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Blackpool FC Preview: Last Chance Saloon

Blackpool welcome Millwall to Bloomfield Road in their final Championship home game of the season. A game between two sides battling at both ends of the table. Blackpool, looking to survive relegation, against a Millwall side with a chance of finishing in the top 6.

Blackpool’s season has been nothing short of a failure. Lack of pull in the transfer windows, wrong managerial decisions and injury crisis after injury crisis had led to The Seasiders languishing near the bottom of the table.

Relegation from The Championship would undo all the hard work that Neil Critchley managed two seasons ago, when he gained promotion from League One via the playoff final. Relegation will represent a big step backwards in Simon Sadlers plan for the club, a club which he believes belongs in The Championship.

Before Blackpool play on Friday night, their fight for survival could be made even harder on Thursday night, when Rotherham welcome Cardiff. A draw in that game will mean that Blackpool cannot overtake either side, unless there is a major goal difference swing, which seems unlikely with 2-3 games to go.

Huddersfield also have a game in hand on The Tangerines, but they do not play before Friday, meaning Blackpool can put some pressure on the sides above them, if they overcome Millwall.

Blackpool’s Championship survival will be very circumstantial. They are now required to win both of their remaining games, at home against Millwall and away against Norwich, whilst also relying on Reading to lose both of their remaining two fixtures and Huddersfield to lose their remaining three fixtures.

The Seasiders can also catch Rotherham and Cardiff, but it requires one of those sides losing the rearranged fixture between the pair on Thursday, and then losing their remaining two games after that. If QPR lose both of their last two games, and Blackpool win theirs, they could finish above them depending on goal difference as well.

All in all, the chances of Blackpool staying up look very slim. But The Tangerine army believe in their team, and interim manager Stephen Dobbie, they believe they can defy the odds and stay up.

Last time out, Blackpool travelled to Birmingham, looking to do what they had not done since the 29th October, win away from home. A tough enough task for a struggling team, let alone one with a plethora of injuries to first team players.

With long term absentees such as Kevin Stuart, Jake Beesley and Marvin Ekpiteta out, Jerry Yates, Blackpool’s top goal scorer, and Keshi Anderson joined that list, two of Blackpool’s better players in recent weeks.

The game went as many Blackpool fans would have expected. Being dominated by the home side, and having to sit and bide their time, and trying to catch Birmingham on the break.

The first and only goal of the game came quite late on. With 16 minutes to play, a horrendous back pass from Kevin Long to Neil Etherridge allowed Blackpool’s makeshift striker Morgan Rodgers to contend with the ball. It broke kindly for him, allowing him to square it across the box, for substitute Ian Poveda to roll home into and empty net, guiding Blackpool to a priceless, invaluable 3 points.

The game did not finish without a few more injury issues for Blackpool. The goalscorer, Poveda, had to be brought off due to a hamstring injury, and Jordan Thornily, one of Blackpool’s better performers this season, also got forced off, with a tight groin.

Blackpool now turn their attention to what is another must win game, this time at home against Millwall. A win here will potentially take their survival chances to the final day of the season, depending on other results.

Fortunately for Blackpool, history is on their side. Millwall have not won at Bloomfield Road since 2007, when the pair met in League One, with the away side running out 1-0 victors. Since then, Blackpool are 6 games unbeaten at home against The Lions, winning 5 and drawing 1 of those games.

Millwall will be relying on key men, such as Tom Bradshaw and Zian Flemming to reignite their top 6 aspirations. The dark horses stumbled ever so slightly last week, faulting to a 2-1 loss against basement boys Wigan. Experienced midfielder George Saville got Millwall back into the game after half an hour, after Will Keane scored early on to give Wigan the lead.

Millwall could not build on this, and ended up conceding from Wigan’s second shot on target, this time coming from Theo Aasgaard, a result that ultimately dropped them out of the top 6.

In terms of the game itself, it is a hard one to call. There is so much riding on this result for both teams. For Blackpool, another chance at survival, for Millwall, a potential spot in the top 6, and a chance to get promoted to the Premier League. Both sides desperately need the win, which should lead to an entertaining game.

Due to this, I imagine both sides will get on the scoresheet, and with Blackpool playing at home, I think they will just sneak a result here, but they cannot let the occasion get to them, and they cannot let the nerves settle in.

Prediction: Blackpool 2 - 1 Millwall

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