ITEN Match Preview: Blackpool (H)
Rovers return home with a creditable point and plenty of praise in the bank from the 0-0 draw at Ipswich on Saturday, but the next test of Darren Moore’s unbeaten start in League One is another challenging one, in the shape of Simon Grayson’s Blackpool.
Sadlier suits gameplan for Moore
The manager played to his side’s strengths at Portman Road on Saturday and it paid dividends as Rovers led the charge at much-fancied Ipswich, carved out plenty of chances and impressed both on and off the ball. A first clean sheet of the season is welcome reward for a back five (goalkeeper included) that is gelling together nicely around defensive man mountain Tom Anderson, and the way in which Rovers functioned as a team to break forward in numbers time after time shows that Darren Moore knows what the players on his team are best suited to.
Handing a first start of the season to Matty Blair meant being able to utilise straight-ahead pace down both flanks with Blair and Jon Taylor, who came closest to a winner for Rovers in the 0-0 stalemate. Couple this with the sheer tenacity of Niall Ennis up front and it makes for a very threatening proposition, but Moore may look to be a bit more proactive in terms of creativity against Blackpool, meaning a potential return to the starting line-up for Kieran Sadlier.
Sadlier changed the game against Rotherham off the bench, but his creative talents getting the team at and behind defenders is missed when he’s not there, despite the evergreen abilities of James Coppinger. Managing the games as they come thick and fast is another consideration, one which Moore surely had in mind when rotating his attacking midfield options in each of the last two fixtures. Blackpool tend to play with an open defensive unit so pace will be helpful against them, but so to will an ability to be patient and pick the right moments to strike hard which means Sadlier’s return is a must.
Seasiders beating back the tide
A great start to the season has petered out into growing concern for Blackpool, who were top of the table early on but now sit behind Rovers on goal difference having played two games more. Winless in five and on the end of an embarrassing 3-0 home defeat to Milton Keynes on Saturday, Simon Grayson stated the performance was so bad he could easily make 11 changes for this fixture. That is unlikely, but a pledge to become more solid means it is probable that the 3-5-2 formation will be shelved in favour of something more conventional.
Ollie Turton will surely return at right back to balance a defence that has shipped goals all too easily in recent games, but Ben Heneghan should keep his place after an encouraging full debut at centre half. That means one of Curtis Tilt and Ryan Edwards being dropped, with Tilt storming down the tunnel upon being substituted against MK, although Tilt is a talented player and Grayson will need to be wary of Rovers’ pace when selecting his defensive line-up.
Injury to Nathan Delfouneso has left attacking efforts frustrated despite the goalscoring form of Armand Gnanduillet and Sullay Kaikai in recent games. The tricky Kaikai has been operating as an unorthodox #10 but is better suited to wide areas and may be placed there in a 4-3-3 with the goalless Joe Nuttall in danger of being dropped, whilst Ryan Hardie and Sean Scannell are knocking on the door for a berth in the front line. The pace and movement of Scannell is the best fit to complement Gnanduillet in this set-up which would leave Rovers needing to be wary of a more direct approach as the Tangerines look to turn their ailing form around.
The Keepmoat has been a happy hunting ground for Blackpool with Rovers’ 2-0 win here last November the first in 10 meetings on Lakeside. That includes a five match winning streak between 2012 and 2018 for the Seasiders as the two sides have almost followed each other up and down the leagues in the 21st century. Both sides were relegated together from League One in 2016 before immediately returning, with a thrilling 3-3 draw following early in the 2017/18 season in which Alfie May scored for Rovers and the Blackpool opener was scored in impressive fashion by current Newcastle star midfielder Sean Longstaff.
A similar level of excitement – another 3-3 draw occurred in this fixture in 2009, notable for a last minute equaliser by Billy Sharp and a superb individual goal for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas before he came to Rovers – won’t be unwelcome this time around, providing it ends in three points for the home side rather than one.