Rochdale 1-2 Blackpool: Five things we learned
Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' much-needed win at Spotland.
Pool earn vital victory
Blackpool had to battle and do the ugly stuff to ensure they picked up the three points their performance more than merited in what were pretty awful playing conditions. In fact, it should have been more comfortable given the opportunities they wasted on the counter attack when they were already two-goals ahead, having raced into the lead at the start of the second half through goals from Nathan Delfouneso and Kelvin Mellor. The first half was a bit of a non-event really and I can't recall either goalkeeper being seriously tested in a 45 minutes where both sides struggled to acclimatise to the winds and torrential rain. The pitch soon turned into something of a quagmire making decent, free-flowing football virtually impossible. But to Blackpool's credit, they played some good stuff in a second period they controlled from start to the finish - until Rochdale's injury time goal, that is. Dale, who looked every inch a relegation struggler, threw everything forward in the dying stages to pick up an unlikely point, but the Seasiders held firm for what was their first win in nine games. It felt like a big win too.
The Fonz puts goalless run to bed
It has been well documented that Nathan Delfouneso had, prior to today's game, only scored once this season - and that was back in September when Blackpool travelled down to Plymouth and beat them 3-1 at Home Park. It's taken 20 games for that second goal to come - which is far too long for any striker at any level - but it was a goal that was more than worth the wait. It was superbly taken, as he showed impressive composure to take the ball past a defender as well as the goalkeeper with the goal at his mercy, eventually slotting home with ease to give Blackpool the lead. Gary Bowyer has been the first to admit that Delfouneso has struggled in recent weeks having been given the mantra of leading the line in the absence of Kyle Vassell and Mark Cullen. Bowyer has pulled The Fonz into his office for some one-to-one chats in recent weeks in a bid to boost his confidence, and now the forward has banished that goalless run, hopefully he can go on and hit the back of the net on a more regular basis. His goal capped off a much-improved display in general play, as the forward showed composure with the ball at his feet and with his back to goal, allowing others to be brought into play - something that had been missing in recent performances.
When Pool had to hold on, they dug deep
Despite Blackpool's miserable recent run, their spirit and character are qualities that have never been brought into question. While today's win was a long overdue one, it still doesn't mask some of the problems that Gary Bowyer will be looking to address now the January transfer window is open. But this side are willing to give everything for the cause and that was evident at Spotland today, where they dealt with everything that an admittedly limited Rochdale side threw at them. Dale started the game brightly, getting balls into the Blackpool box from all areas of the pitch but the Seasiders held firm without too much fuss. But it was at the death where their spirit shone through, winning some crucial headers and making some last-ditch blocks when their energy had all but disappeared following 90 minutes of playing on that rain and mud-sodden pitch. There wasn't much left in the tank but that is exactly the time when you find out which of your players are prepared to go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure they bring home those all-important three points. Keep that and relegation shouldn't be much of a concern, even if that five-point gap remains. A quick word for Blackpool's fans, too, who were as loud and as boisterous as they were swelled in numbers, consistently supporting their team from start to finish.
Third time lucky for Blackpool's goalkeeper problem?
Gary Bowyer made six changes to his side for today's game. Some of them were enforced, others weren't. Through his own admission the toughest change for him to make was dropping Ben Williams from not just the first team, but Blackpool's 18-man squad altogether. Christoffer Mafoumbi came in for what was his league debut in English football and did well - and in all honesty deserved a clean sheet that he was robbed of in injury time when Rochdale scored what appeared to be an offside goal. He'll surely keep that number one jersey for Blackpool's trip to Oxford United on Saturday as Bowyer's men go in search of back-to-back victories. The problem of Pool's number one has been one that has cropped up in recent weeks. Ryan Allsop, who has held that shirt for the vast majority of the season, was dropped for the game at Charlton two days before Christmas. Ben Williams was brought in and initially did well, but found himself back out of the team following shaky displays against Scunthorpe United and Plymouth Argyle - meaning the Seasiders have fielded three different 'keepers in the space of just five games. Now it's Mafoumbi's turn to step up to the plate, let's see how he fares...
Pool boosted by the return of Turton
Blackpool looked a lot more assured in defence with the presence of Ollie Turton, who returned to left back after missing the last five games with a muscle tear. Turton, naturally a right back but also a player capable of playing in midfield, has impressed over on the left-hand side - a position which allows Kelvin Mellor to slot in on the other side of defence. Andy Taylor, Colin Daniel and Nick Anderton have all had opportunities to stake a claim at left back this season but when everyone is fit, it has to be said that Turton seems to be the natural pick. In fact, when Turton, Mellor, Clark Robertson and Curtis Tilt are all fighting fit, the Seasiders have a very solid defensive unit on their hands. Pool have conceded some soft goals of late and have been far too easy to score against, but should they field that back four on a consistent basis - as well as finding that goalkeeper to rely on in the long term - they're looking like a much better side than they have done in recent weeks prior to today's win at Rochdale.