He’s essentially a poacher who thrives off opportunities in and around the 18-yard box, but right now he’s just not getting any.

Instead, he’s having to work tirelessly up front on his own. It’s an unselfish role which sees him holding the ball up, challenging for headers and working the channels.

To his credit, he does it well for the benefit of his team. But is it getting the best out of him? Absolutely not.

But right now Blackpool don’t really have an alternative. Yes they have Armand Gnanduillet, who offers something different, but he’s much better suited to being an impact player off the bench.

His hold-up play is still not what it should be for a guy who is so physical and has all the attributes to be a constant menace at this level. His scoring record suggests he can’t be the go-to guy to regularly find the back of the net, either.

McPhillips is well aware of where his Blackpool side need to improve, but there’s plenty of things to be positive about at the moment.

Given the huge turnover of players during the summer – plus the sudden and unexpected departure of Bowyer – the Seasiders are doing as well as anyone could have ever predicted.

They’ve got a huge test coming up next Saturday in the form of league leaders Peterborough United, who have scored 24 times already this season.

It will be the sternest test of Blackpool’s hugely impressive defence to date, but I wouldn’t bet against them keeping yet another clean sheet on the road. But first up is QPR in the cup on Tuesday.

Mark Cullen had to feed off scraps up top