With little over a quarter of the season gone, the race to reach the Play-Offs in SkyBet League Two is going at breakneck speed, with up to 15 teams trying to stumble across the line an into the top seven.
Blackpool, who may have looked out of the race a few weeks prior to now, threw their name right back into the mix on Saturday, with a comfortable 3-1 win over rivals Morecambe.
It was a clash which on the face it, determined who would enter pole position in the chasing pack for promotion. Given that Blackpool have a game in-hand to play on Tuesday at Plymouth, too, The Seasiders will be hoping to capitalise on the Lancashire derby win with a late push to join the high-flyers.
Blackpool dominated the game from the get-go. Reverting to a 3-5-2 formation which had served them well, including a storming FA Cup run, with Tom Aldred returning to the heart of defence following a suspension.
The home side were quickest out of the traps, and gave The Shrimps an early warning, though Colin Daniel was unable to find a teammate after getting in behind the opposition backline.
The opener was indicative of the fast start from Gary Bowyer’s side, Mark Cullen capping off a rare start with a contentious headed goal from a Brad Potts cross. Both players claimed the goal afterwards, but the goal stands and belongs to the Geordie striker. It must have been the deftest of touches to convince the Dubious Goals Committee.
It didn’t matter in the end, though. Potts himself doubled the score with a sweeping breakaway goal just after the interval to mark his 11th of the campaign and a stellar midfield performance.
Clubs far and wide had been sniffing around the 22-year-old all season, most notably Ipswich Town being linked with a January move. Frustrating at times, yes, but this was the kind of storming midfield performance which warrants such interest. He seems destined to play at a higher level, but from now until the end of the season, he will surely be key to mount any late promotion push for a club that sorely need something to cheer.
Under any normal circumstances, a two-goal lead may have convinced everyone that the game was Blackpool’s. However, these weren’t normal circumstances. Remarkably, the three game beforehand ended with a 2-2 draw, with a two-goal lead being squandered on each occasion.
Morecambe tried to keep the trend, going close with Paul Mullin and Kevin Ellison, but it was to be to no avail.
Young Bright Osayi-Samuel made it three after a solo run as his name would suggest. Running directly at his man, a step-over or two then resulted in the ball looping over the helpless Barry Roche in the Morecambe goal via a massive deflection.
Antony Evans quickly tried to restore any comeback efforts with a fine finish late on with his first Football League goal, but came unstuck against a resolute Pool.
The Tangerines are now sitting quietly 11th place, but are lurking just seven points off the Play-Off pack with a game spare. Perhaps now would be the time to start showing dominant performances as this one, more consistently, as players and manager alike have been asking for, for some time.
On their day, Blackpool have the capabilities to beat anyone in the division. Results against promotion favourites Doncaster and Portsmouth have proved just so. A sturdy formation and more showings from talisman Potts could lay the groundwork to do just that.
As for Morecambe, promotion looks all but over. The job that Jim Bentley has done during their much talked about ownership issues can’t be understated. Play-Offs are still there to be fought for, sitting just a point behind Blackpool. However, 14th position leaves with a mountain of clubs to climb over in the final stretch of the season.
Blackpool starting line-up: Lyness, Aimson, Aldred, Robertson, Mellor, Potts, Payne (Black 84), Flores (Samuel 67), Daniel, Cullen (Gnanduillet 73), Delfouneso.
Subs not used: Nolan, Boney, Odelusi, Correia.
Morecambe starting line-up: Roche, Wakefield (Turner 60), Edwards, Whitmore, Duckworth, Fleming (McGowan 74), Murphy, Wildig (Evans 79), Molyneux, Ellison, Mullin.
Subs not used: Winnard, Nizic, Conlan, Jordan.
Referee: Tony Harrington