Gary Bowyer’s smart tactics helped Blackpool on their way to a 1-0 Easter Monday win at Doncaster.
After Matty Blair was sent off for the hosts, he resisted assistant Richie Kyle’s suggestion of going from three to four at the back. Instead, he split the three centre-backs and replaced holding midfielder Jack Payne with the more attacking Jordan Flores, who netted the winning penalty.
It is unlikely that he sticks with a back three against lowly Cheltenham Town however. A system more akin to the narrow 4-3-3 deployed in Good Friday’s 0-0 draw with Accrington Stanley looks likely, with width provided by full-backs. Right-back Kelvin Mellor has made the PFA Team of the Season for his attacking contributions, while Andy Taylor could have some joy combining with Bright Osavi-Samuel down the left.
Cheltenham Town may be without their first choice right-back, Jack Barthram and last time Russ Milton replaced him with Carl Winchester, an attack-minded midfielder. Any reluctance to close down Osavi-Samuel will see the young winger cause similar problems he did to Hartlepool – a goalscoring threat and creativity for top marksman Kyle Vassell.
Cheltenham could struggle to create chances themselves against a side that has kept five clean sheets in its last nine games. Their biggest threat though will come from midfielder Harry Pell, whose improvement in performances has coincided with being relieved of captaincy.
His larger than life demeanour and funny camera faces implies a joker in the pack rather than a leader of it. He has scored four goals in as many games, including a brace against Morecambe. His goals lately have come against mid-table to bottom half sides, but it will be a test for Cheltenham’s midfielders and forwards to produce more individualistically.
Their better performances – at least against Luton and Accrington at home – have come when they have controlled the central areas and got direct but accurate balls into the front men. It will be difficult to do that against Blackpool, particularly with the threat posed by both of their full-backs.
Though the Robins should be safe, this day may belong to their hosts. The Seasiders have established themselves as a threat not just in the race for the play-offs, but also as a team to watch when May rolls around.
The Football Lab’s Verdict: 2-0