The phrase ‘a week is a long time in football’ couldn’t be any more accurate for Blackpool Football Club.
Prior to their Lancashire derby loss at Bury, Pool were on a six-match unbeaten streak. Neil McDonald and his players were looking much more confident after their poor start, and I wrote in my last blog about how the club could start to push on now and move further up the table.
I also wrote about how Pool’s four away fixtures in ten days (against Bury, Bradford, Barnet and Wigan) could define their season. Well, they’ve lost all four of them.
Just as it seemed a corner had been turned, Pool find themselves hovering just outside the League One relegation places and out of the FA Cup at the first round stage.
By all accounts, they were extremely poor in their 2-0 loss at League Two strugglers Barnet. McDonald made six changes to the starting XI, and making wholesale switches like this when your squad is paper thin is going to have negative consequences.
And at Wigan last night in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash, McDonald made five more alterations to Saturday’s line-up. However, he wasn’t welcoming back regulars for this Lancashire derby, he was giving game time to those who are clearly not in his first-team plans.
So a 4-0 Wigan victory was to be expected, and the fans who’ve travelled serious miles to get to Bradford, Barnet and Wigan will be feeling very aggrieved at not seeing Pool even compete in these fixtures.
Quite the opposite of how I felt leaving Gigg Lane last week. Despite losing the game 4-3 against a fairly average Bury team, there were plenty of positives to take away. Little did I know this would be the start of a four-match losing streak, but Bury are in form and occupy the play-off spots. Pool looked comfortable, yet not efficient enough, in possession.
The game was lost inside the first 12 minutes. Shocking defending gave the hosts a 3-1 lead, and despite dominating the second half, the visitors left Gigg Lane pointless.
To me, it was quite obvious which areas that the Seasiders need to work on. Firstly, and most importantly, the defence needs a serious improvement. All four of Bury’s goals could have been avoided, with three of them coming from set-pieces.
With Lloyd Jones still sidelined, and Tom Aldred suspended, McDonald has been force to delve into the loan market. Young Hull City centre-half Will Aimson has joined for a month. I can’t say I know a lot about the player, but the more options available the better.
Another very telling observation was that the side lacked any natural width. Right-back Hayden White was pushed forward, and Jim McAllister played in an un-natural left wing role. Pool’s first choice wingers; Jarrett Rivers, Henry Cameron and Bright Samuel, are all still very young and inexperienced players.
It’s a far cry from Blackpool sides of the recent past, which contained the likes of Matt Phillips and Tom Ince, who would bomb up and down the wing until the cows came home.
Despite Mark Cullen and Jack Redshaw impressing upfront, they are both pint-sized forwards. Successful teams should only play one of these types of players, partnering a bigger striker. We’ve gone from having a plethora of these types of forwards from previous seasons; Ishmael Miller, Ricardo Fuller and Steven Davies to name a few, to having none at all.
McDonald has made it clear that his priority is staying in League One. With no more cup competitions to distract him, November will be a huge month for the club, starting with Saturday’s relegation clash at home to Doncaster Rovers.
The last four games have put things into perspective for Blackpool supporters. There is still a long way to go if things are to change for the better.