Match verdict: Red cards shouldn't overshadow another fine performance and win for Blackpool
It's a real shame the peculiar ending to Blackpool's win at Plymouth is likely to overshadow what was another fabulous result and display by the Seasiders.
MATCH REPORT: Plymouth Argyle 0-1 Blackpool
The game ended with Blackpool desperately clinging on with nine men, eventually holding out to claim the three points that should have been already wrapped up.
The cameras failed to pick up the bizarre altercation between Donervon Daniels and Marc Bola, which led to both being given their marching orders in injury time as Blackpool prepared to defend a corner.
Initial suggestions from the Plymouth fans behind that goal was that the two had come to blows and had each other by the neck and throat. Some in the press box were even comparing it to the infamous fight between Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer back in 2005.
But Terry McPhillips played down the incident post-match, claiming Daniels had been upset with Bola for his failure to head a ball away from the penalty area. He insisted no punches or headbutts were exchanged.
Captain Jay Spearing reassured reporters the two were in a jovial mood in the dressing room after the game, claiming the incident highlighted Blackpool’s fighting spirit and will to win.
Had he been so confident of that had the altercation cost Blackpool the three points, I’m not so sure, but it doesn’t appear as though the falling out was as serious as first seemed.
As it is, it didn’t matter in the end as Blackpool claimed another victory – their first on the road in the league this season – to extend their unbeaten run to nine games and hand McPhillips a victory in his first game as full-time boss.
It was another controlled display from the Seasiders. They took the initiative from the off and, when they kept the ball on the deck, they were utterly dominant and cut Plymouth open at will.
Nathan Delfouneso in particular was a constant threat down the left-hand side, leaving right back Joe Riley for dead time and time again. Harry Pritchard was another who was involved with everything good in the first half for Pool, although his day was unfortunately cut short just before half time as he hobbled off with an injury.
Pritchard, who kept popping up in dangerous areas in the final third, put the ball on a plate for Mark Cullen just seven minutes in but the striker could only skew wide.
It was a poor miss, but he made up for it soon after as he diverted Pritchard’s low shot into the back of the net from close range. It was a typical poacher’s effort from the forward, who now reclaims his spot as the club’s top goalscorer with three goals.
Cullen, now back to full fitness and improving with every game, once again went close as Delfouneso picked him out at the back post, but the cross was just a little too high for him and he headed over.
By this point Plymouth could have had no complaints had they been 2 or 3-0 down.
But, to their credit, they improved as the half wore on and their pressing caused Blackpool problems, leading to them seeing much more of the ball.
It was at this point that Blackpool were forced to backtrack a little, with Plymouth forcing them to go long which gave them little joy.
That’s where they invited pressure on themselves, and it almost cost them as Graham Carey went close before he crossed to Freddie Ladapo, who flicked an excellent effort onto the inside of the post which then fortunately bounced into the safety of Mark Howard’s hands.
PLAYER RATINGS: Our marks out of 10 after Blackpool's win at Plymouth
Referee Neil Hair didn’t help matters, as he gifted the home side a number of disputed free kicks while penalising Blackpool for the most trivial of matters, subsequently handing the initiative to Derek Adams’ side.
John O’Sullivan should have made life easier for Pool when he found himself unmarked in the Plymouth six-yard box, but he could only head wide from Ryan McLaughlin’s pinpoint cross.
But Blackpool stood firm and, although Plymouth threw the kitchen sink at them in the second half, as you’d expect, they held on for a deserved win.
Howard played an instrumental role in keeping his fifth clean sheet of the season, making a number of fine saves and commanding his area with impressive ease every time a ball was played into his box. It makes you wonder how Pool managed to pick up such a good goalkeeper on a free transfer.
Curtis Tilt and Daniels were also in fine form in the centre of defence – until the latter was sent off, anyway – but it was the all-round team display that saw Pool claim the win.
It means Blackpool are still yet to concede a goal away from home in the league, which is a quite remarkable record.
The Seasiders have only conceded five in total this season, a record that is only matched by Portsmouth and Barnsley.
Of course the goals scored column – which shows Blackpool have the found the back of the net on just eight occasions – is a cause for concern and at some point, may cost them.
But currently it’s not stopping McPhillips’ side from picking up positive results to keep them in the top half, and long may that continue.
While we’re on the subject of records and statistics, Saturday’s win was also the fifth straight win at Home Park for Blackpool.
It’s been a happy hunting ground in recent years, with Blackpool coming back from their long travels to Devon with some vital wins under their belts. This was another one.