Two of the in-form sides in League One played out a 0-0 draw at the Wham Stadium, as both Accrington and Blackpool kept their promotion hopes ticking along.
A Lancashire derby is one of those matches that is always highly anticipated when the fixture list is released, at least by me anyway. Although, I was certainly apprehensive about yet another important match being played behind closed doors, as a huge part of a derby is the atmosphere. Without trying to sound like a broken record, the gaping hole in the soul of the sport deepens every day fans are kept away from grounds.
Some resemblance of normality was not too far away, just humour me for a few seconds with a quick little game of word association. When i say Lancashire, you say… rain, correct. Once more, I say Lancashire, you say… wind, very well done. Costa del Accrington was once again showing the kind of weather you associate with certain biblical passages. If Noah had lived in Accy, he wouldn’t have needed God to warn him of a flood.
🏠 Back at home for a Lancashire derby! pic.twitter.com/CZQlUrq3Z6
— Accrington Stanley FC (@ASFCofficial) December 19, 2020
The match itself was one I was cautious of making any predictions about. Despite the good form Stanley had been in, the 4-3 loss against lowly Wigan a week previously had put doubts in my mind regarding whether we had the ability to perform consistently well.
A 2-0 win against Gillingham just a few days after that was a reminder that we can actually defend but nonetheless, I came into this game without really having any idea what was going to happen. Ah, just like the good old days.
Early on, it was clear that this would be a tough match, Blackpool looked confident, quite understandably after winning against Hull City four days previously, but it would be Stanley who had the first big chance of the game. Former Tangerines defender Michael Nottingham played an exceptional pass from his own half over the top of the opposition defence, finding Sean McConville perfectly.
The Stanley midfielder took a great touch to control the ball inside the area, but before he could get a shot away, Marvin Ekpiteta recovered superbly after initially being caught out of position, putting in a last ditch tackle with the ball scrambled away soon after. A big chance unfortunately not taken for Stanley.
The Reds had started very well against tough opposition and whilst they kept knocking on the door they never thought of ringing the doorbell, always coming close to a breakthrough but never getting it quite right.
Stanley were nearly made to pay for not shouting through the letterbox as a long ball down the right-hand side found CJ Hamilton, he brilliantly turned Reds defender Cameron Burgess and made his way into the box, cutting the ball back to Jerry Yates just inside the 18-yard area and the visitors’ striker curled a brilliant effort towards the far post, but could only find the upright. A huge let off as Blackpool showed their quality for the first time in the game.
Soon after, the visitors went close again, journeyman striker Gary Madine found himself with space to shoot on the edge of the box but could only hit a weak shot towards Nathan Baxter, who dealt with the situation comfortably.
The away side had ended the first half strongly and kept that going into the second period as Baxter was called into action once again, closing down Yates as he went through on goal, thus preventing any effort coming from the striker’s foot.
It wasn’t like the home side were being overwhelmed, though. Throughout the second half, there were many instances where Dion Charles was played either through on goal or into a very good position and failed to make the chance count.
I don’t particularly want to criticise Charles as he probably has the best work ethic in the team in terms of the effort he puts into every match, but there is definitely a certain lack of composure missing from his game. Discounting the wondergoal he belted in against Peterborough on the opening day of the season, the Stanley striker has only scored in the league with chances where it would be harder to miss, all tap-ins.
Whereas many may say that this shows the quality of getting into the right positions at the right time, and I agree with that to a certain extent, it also exhibits a worrying trend that has been becoming more and more apparent. When presented with the prospect of creating a goal for himself, Charles has been incapable of making those chances count.
Off the top of my head I can think of numerous occasions against Northampton where this was a problem, against a very poor defence Charles was unable to add to the one goal lead Stanley kept hold of all game despite finding himself in very good positions. It was the same story against Shrewsbury, albeit in a poor performance from most of the team that day, and it was certainly the case against Blackpool too.
What it shows mostly is it has to be the defensive side to the team which has been mostly responsible for the good form of the past couple of months. Both Savin and Baxter have been keeping clean sheets in goal helped by a great defensive shape in front of them. If this promotion push is to fall, and let’s be honest most logic says it will, I feel it will be due to the lack of potency up front, rather than game after game of defensive errors.
The match didn’t really see many other clear chances towards the end, as both teams went away with a point apiece following a 0-0 draw. It wasn’t a thriller of a derby, but it certainly wasn’t a boring occasion either. The torrid weather conditions certainly made the game more entertaining as it became impossible to judge where any ball that had taken to the air was to land. Good performances from both sides, although neither had the cutting edge to take all the spoils for themselves.
⛔️ Four clean sheets in our last five @SkyBetLeagueOne matches.
— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) December 21, 2020
The Reds will spend their Boxing Day in a place where all people dream of visiting in the festive period (although the tier system makes that rather difficult these days), oh my days you’re correct again, it is of course Doncaster. A stern test at the Keepmoat lies ahead, but let’s hope Stanley keep working towards the miracle we so truly desire after this awful year.