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Blackpool Get That Winning Feeling On The Road Again

Despite having the best home record in the league, and currently sitting in 8th place in League One, Blackpool are nothing short of woeful away from home.

For a side challenging for the promotion places, they have only won twice away from home all season, against Barnsley and Portsmouth. That is, until they played Bristol Rovers, as The Seasiders scored twice in the first half to secure a 2-1 win, and just a third away win all season.

How did Blackpool manage it then? Was it down to sheer luck, or did Neil Critchley get his changes right?

Taking Their Chances

One thing Blackpool have been extremely guilty of on the road this season is not taking their chances.

Whilst they do not create a plethora of chances, they do manage to carve out a few key opportunities each game, which in most games, go to waste.

However, against Bristol Rovers, The Seasiders were back to their best in front of goal, as they scored twice from their five shots on target.

The creativity was there on full display, in stark contrast to some of their recent away games, such as their one against Burton Albion, where Blackpool managed 10 shots, without any of them being on target.

Blackpool also had a good start away against Port Vale and registered a few shots on target in the first 20 minutes. However, their lack of conviction in front of goal cost them, as Port Vale ended up winning the game 3-0.

Blackpool fans will have been relieved to not just see their team score away from home, but to win away from home again.

Focus On Wing Play

Blackpool’s main attacking threat this season has come from wide areas. Whether the more conventional full-backs of playing, such as Lyons or Gabriel, or whether Critchley has opted to use CJ Hamilton or Owen Dale in these positions.

The two attacking wing backs, or the two wingers, create an overload when going forward, and almost turn the attacking line into a front five, rather than a front three.

This creates a lot of space in the wider areas, which Blackpool then look to exploit with pace, resulting in a ball being crossed into the box, or it being worked into the penalty area for a clear shot on target.

Recently, away from home, this has not been the case, with the side opting to play long ball, or ‘hoofball’, much to the fans' dismay.

It has been a tactic that has not worked well, with The Seasiders being unable to capitalise on any second ball opportunities, often leading to lost possession, and a potential counterattack for the away side.

Against Bristol Rovers though, Blackpool, and Critchley, opted to go back to their strengths and focus on the wing play, which worked wonders.

Both of Blackpool’s goals came from well-worked play on the left wing, with the first being expertly finished by CJ Hamilton, who was left in acres of space due to the overload on the other side of the pitch.

The second goal, again, came down the left side, with Husband trying to lift a ball over their back line. It was defended well, but Kyle Joseph capitalised on a loose ball, and put another inch-perfect cross into the box, finding Karamoko Dembele, whose finish was just as spectacular as Hamilton’s.

This shows that Blackpool are capable of playing this style of football away from home and that it works well against any opposition. It was how they got their win at Portsmouth, and it was a big part of their win against Bristol Rovers as well.

Players Finding Form, And Key Changes

Critchley has done a complete U-turn compared to his last stint as Blackpool manager. Having previously earned the nickname ‘The Tinkerman’ for his constant tweaking of the team, he now barely makes changes to his starting 11 if he has to.

However, after a busy Christmas schedule, and forcing Nottingham Forest to a replay and extra time in their FA Cup fixture, changes were inevitable, with some players needing a rest.

Whilst the main core of the team stayed the same, there were a few changes for Critchley’s side that made the difference.

New loan signing Hayden Coulson continued as the left-sided wing back, after impressing against Exeter at Bloomfield Road the other week.

The full-back suits Critchley’s system perfectly, as he constantly looks to get on the front foot, attacking the space in front of him. Once he has fully settled into this Blackpool side he could be a real asset.

Another change, that was forced upon Critchley, was the first league appearance for Richard O’Donnell after Grimshaw injured himself in that FA Cup replay against Nottingham Forest.

The former Rochdale keeper had a good game, with his distribution playing a key part in Blackpool’s attacking play, and his commanding of the box coming in useful from corners.

The experienced shot-stopper is not a bad backup to have, and Grimshaw may now have some competition should he want his number one spot back when he returns from injury.

Callum Connolly being dropped to the bench will have pleased many Blackpool fans, with some of his performances coming under scrutiny in recent weeks, as Critchley opted for a back three of Husband, Ekpiteta and Casey.

This worked wonders as well, as, apart from a freak goal from Chris Martin, the Blackpool backline looked solid, restricting Bristol Rovers for large periods of the game.

If it was not the substitutes making the difference, it was Blackpool’s key players instead. Kyle Joseph grabbed himself two good assists after a stuttering start to life at Bloomfield Road, as he showcased to the travelling support what he is all about.

Albie Morgan may not have scored a screamer this week, but he continued his rich vein of form with a strong performance in midfield, alongside captain Oliver Norburn.

It was a very strong showing from some of Blackpool’s key players, and the players rotated into the side will now be giving Critchley a selection headache for the next few fixtures.

Blackpool remain in 8th place after their third away win, and it gets them ever closer to a spot in the playoff places.

The win will give them confidence going forward into their next few away games, which include the likes of playoff-chasing Stevenage and Peterborough.

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