A harsh lesson in finishing: Matt Scrafton's verdict as Blackpool are downed by Huddersfield Town's 14-minute blitz
Blackpool beat Fulham on Saturday, where they were excellent. But they lost to Huddersfield Town in midweek, so they must have been dreadful. That’s how football works, right?
Wrong. If only it was that simple!
The truth is, Blackpool actually played pretty well over the course of the 90 minutes but were ruthlessly punished during a 14-minute blitz from the Terriers.
Unfortunately, goals change the dynamic of games, but they can also change peoples’ perspective – because they’ll concentrate solely on what led to Blackpool conceding and completely ignore the other 76 minutes of good play.
Nevertheless, it goes without saying there’s no good playing well if you can’t score, so this must act as a steep learning curve for Neil Critchley’s men.
Scoring just once in four home games just won’t cut it at this level unfortunately and it’s an area of Pool’s game that badly needs addressing.
Unlike League One, if you don’t take your chances in this unforgiving league then you’ll get severely punished. That simply has to be the main takeaway from this disappointing defeat.
Huddersfield, like Fulham, are clearly a good side. They’re fourth in the table for a reason. But during the first-half, they were made to look ordinary.
The Terriers were very much second best, which led to moans and groans from the away end. Pool were the side in the ascendancy and while it wasn’t wave after wave of attack, they controlled play confidently and limited the visitors to very little in the way of an attacking threat.
Only at the very end of the first-half did Huddersfield even get near the Blackpool goal, but the ever-improving Richard Keogh threw his body on the line to make a vital last-ditch block before Daniel Sinani’s deflected shot wrong-footed Chris Maxwell and almost creeped in.
Prior to that, it was Blackpool who were peppering the goal. Kenny Dougall, who otherwise had an underwhelming night, was denied by a flying save from Lee Nicholls having earlier headed wastefully wide.
Shayne Lavery, meanwhile, headed a near-post corner into the side netting, which had some Pool fans celebrating thinking it had slipped in. It was the first of four presentable chances for the Northern Irishman that all went to waste.
Again, this will get lost in the 14 minutes of madness, but Blackpool also made a positive start to the second-half. Josh Bowler in particular looked to take the game to Carlos Corberan’s side.
But a moment of brilliance from Josh Koroma changed the whole dynamic of the game, as the Huddersfield forward broke the deadlock with a stunning effort that flew into the top corner from long range.
Sometimes, there’s not a great deal you can do about these things. You can do so much right in terms of your approach, tactical play and so on, only to be undone by one wonder strike that flips the game on its head completely. That’s the Championship for you.
Because Huddersfield scored another two quickfire goals, that will give people on the outside the impression that Pool completely folded. But again it’s important to stress that wasn’t the case at all.
Roared on by the rallying home faithful, the Seasiders fought back spiritedly. It looked only a matter of time until Critchley’s men would level.
Unlike in the first-half, where their attacking play was more composed and building through the lines, this was far more direct and penetrative. The fans were off their seats and trying to suck the ball into the Huddersfield goal.
Lavery had a fairly soft-looking penalty appeal waved away before the striker went close twice in quick succession, turning the ball just wide of the near post via the aid of a deflection before stooping a header agonisingly over the bar from the resulting corner.
Lavery was doing superbly to make the right runs and get on the end of these chances, but it just wasn’t his night in front of goal.
The same certainly can not be said of Huddersfield, who doubled their lead on 54 minutes in relatively soft fashion.
Matty Pearson leapt above Maxwell from a corner into Pool’s six-yard box and had the fairly simple task of heading home into the back of the net, via the inside of the post. That was the goal that completely killed the game.
Maxwell has done well making the step-up back to the Championship, but dealing with crosses into his six-yard box is an area of his game which requires improvement, because he does look susceptible at times.
The third goal, it must be said, was also a bit of a mess. But it also involved a great deal of fortune for the visitors, who were gifted the ball in the Blackpool box after Marvin Ekpiteta’s attempted clearance ricocheted off a Huddersfield player straight to the feet of Koroma. The ball could have bounced anywhere, but it just happened to fly to the exact place Pool didn’t want it to.
Koroma, who looked a real threat all night, was denied his second goal by a smart Maxwell save, only for the ball to fall kindly for Jonathan Hogg on the edge of the box. The Huddersfield captain still had plenty to do but he lofted the ball over Maxwell smartly to find the back of the unguarded net.
Having done very little wrong, the Seasiders found themselves three goals down. A harsh lesson indeed.
Pool knew the game was done, but they continued to plug away. Bowler shot straight at Nicholls after a trademark right-wing run before arrowing a fierce drive just wide, seconds after Lavery had gone close for the fourth time on the night.
It just wasn’t to be.
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