An Ellis Simms’s brace means defeat for Rovers at Bloomfield Road as Blackpool confirm their place in the play-offs.
Rovers started the game brightly but barring an early chance for Tom Anderson which was stabbed wide from close range, were unable to create anything of note while Blackpool forced a number of saves from Louis Jones who continues to take the opportunities given him to stake his claim for the No.1 jersey next season. He denied Luke Garbutt, Jordan Gabriel and Jerry Yates. There was nothing the young shot-stopper could do when Simms was put through one-on-one – he did get a leg to it, but it was only enough to slow the progress of the ball on target.
For Simms’ second, Jones was even more unlucky. After coming off his line to maker the initial stop, the ball ricocheted favourably for the home side and the man on loan from Everton was able to poke it home.
Andy Butler was able to name the same starting XI for the first time since taking over as manager in March. The bench was also unchanged.
Blackpool entered the match knowing that a point from their final two games would see their season extended by a spell in the play-offs while Rovers were looking to make it three away matches undefeated.
The game quickly sprang into action with both sides registering early chances. Rovers won a corner kick when Blackpool were forced to put a dangerous Matt Smith a free kick over the by line to deny the four players lining up at the back post for a tap in. They went short and worked it to Tom Anderson at the near post who stabbed it wide.
At the other end, a challenge 30 yards from their own goal gave the home side their first shooting chance of the evening. Luke Garbutt struck it well, but Louis Jones sorted his feet and palmed it away from danger.
The game continued in a frantic manner with both sides getting forward well without testing the keepers. The blustering wind seemed to have an impact with defences struggling to control long balls forward while the final touch for both sides seemed to be lacking and the defences were able to pick up loose balls and mis-controlled touches.
With just less than 20 minutes on the clock, the Seasiders fans began to gather around the stadium hammering against fences and hoardings to roar their team on from the car park.
With just over 20 minutes on the clock, the XI on the pitch responded. Simms managed to evade the offside trap and put himself through one-on-one with Jones. His effort was on target but, even though the young keeper got a leg to it, it was only enough to slow the ball en route rather than direct it off target.
Rovers looked to hit back immediately with Tyreece John-Jules chasing down a through ball, keeper Chris Maxwell fumbled the initial collection and appeared to pick it up outside the box at the second time of asking but the officials weren’t interested.
Jones made a decent stop to deny Jordan Gabriel at his near post while it was John-Jules who was to get the next chance Rovers. Good play down the left with some link-up play between Reece James and Taylor Richards got the ball to the Arsenal loanee but he fired well over the bar. Fejiri Okenabirhie picked up a knock in this move which saw his evening end early as Butler’s misfortune with player injuries returning just thirty minutes into the first game in which he’d managed to name an unchanged XI.
The first half ended pretty scrappily – characterised by yellow cards to both right backs with Joe Wright and Gabriel following one another into referee Robert Lewis’ book in quick succession.
Rovers started the second half quickly with the lingering smell of smoke and gunpowder from flares going off in the car park hanging in the air. Lokilo’s cross from the right very nearly dipped under Chris Maxwell’s crossbar needing a touch to take it away from the goal.
Embleton had two efforts: the first struck from distance and comfortably stopped by Jones, the second way over the bar. While Simms danced through the defence drawing both centre-backs and keeper before unleashing an effort which was headed off the line by Wright.
Lokilo burned James Husband for pace leaving the former-Rovers player to kick the winger up in the air earning a deserved booking. The free kick was taken short by Smith to John-Jules who curled it on target, but it took a kind deflection into the arms of Maxwell.
Jones made a series of saves first to deny Simms at his near post, then a strong right hand to prevent Jerry Yates’ low effort from finding the back of the net.
Both sides passed up big chances to score late on – substitute Josh Sims forced an excellent save from Maxwell when he headed Branden Horton’s cross to the back post on target.
At the other Elliot Embleton will still be wondering how he didn’t score from a central position six-yards out while Garbutt was denied again by Jones who was keeping Rovers in the game. A couple of scrambles in the Rovers box were somehow kept out by a combination of defensive prowess and luck but it was some misfortune for Jones which handed Simms his second of the evening.
The youngster did brilliantly to make the initial stop and deny the onrushing forward but the ricochet was kind to Simms who was able to poke home from close range. Substitute Omar Bogle should have undoubtedly have hit the target when he was picked out in the Seasiders’ box by a James Coppinger cross while Richards and AJ Greaves both sent efforts from distance over the bar and Smith had one saved at the near post but it was all a bit too little, too late for Andy Butler’s men who suffered defeat on the road.