DCSIMG

Grayson's day to make his mark

IT'S sad to report that Simon Grayson has a lot to learn about football management.

He failed to make any after-match excuses about the number of injuries his team have, he didn't criticise the chairman and most scandalously of all not once did he boil over in rage and scream at the fourth official.

It's disgraceful and the man has to buck up his act if he's to get this job permanently!

Fortunately one thing Grayson doesn't have to learn is how to motivate the team.

It was clear right from the first whistle that every single Blackpool player was committed to the cause and prepared to give everything they'd got to try and get a win for their popular new boss.

If, as seems likely, Grayson is only in charge for one match, he proved his point – he can do the job and should be offered a new contract at the club, if not as boss then as a coach or a number two to whoever comes in.

Against a team undoubtedly as good as anyone in the league, the Seasiders refused to buckle and, after a number of superb stops from debutant goalkeeper Lewis Edge, came within a whisker of earning a point right at the death.

With just seconds remaining and Pool 2-1 down, Mike Sheron ran through on goal but, fatally, hesitated when about to pull the trigger, allowing Bristol's Louis Carey to make a tackle.

In truth Pool wouldn't have deserved a point but one couldn't help feel sorry for Grayson, who clasped his head in hands, raised his eyes to the heavens above and began to realise just what a stressful and frustrating job being a football manager is.

But the new gaffer had done well. In a week of turmoil, a narrow defeat against an excellent team in front of 20,000 partisan fans could almost be considered a success.

Ashton Gate was buzzing prior to kick off, a capacity crowd crammed in to see if Bristol could win and – if QPR failed to pick up maximum points at Sheffield Wednesday earn automatic promotion.

It meant the stewards were working their socks off and the stress was certainly getting to the chief of security sat in the Main Stand.

"Come in zero 11, lady with big hair needs assistance in Block D" he bellowed down his walkie-talkie. "Zero 11, lady with hair, do your read me? Zero 11? I said DO YOU READ ME?"

He had various conversations in this manner and it would be nice to think that zero 11 (whoever or indeed whatever he was) was deliberately ignoring the frantic calls for assistance and was instead having a sneaky fag in the toilets.

Still, it all added to the atmosphere and as the teams walked out the roar built and balloons cascaded from the stands.

The 315 Seasiders supporters, squashed into a small corner of the ground, launched a chant of "Simon Grayson's Tangerine Army" but it was hard to hear it over the din.

It didn't matter because Grayson was too busy with his new role to notice. He certainly looked the part, dressed in tracksuit bottoms and manager-style padded coat, and as the game progressed he scribbled notes on a piece of paper.

He would have been delighted with his team's start. Sure they came under pressure, as expected, but for 20 minutes they were composed and committed. Then it went badly pear-shaped in 90 horrendous seconds.

First the Seasiders defence failed to clear a corner and the ball eventually fell to Christian Roberts on the edge of the box. His curling shot beat both Edge and Leam Richardson, the right back standing on the line but unable to head the ball away.

It got worse. Straight from kick off skipper Tommy Doherty whipped in a free kick and Roberts rose unchallenged and watched in delight as his looping header beat Edge and landed in the top corner.

Previously the striker had scored just five goals all season. Now he had two in a minute.

The fans – and the press – feared the worst. Rookie keeper in goal, collapse on the cards, would this be a rout?

The answer turned out to be most definitely 'no' and for that the players deserve huge credit.

Even when an out-of-sorts Danny Coid was forced off with a shin injury before half time and replaced by Jamie Burns, Pool kept going.

Edge's form helped. The kid has never played a senior match before but, my, how he rose to the occasion.

He made four terrific saves that any keeper would have been proud of. All were point-blank opportunities for the home side and one stop in particular, from Lee Peacock's header, was stunning. It looks like Blackpool have an extremely decent goalkeeper in the making.

Edge was busy because the Seasiders were struggling to get the ball into their opponent's half. It wasn't that Pool were playing badly – they were just up against a strong and extremely impressive Bristol side.

Then suddenly, and out of the blue, the visitors got a lifeline.

Richie Wellens, who had faded after a fine start, picked up the ball on the left and with a beauty of a sidestep tricked Louis Carey into a lunging tackle. Wellens went down and referee Paul Robinson pointed to the spot. Carey ranted and raved at the official suggesting a dive but ref's don't change their mind no matter how many screaming red faces surround them.

Keith Southern grabbed the ball, much to the surprise of everyone, including the manager.

But they'd forgotten the recent spot kick he'd scored for the reserves and he did the same again – coolly lifting the ball over keeper Steve Phillips.

Belatedly it was game on and Danny Wilson's side, who had looked so comfortable all afternoon, began to wobble.

Young Andrew Mangan replaced Ciaran Donnelly (who had a muted final game for Pool wide on the left) as the Seasiders pushed three up front and went for broke.

It almost worked. Sheron spurned his wonderful opportunity but almost made up for it deep in injury time when he flicked on Wellens' lofted pass only to see Phillips stick out a desperate hand and deflect the ball away.

Unlucky for Pool but deserved for the home side, although the celebrations at the whistle were muted due to QPR's triumph and the uncertainty of entering the play-off lottery.

And that is just about that, the end of a season which has been nothing if not interesting.

Steve McMahon has gone and although I would not wish it on anyone to lose their job, in my opinion it was probably the right thing to happen.

He did bring some success and a good style of football to the club but this year's league form has been woeful and things were getting stale; LDV victory was nice, certainly, but it was papering over the cracks.

Plus, what's the point in having constant rows between chairman and manager? It can only damage the club.

A new era at Blackpool FC has begun and it's an exciting time.

Whoever comes in has (thanks to the good work done by McMahon) the nucleus of a good squad and although there is work to be done the future looks rosy indeed.

If Karl Oyston appoints the right man, there will undoubtedly be some very bright times ahead for Pool.

 
 
 

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