‘This is a special team led by a special boss’: Matt Scrafton’s verdict on Blackpool’s magnificent win against Sheffield United

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Time almost seemed to stand still as the ball left Keshi Anderson’s left foot.

 

It was like one of those movie scenes, where the lighting dims and the audio lulls while the scene plays out in slow motion to build up the tension and enhance the drama, while those spectating impatiently held their breaths.

Only this wasn’t an action move, this was real life. And this is real life for Blackpool now, beating top sides on a regular basis.

Nevertheless, all that tension and drama reached a crushing crescendo as the ball flew into the top corner, sending 2,000 delirious Blackpool fans into raptures.

The away end was a mass of assorted limbs. Looking on from afar, it was difficult to pick out one body from another. Others, meanwhile, got a little over-excited and decided to scale the advertising hoardings and celebrate on the pitch with the players.

On this occasion, you can forgive them for getting a tad carried away, because you sense something special could be happening.

Even when they’re not quite at their free-flowing best, the Seasiders still manage to find a way.

Time stood still as Keshi Anderson let fly for the top corner

Time stood still as Keshi Anderson let fly for the top corner

Let’s be frank here, Blackpool probably ought to have been beaten on Saturday. Ignore their lowly position of 17th, which has caused restlessness among the fanbase, Sheffield United are a very good side.

Blackpool’s goal lived a charmed life at times, especially in the first-half. The Blades had a goal ruled out for offside, they rattled the crossbar and were denied by the fabulous Dan Grimshaw on multiple occasions.

Grimshaw, only making his fourth league appearance of his career in England, let’s not forget, has been exemplary since replacing the injured Chris Maxwell.

The goalkeeper produced another solid display in South Yorkshire, dealing well with the barrage of pressure that came his way. One stop in particular, from the impressive Morgan Gibbs-White, was eye-catching.

In front of him, Richard Keogh and Marvin Ekpiteta were kept busy but remained rock solid, while the two full-backs James Husband and Jordan Gabriel were in colossal form.

It’s very rare I say this, but Blackpool struggled to get to grips with their opponents at times. They looked a little out of ideas while Critchley cut an animated figure on the sideline. It’s not like they were performing poorly, they were just finding it tough going against a top, top side.

Slavisa Jokanovic’s men, up until the final third, were probably the best side Blackpool have played this season. Their movement and interplay was a joy to behold at times. Even Critchley admitted he enjoyed watching some of their fine football.

They should be a good side though, let’s be honest. They’ve just dropped down from the Premier League and they have an embarrassment of riches in their squad.

Just take a look at their bench, you have former Seasider Chris Basham, Conor Hourihane, Oli McBurnie, David McGoldrick and Blackpool’s historical nemesis Billy Sharp. I dread to think what they take up in wages.

But reputations mean little to this Blackpool side, who showed character to stay in the game and put their bodies on the line to keep the Blades at bay.

Once we reached the hour-mark, with the game somehow still goalless, you could see the confidence sip out of the home side. Perhaps tiredness had set in, too.

Blackpool were finally able to put some moves together to force themselves up the pitch and exert some long-overdue pressure. It’s almost as if a switch turned on and, all of a sudden, they realised the game was there to be won.

They didn’t let the opportunity go amiss, either, Anderson curling home with aplomb with his second goal in as many games to secure yet another priceless three points for the Seasiders.

That’s now three straight wins for Blackpool but, more significantly, it’s seven wins in 10.

Any side in the Championship can enjoy a short-term upturn in form, but a run of 22 points from a possible 30 – with a draw also included – is a sign of consistency. It’s the sort of spell we saw Blackpool enjoy from February/March time onwards in League One last season.

Key to their latest win was their spirit and steel, which was somewhat fitting given they were playing in the Steel City.

Prior to Saturday’s encounter, Blackpool hadn’t won at Bramall Lane since 1977, but Critchley has proven again and again during his tenure that records like that mean absolutely nothing. They’re there to be broken, after all.

Indeed, it’s not just three games on the spin Blackpool have won, it’s also three consecutive games where they’ve made history.

The marvellous comeback win against Reading was the first time they had beaten the Royals away from home in 41 years. Last week’s derby triumph, meanwhile, was Blackpool’s first victory against PNE at Bloomfield Road since 1997.

It’s proof, as if we needed it, that this is a special team, led by a special boss. Enjoy this while you can, because Critchley is destined for the very top.

It didn’t go unnoticed that Pool’s head coach appeared to wipe away a tear after joining in with Blackpool’s post-match celebrations, which included his now trademark fist pumps.

That’s what impresses me most about Critchley, not his tactical acumen, not his man management, his attention to detail or the way he communicates. But the fact he ‘gets it’. He knows what it’s all about.

We’re barely a third of the way through the season but Critchley’s newly-promoted side already find themselves on 24 points from their 15 games, leaving them in sixth. Even the most optimistic of supporters couldn’t have seen this coming.

As for the doom and gloom, glass half full merchants, they’ll no doubt be thinking about how the Seasiders are nearly halfway there to reaching that magical 50-point mark.

We don’t need to be worrying about that though, do we?