Johnny Moore asks Matt Scrafton from the Blackpool Gazette to run the rule over the Tangerines
Q: Are Blackpool looking towards the play-offs rather than worrying about the bottom four?
A: Absolutely. It’s been a stop-start last few weeks for Blackpool with back-to-back postponements, but they now find themselves eight points off the play-offs with games in hand, so cutting the gap is definitely the aim.
While Neil Critchley’s side have been in mid-table for the majority of the campaign, they’ve normally found themselves in the top half, or near it, and haven’t had to worry about getting sucked into a relegation fight.
Q: Blackpool have had some impressive results and beat Pompey earlier in the campaign, but why have they struggled for consistency?
A: That’s the million dollar question! Blackpool have actually been fairly consistent since October time onwards, but it was their poor opening to the season which has cost them a little bit.
Despite a lot of pre-season hype thanks to encouraging performances against Liverpool and Everton, Blackpool’s start to the league campaign was pretty disastrous, with six defeats in their opening nine games. Since then, they’ve gone back to basics a little bit, found some success with 4-4-2 and learned to be a bit more adaptable.
Pool tend to perform better against the bigger sides in the division, but they've recently learned to grind out results against sides at the bottom like Northampton and Rochdale.
Q: After all the fan boycotts, how frustrating is it that now things are settled off the pitch, the team have to play inside an empty stadium?
A: Absolutely. While fans of all clubs up and down the land will be pulling their hair out at the minute, it’s especially frustrating for Blackpool supporters to be kept outside given their boycott, which lasted as long as four or five years for some.
But, while it is frustrating, fans understand the need to play games behind closed doors and while it’s not ideal, it’s far preferable to boycotting while the Oystons are still in charge!
Saying that, Blackpool’s home form has been very good this season despite playing in an empty stadium. They’re unbeaten at Bloomfield Road since October and have won eight of their last nine in all competitions. Now they just need to improve their away form...
Q: Who are the in-form players likely to pose Pompey problems this afternoon?
A: CJ Hamilton – a pacy, direct winger – has probably been Blackpool's standout performer this season, but he's currently out injured.
Marvin Ekpiteta, who joined from Leyton Orient during the summer, has been a rock in the centre of defence, but he also picked up a hamstring injury during Tuesday night's 1-0 win against Rochdale. While the extent of it isn’t currently known, the chances of him returning this weekend seem slim.
As for those who are available, Jerry Yates has hit some decent form in recent weeks with 10 goals in his last 20 games. Kevin Stewart, a recent January acquisition, has plenty of experience and quality on the ball in the middle of the park.
Q: Will Blackpool fancy their chances of leaving Fratton Park with all three points?
A: Definitely. As alluded to before, Blackpool tend to perform well against the league’s better sides as the focus isn’t so much on them to dictate play. Critchley's side should also take confidence from their 1-0 win against Pompey at Bloomfield Road back in December.
With Pompey surprisingly beaten by Bristol Rovers in midweek, they will be quietly confident about this one. But there were similar feelings before the recent trip to Ipswich and that turned out badly, so they’ll be hoping for a different result this time round.