Blackpool 2-1 Exeter Seven Things: Clinical Pool

Taylor and Aldred lift the trophy –

Blackpool are back in League One after a 2-1 Play-Off Final victory over Exeter, with Mark Cullen and Brad Potts combining for both goals. What have we learnt from the game?

Blackpool’s strong start

Blackpool started strongly with Kyle Vassell closing down quickly from the front. One sumptuous 60-yard ball from Jack Payne found Cullen, who held the ball up for the lively Potts to tuck into the far corner. His third minute goal was the earliest in a fourth-tier play-off final since Chris Tate netted against Pool for Leyton Orient in 2001.

Exeter’s midfield control

Blackpool’s efficient pressing in the first 10 minutes was not sustained for the rest of the half. Midfielders along with the wing-backs, Kelvin Mellor and Colin Daniel, dropped too far back and there was not enough pressure on the ball, especially in the defensive third. Exeter midfielders such as Jake Taylor and Ryan Harley were afforded more time on the ball, showing composure to pick forward passes. Ollie Watkins caused problems with his runs in central areas and on 11 minutes, he swivelled to force a good low save from Sam Slocombe.

Woodman and Wheeler’s work

That shot from Watkins, like most of Exeter’s other openings, came about from the aerial ability of David Wheeler. We saw many quality, high crossfield balls to the springy right forward, often from left-back Craig Woodman and Clark Robertson struggled in the resultant aerial duels. It was fitting that Woodman and Wheeler combined again for the equalizer on 40 minutes, the former’s looping through ball sending the latter on goal and he unleashed a delicate lob over Slocombe. Exeter had dominated much of the first half and deserved their leveller.

Bowyer’s half-time team talk

Gary Bowyer had not had everything go his way in the first half. He was forced to change shape when Tom Aldred went off injured after half an hour and Payne also had to run off a knock. He could see that his side needed to get further up and there was renewed intent from his players after the interval, Vassell and substitute Bright Osayi-Samuel going close.

Clinical Cullen and Potts

Just like Woodman and Wheeler had been key to Exeter’s better moments, Cullen and Potts were the main men for Blackpool, combining for both goals. Vassell drew Jordan Moore-Taylor out of position and flicked the ball on for Potts to break into a dangerous area, squaring for Cullen to tap home. The two weren’t always involved in the game, but when they were involved, they were devastatingly effective.

Exeter’s lack of urgency

The Grecians’ patient build-up worked in the first half but with 26 minutes to salvage a chance of promotion, they needed to be more direct. Short passing from the likes of Lloyd James played into the hands of Neil Danns, who battled superbly in the second half and Ian Black, who did the same after replacing Payne. Blackpool managed the game well and used the pace of Osayi-Samuel to give their defence recuperation time.

What it means

The final whistle spelled disappointment for Exeter, who have had a good season and can remain proud of the progress made. However, this was long overdue celebration for Blackpool, who have suffered nothing but dreadful ownership, defeats and dour football for so long. This promotion will not change how many fans feel about their club and its current regime, but it is at least a step towards a bright future for those in orange.