Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
AFC Wimbledon picked up their first victory under Wally Downes the Saturday before Christmas – a 2-1 win at Wycombe.
Then, on Boxing Day, they secured back-to-back victories by beating Plymouth by the same scoreline at Kingsmeadow.
Those are two creditable results, which lend the club much-needed belief in terms of their battle against survival.
The Wombles battled for the cause and put bodies on the line, as supporters demand.
Centre-back Will Nightingale, who came through the academy several years ago and his partner, Terell Thomas, who is enjoying his first prolonged run of matches in the EFL, have formed a strong centre-back partnership in the absence of Deji Oshilaja.
Tennai Watson and Ben Purrington are beginning to excel in their loan deals from Championship clubs, too; Reading’s right-back Watson offers raw athleticism while Purrington provides positional intelligence.
However, Wally Downes’ side have scored from four of just nine shots and six shots on target across those two games.
Some might say that is down to clinical finishing, which is true to an extent; the flip side though is that it is hard to maintain a high goalscoring record without carving out many openings.
Blackpool did not carve out too many openings themselves on Wednesday, when they lost 2-1 at Rochdale, but that was mainly because midfielder Jordan Thompson was sent off on the half-hour mark for unsporting behaviour.
The Tangerines were a goal down at that point and, ironically, levelled five minutes later through Michael Nottingham; the subsequent 55-minutes of manful defending was then undone by a late Dale goal.
Terry McPhillips felt his side deserved a point for their efforts and was quick to praise the defence.
Ben Heneghan, on loan from Sheffield United, continues to impress at centre-back alongside Leeds loanee Paudie O’Connor, who may need to play a more prominent role with Curtis Tilt set to depart and question marks over the fitness of Donervan Daniels.
💭 “I knew it was going to take time to get into the swing of things, but now I feel like I’m finding my form again."
— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) December 21, 2018
Pool have an athletic right-back in Nottingham, while Bola offers pace and quality from left-back; inspirational captain Jay Spearing protects the back-line with relentless tenacity.
Perhaps, the crucial difference between Wimbledon and Blackpool is the quality the latter possess up top.
Wimbledon’s strikers have scored nine league goals between them this season while those of Blackpool have scored 15.
Armand Gnanduillet is enjoying arguably the best form of his career, with the ex-Chesterfield man bagging nine goals in his last 17 appearances.
His strike-partner, Nathan Delfouneso, stretches play with his pace and clever movement.
Although Pool have not been at their best recently, they are still 13 points and 16 places above their opponents, something which is not necessarily reflected in the odds available.
We’ll take the 23/20 on Blackpool to win via the Draw No Bet option, which will refund the stake if the points are shared.
Blackpool to win Draw No Bet – 23/20
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