Southend United 1-2 Blackpool: Matt Scrafton's match verdict as Seasiders record fourth straight win

Armand Gnanduillet has always been something of an enigma.

Saturday, 17th November 2018, 9:31 pm
Updated Sunday, 18th November 2018, 9:44 am
Armand Gnanduillet has six goals from 12 starts this season
Armand Gnanduillet has six goals from 12 starts this season

A player with his raw physical attributes, brute strength and towering height should be ripping it up on a regular basis in League One.

Having been handed his first league start since mid-October at Roots Hall, the Frenchman struggled to hold the ball up for much of Saturday’s game and didn’t contest enough aerial battles. Halfway through the second half you’re thinking he’s fortunate to remain on the pitch with the likes of Mark Cullen itching to get on.

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But then Gnanduillet goes and scores the winner in clinical fashion, producing a powerful, pinpoint header from Harry Pritchard’s fabulous cross. That just sums up the guy.

Even Terry McPhillips admitted the striker didn’t have his best game, remarking that the 26-year-old looked “rusty”.

But the Blackpool boss won’t have any complaints as long as his forward continues to do the business in front of goal.

He’s already surpassed last season’s record of four goals in 31 appearances. He now has six goals in 20 appearances, just 12 of them starts.

Keep up that one-in-two record and McPhillips will have no choice but to keep playing him.

Six goals might not sound like much when we’re nearing December, but he’s been in and out of the team this season and has recently missed four games through suspension for that petulant red card he picked up at Fleetwood Town.

Gnanduillet was involved in all of the action again, having the misfortune of being on the receiving end of a horrid, cynical stamp from Michael Turner in the dying minutes which saw the ex-Hull City and Sunderland man shown his marching orders.

The 35-year-old, who should really know better given his experience, had no complaints as he trudged off the pitch.

Although Southend still managed to rally in injury time with 10 men, the home fans knew in their heart of hearts the red card had all-but condemned their side to a defeat, their third in their last five outings.

The Shrimpers are having a bad time of it in the league of late and boy, could you tell.

Considering there was almost 7,000 there, the crowd were deathly quiet. Their team didn’t help, they gave them nothing to cheer about whatsoever.

Chris Powell’s men were tame and, other than Michael Kightly’s early chipped effort which cannoned off the post - which came as a result of a defensive mix-up from Pool - struggled to create clear-cut chances.

Their threat came from the wings with the delivery of Kightly, but Pool dealt with every delivery into their box - except one, 15 minutes from time.

It’s fair to say their goal came completely out of the blue. It wasn’t like they were pushing and pushing and constantly knocking at Blackpool’s door.

It was a goal similar to Pool’s opener, a left-wing cross converted from close range by full back Jason Demetriou. Blackpool were caught napping in a rare moment of carelessness.

That’s exactly what happened, a tap-in from a left-wing cross, from the men in tangerine just 14 minutes in when McPhillips’ men took an early lead.

Marc Bola, playing at wing back in a new and “exciting” 3-5-2 system, delivered what is rapidly becoming a trademark low cross across the six-yard which Ollie Turton prodded home from inside the six-yard box.

An unlikely source of a goal, it was the defender’s first of the season and just his second in a Blackpool shirt.

The new shape worked well for Blackpool after a shaky start. Curtis Tilt didn’t look too sure of himself on the left-hand side of a back three, but he improved as the game wore on as he, and his centre back partners Donervon Daniels and Ben Heneghan, got used to their new roles.

It’s always a bonus to have a system that allows two strikers, with Gnanduillet partnering Joe Dodoo in attack with Nathan Delfouneso just behind.

The biggest beneficiary of the new system is Bola, an attacking full back who just loves to get forward. Playing at left back, he does leave gaps in behind but that’s not as much of a problem when he’s playing slightly further forward.

It’s testament to Blackpool’s mental strength as well as their physical toughness that they’ve been able to overcome their recent schedule. Onlookers might be flippant about having to travel so far in such a short space of time, but it does take its toll.

To record wins at Plymouth Argyle, Gillingham, Exeter City and now Southend - trips that total more than 2,000 miles - is mightily impressive.

You can also add the Arsenal game into the mix as well, where the Seasiders took the Gunners all the way and came close to forcing the last-16 tie to penalties.

Four of those five trips have come in the last few weeks, where Blackpool managed to conquer their tiredness, bounce back from that one-off defeat to Bristol Rovers and respond in the best possible fashion - winning four on the bounce in both league and cup.

The fact Blackpool are level on points with the play-offs as we close in on Christmas is nothing short of miraculous.

Not because they don’t deserve it, because they absolutely do - their record speaks for itself.

But with the daily challenges this side faces, they simply have no right to be competing for a promotion spot to the Championship.

If you’re a Blackpool fan, regardless of whether you’re an ardent attendee or of a Not A Penny More persuasion, you surely can’t fail to be impressed by the mammoth efforts of Terry McPhillips and his men.