Blackpool earned their first win in the Championship this season by beating Fulham 1-0 at Bloomfield Road on Saturday.
A much needed result for Neil Critchley’s Tangerines in what was arguably their toughest match of the season so far on paper. The way they restricted Marco Silva’s men after taking the lead early on in the second period will give them great belief that they can kick on from here and stabilise in their first season back in the Championship.
A piece of individual brilliance from Josh Bowler was the difference between the sides, with the summer signing from Everton announcing himself at second tier level with a mazy run and finish low at the near post, condemning the Cottagers to their first defeat of the campaign.
Fulham went into the match as heavy favourites but the unpredictability of the Championship strikes again providing one of the biggest surprise results of the season so far.
Here, then, we take a look at three lessons we learnt from Blackpool’s win over Fulham…
Strength in Blackpool’s defence
Blackpool still rank in the bottom five in the division for defensive process, allowing 10 expected goals against (xGA) so far this term, but yesterday’s performances demonstrated that they have the metal and application to limit the most feared attack in the Championship to just 0.94 xG and can keep a clean sheet, their first of the campaign.
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Marvin Ekpiteta and Richard Keogh were the unbreakable centre back pairing on Saturday but the way they dropped deep and defended as a team will have been very pleasing for Critchley to witness. The pressure was building on the former Liverpool youth coach with every match that passed by before earning their first victory, a scenario he will no longer be worrying about.
Josh Bowler has given his future prospects a big boost
Josh Bowler, 22, arrived at Bloomfield Road with a point to prove this summer, his only recent experience in the Championship was playing 28 times as Hull City finished rock bottom of the second tier in 2019/20 when he was on loan from Everton.
Having only signed a one-year deal at Bloomfield Road it is important for Bowler to gain some admirers this term to give him added security that he could find a Football League club if he becomes unattached this summer.
The goal typified his desire and should build his confidence in being an effective player at the level.
Fulham are beatable at this level
Fulham have been tipped by many for automatic promotion, and to achieve that without even breaking into a sweat. After Saturday’s result they are only three points above eighth, meaning there is certainly plenty of work still to be done if the Cottagers are to waltz back to the Premier League this season.
A reality check for August’s Championship Manager of the Month winner Marco Silva and his squad, there are no easy games in the second tier and the Tangerines may have just provided a blueprint for the rest of the division on how to combat Fulham.