Will Watt: Defeat highlights Pool’s need for quality

Blackpool's Ishmael Miller battles with Watford's goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes and Luke O'Nien but his effort is cleared off the line
Blackpool's Ishmael Miller battles with Watford's goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes and Luke O'Nien but his effort is cleared off the line
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With all the off-the-field problems Blackpool have had in recent weeks, you could be forgiven for taking your eyes off what really matters.

Before the fall-out, the exit rumours and the make-up, Jose Riga’s squad was desperately short of that extra bit of quality or a match winner.

They still are.

While Riga has a talented bunch who are clearly playing for him, last night’s game highlighted what I think we all knew they are short of.

It’s ironic that last season’s clash against Watford at Bloomfield Road was a tight affair which was won by the introduction of a certain Thomas Ince.

The winger picked up the ball, dribbled past half the opposition and fired home to secure the three points.

Do Blackpool have that sort of player now? The answer, sadly, is no.

Overall you can’t say the Seasiders were much worse than their visitors last night, but when push came to shove Watford had the quality to come away with three points and move to the top of the Championship table.

Missing penalties doesn’t help much either of course.

With the loan window reopen, it’s vitally important that Karl Oyston allows Riga to add at least two proven Championship players – kids from Premier League reserve sides won’t do.

Last night Riga made three changes to the side which drew to Wolves at the weekend, one forced and two by choice.

Andrea Orlandi’s foot injury meant he wasn’t fit to make last night’s 18, while Nile Ranger and Nathan Delfouneso both dropped to the bench.

Francois Zoko, Ishmael Miller and Tomasz Cywka all came into the starting eleven.

There was a familiar face among the Watford substitutes in former Pool defender Craig Cathcart, although it wasn’t much of a reunion for the Northern Ireland international, with just David Perkins and Tony McMahon surviving from the squad he left back in May.

A quick look at Cathcart’s team mates showed the quality Pool were up against, almost reiterating Riga’s point that Pool need more than they currently have.

There was a much more positive feeling around Bloomfield Road in the run-up to the game and Pool’s players started with a real spring in their step.

After just three minutes Watford keeper Heurelho Gomes was called into action when Tony McMahon burst forward down the right and fired a curling left-footed effort towards goal.

The attacking full-backs have become a familiar sight in Riga’s set-up in recent weeks, a role McMahon clearly enjoys.

The Seasiders were giving as much as they got in the opening stages, but Watford’s attacking quality was a constant threat.

None more so than that of Troy Deeney, the striker who has fired more than 20 goals for three seasons running now – and it’s clear to see why.

On 12 minutes Joe Lewis had to be alert as Deeney turned 25 yards from goal and fired in a brilliant effort, only for Pool’s keeper to do well to turn it around the post.

While Watford’s side was full of household Championship names, Blackpool’s has a few trying their hand at English football for the first time.

One of them, Edu Oriol, maybe looked a little rusty when he was handed his debut, but he has really grown as the weeks pass by.

And it was a neat nutmeg and pass from him which allowed Miller space to turn and shoot on 21 minutes, only for Gomes to be a match to it with a decent stop.

It was a pretty open game at this stage, with both teams looking dangerous in attack.

Just a minute later Watford couldn’t have come much closer to taking the lead when defender Joe Ekstrand, totally unmarked, headed onto the bar from a corner.

It was a real let-off for Blackpool.

As the half hour mark passed it was difficult to see how the game was still 0-0, with both sides looking lively.

Edu Oriol was at the heart of Pool’s most dangerous moments, but Riga’s men couldn’t quite master a clear cut chance despite real promise in the build-up.

Blackpool have had a habit of conceding goals at vital times this season and they were almost at it again just two minutes from the break. A clearance from a John Lundstram corner caught Pool out and sent defender Ikechi Anya clear in on goal, only for Lewis to stand strong and react brilliantly to turn the effort away.

While it was a chance Anya should have scored, Lewis deserves major credit – it was a huge save.

There was still chance for one more opening for the Seasiders when a Lundstam free-kick was met by Daniels, only for the defender to glance it straight into the arms of Gomes.

The first half may have been a thoroughly entertaining affair, but the start to the second was anything but.

In the opening 15 minutes nothing very much happened as both sides eased their way into the second period. Only a long range Cywka free-kick came anywhere near threatening the Watford goal.

Riga attempted to liven things up shortly after with the introduction of Delfouneso in place of the lively Zoko.

It didn’t work.

On 67 minutes Almen Abdi drew a foul out of McMahon in the box and the otherwise quiet Matej Vydra emphatically scored from the spot.

Pool almost responded immediately when a scrappy header by Miller was cleared off the line by Ekstrand after Delfouneso had headed Perkins’ free-kick back across goal.

With ten minutes to go Pool were handed the ultimate chance to draw level when substitute Nile Ranger was fouled in the box by Daniel Tozser.

Striker Ranger immed-iately grabbed the ball and confidently placed it on the spot, only for his well hit effort to come back off the post. It just about summed up Blackpool’s luck of late.

After Watford’s goal you got the feeling Pool would struggle to get back into the game and the penalty miss seemed to knock the stuffing out of everyone inside the ground.

Miller’s stoppage time header did, however, come as close to scoring as Blackpool had all evening. While the stoppage time shout for a penalty on Miller was quickly waved away.

It’s a shame Riga’s men couldn’t build on what’s been a very positive few days. There is no doubt they are giving everything for the manager.

But they need help, additions are badly needed.