Blackpool 1-0 Rochdale: Seasiders continue strong home form with narrow victory
Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

A first half strike from Sullay Kaikai ensured Blackpool continued their strong home form as Neil Critchley's men scrape past Rochdale to keep their play-off hopes alive.

In what was truly a game of two halves, Blackpool showed strong determination to hold onto their narrow lead to move within seven points of Sunderland in sixth place with two games in hand.

The visitors drop down to 19th place, just one point outside the relegation zone.

Story of the match 

The Seasiders started on the front foot with some smart passing in and around the Rochdale defence but it was the visitors who had the first real chance of the match on nine minutes. A simple ball over the top was misjudged by Blackpool centre-half Jordan Thorniley, allowing Alex Newby to get in behind but his attempted lob was kept out by Chris Maxwell. 'Dale striker Stephen Humphrys then fired over from the edge of the box.

Blackpool went agonisingly close to an opener just two minutes later. A free-kick from Sullay Kaikai caused havoc in the Rochdale defence and  the ball fell to Thorniley who had a close range shot blocked. Kenny Dougall followed in with a fierce strike which was brilliantly saved by Gavin Bazunu who kept out another effort from Thorniley on the rebound.

Neil Critchley's men did put the ball in the net on 14 minutes through Jerry Yates as he tapped in a flick on from a Kaikai corner but the offside flag was up, denying Yates his 11th of the season.

Just six minutes later though, Blackpool did take the lead. A deep cross by James Husband was headed back across goal by Matty Virtue, the ball was flicked on again by Jerry Yates and the ball landed kindly to Sullay Kaikai who fired through the legs Bazanu for his third league goal of the campaign.

The visitors went close to an equaliser not long after, with an accurate free kick from Humphrys tipped over the bar by Chris Maxwell. Yates and Dougall then both had efforts from the edge of the area blocked as the Seasiders maintained control for the rest of the first half.

It was almost the perfect start to the second period for Blackpool as Sullay Kaikai struck the outside of the post with a free-kick from around 25 yards out after Ellis Simms was fouled outside the area inside the first minute of the half.

Rochdale began to find some rhythm and created a good chance for Humphrys on 52 minutes as the striker latched onto a clever ball over the top but his touch got away from him. Blackpool centre-back Marvin Ekpiteta seemingly pulled his hamstring in the build up to the chance, and had to be replaced by left-back Luke Garbutt which meant James Husband moved into centre half.

Looking to capitalise on the change, the visitors began to gain more control, and had an effort from Ollie Rathbone deflect behind for a corner which was claimed by Maxwell at the second time of asking.

Rochdale then introduced young winger Kwadwo Baah, former Seasider Ryan McLaughlin and Jimmy Keohane into the fold while Blackpool replaced Dougall with Grant Ward on 70 minutes.

Dale then wasted a good opportunity on 76 minutes as the visitors broke in behind the left side of Blackpool's defence but Newby's cross was headed well wide by the unmarked Keohane.

Blackpool then created a rare sight of goal on 80 minutes, as Kevin Stewart fired over from the edge of the area after a clever cutback from Matty Virtue.

Rochdale finally had the ball in the net on 87 minutes but the referee had already blown for a foul on Chris Maxwell before Rathbone headed into the top corner.

Blackpool were able to see out the rest of the match which included five minutes of added time, showing solid organisation to keep out a usually free-scoring Rochdale side. The Seasiders remain unbeaten at Bloomfield Road since October.

Takeaways from the match

442 Strikes again for Seasiders 

There's been a lot of discussion between Blackpool supporters as to why, when it's been so successful, Neil Critchley tinkers with Blackpool's standard 442 formation. The Head Coach reverted back to this set up after last Saturday's defeat to Ipswich where Blackpool played a 451, and it once again proved successful. Jerry Yates is a superb player when he has another striker to link up with and this was shown once again tonight, especially in the first half, as he and Simms were key to every attacking Blackpool move, with Yates even assisting Kaikai for the only goal of the match.

Kaikai shows promise

Sullay Kaikai is undoubtedly one of the best attacking talents in the Blackpool squad, but his poor run of form in recent months have drawn questions whether he deserves regular starts. The winger missed out on a couple of matches over the festive and January period, but after looking sharper last time out against Ipswich, he was excellent tonight. He displayed clever link up play with James Husband on the left hand side, his set pieces caused havoc in the Dale defence and he scored the vital winner. With the likes of CJ Hamilton and Keshi Anderson still sidelines, this is the perfect time for Kaikai to hit form.

Uncharacteristically wasteful Dale

Coming into tonight's match, visitors Rochdale were one of the leagues highest goalscorers despite their low league position with 41 goals in 27 matches. Tonight however, that seeminly clinical edge was missing as the likes of Stephen Humphrys, Jimmy Keohane and Ollie Rathbone wasting good chances for the visitors. It will be interesting to see if tonight was just a blip or if the trend continues.

Stand-out player 

The likes of Jordan Gabriel, James Husband and Kevin Stuart had strong games for Blackpool this evening but winger Sullay Kaikai possibly stood out the most. His atacking flair, accurate set-pieces and his all important goal in the first half was the difference tonight. If Kaikai can produce like he did tonight on a consistent basis, Blackpool's play-off hopes will be given a huge boost.

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