Blackpool 1-2 Rotherham: Five things we learned
Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' disappointing home defeat.
Yet another worrying home display
At the start of the season Blackpool's home form was their biggest strength as they enjoyed that long unbeaten run at Bloomfield Road until they were halted by that impressive Wigan Athletic side. Since then, they’ve looked a completely different team when playing at home. Their last win was a scrappy and somewhat fortuitous 2-1 victory against Bury in October but four defeats and a draw have since followed. That might suggest that Blackpool are being outplayed, but that’s not been the case at all. Rotherham were there to be beaten on Saturday and as we approached the final third, it appeared as though Blackpool had just about done enough. The away side appeared to be going through the motions in the first half, putting in a display I’d rank among one of the worst I’ve witnessed. They did rally in the second period but it appeared as though Blackpool had weathered the storm and would see the game out. But that wasn’t to be the case, as Gary Bowyer’s men capitulated in the last 15 minutes conceding two sloppy goals to go away empty handed.
Defensive deficiencies need sorting out
It’s hard to point the finger at individuals because, unlike the 4-2 defeat against Blackburn Rovers, there weren’t any glaring mistakes that led to Rotherham’s goals. Instead, it appeared to be collective failings that continue to prop up and threaten to derail Blackpool’s season unless they address their defensive problems – and fast. The Seasiders failed to deal with a simple long throw into their box and after a bit of pinball, David Ball stabbed home from close range. The second came from another set-piece, an admittedly superb corner which Ball steered past Ryan Allsop with a well-taken header. But once again Pool’s defensive deficiencies were laid bare, as they have been time and time again in recent weeks. It's a shame because it's not like Blackpool aren't playing well, they are. But as Bowyer keeps stressing, they've got to work on defending and they've got to improve their clinical touch in front of goal. That's two pretty big facets of the game right there that Blackpool aren't currently getting right...
Where are the goals coming from?
You know you’ve got problems when your biggest attacking threat comes from your right-back. Of course all managers want goals to be spread around the team and it’s great from Blackpool’s point of view that Kelvin Mellor has rediscovered his scoring form from last season which saw him end the campaign with seven goals to his name. He has now bagged three goals in as many games and while that is most welcome for the Seasiders at a time when others are struggling to find the back of the net – it only serves to highlight their weaknesses elsewhere. One glance at Blackpool’s scoring charts shows you that if Kyle Vassell and Sean Longstaff aren’t at it, which has been the case in recent weeks due to a combination of injuries and a loss in form, then Blackpool are relying on the likes of Mellor, Colin Daniel, Viv Solomon-Otabor and Callum Cooke to chip in with goals. They’ve done so intermittently but not enough to see Blackpool pick up as many wins as they like.
Can Jimmy Ryan and Jay Spearing play together?
They aren’t the only deficiencies though. Worryingly, as good as Jimmy Ryan and Jay Spearing are as individual footballers, they don’t seem to be able to play together in Blackpool’s midfield. They’re far too similar as they both want to drop deep and dictate play having picked the ball up from the defenders. But once they do so, they only seem to pass sideways to each other and Pool’s attacks quickly lose momentum. When either player were in the side on their own attacks were being launched from one box to the other in the space of as little as two or three passes. The conundrum, described as one similar to the old Gerrard-Lampard problem for England by one colleague, needs to be resolved. If it means one of them sitting on the bench, well so be it.
No one is stepping up in Vassell's absence
It now goes without saying that Blackpool are a much poorer side without Kyle Vassell. The striker, returning from injury for the second time this season, only lasted 10 minutes and had to hobble off with a recurrence of his hamstring troubles. Nathan Delfouneso was brought on, as has normally been the case in Vassell’s absence, but he struggled once again. Delfouneso is naturally a winger who enjoys running at full-backs with the ball at his feet. Play him up top on his own, with his back to goal, and he just doesn’t bring anything to the team. Instead, Pool failed to keep the ball stick in the Rotherham half and it was a case of having to defend from there. To Blackpool’s credit they did that for 75 minutes against what was a pretty ordinary Rotherham side who had only won two of their 10 away games coming into this fixture. But the Seasiders were made to pay for that final 15-minute capitulation. Bowyer has held his hands up and admitted his side struggle without Vassell, as any side would. The worrying thing is that, other than Delfouneso, Blackpool have five other players capable of playing up front but the Pool boss doesn’t seem to trust any of them. So why are they at the club in the first place?