A run Blackpool were always going to have to endure: Matt Scrafton's verdict on home humbling to Luton Town
These truly are halcyon days at Bloomfield Road – even when Blackpool are bad, they’re actually quite good.
Now stick with me here, I’ve not gone completely crazy.
Blackpool have now gone six games without a win, which is far from ideal. But they’re not performing poorly.
Granted, they’re not scoring goals either – they’ve only managed two during that run and have failed to find the back of the net in their last three – but it’s not like they’re being outplayed and we’re struggling to see where their next win is going to come from.
I’m not looking to put a positive spin on things for the sake of it, believe me. If things truly are bad, I’m well aware it’s my duty to report it. I’ve done it in the past and, such is the cyclical nature of football, I’ll inevitably have to do it again at some point in the future.
But this current malaise strikes me as nothing more than a run they were always going to have to endure at some point being a newly-promoted side in the Championship.
That doesn’t make it any less painful and it certainly doesn’t mean we should just sit back and accept our fate, but as always a little bit of perspective doesn’t go amiss.
While scoring goals has been a problem all season for the Seasiders – they’ve only netted 20 times in 21 games – it didn’t stop them from recording narrow wins against Fulham, Middlesbrough, Blackburn Rovers and Sheffield United.
It’s just that, on this occasion, those tight games and those fine margins are going against Blackpool rather than for them.
In a division so tight as the Championship, that was always going to be the case and, given Blackpool’s historical drop in form over the winter months, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by the timing.
But I’ve no doubt Blackpool will turn it around and get back to winning ways soon, it will just be a case of how many wins they can record and for how long they can prolong their good form and stave off another bad run.
The scoreline will tell you Saturday’s defeat to Luton wasn’t tight at all, but sometimes scorelines can be misleading.
During the first-half, Neil Critchley’s men were by far and away the better side.
Had they scored one of their three good chances before Luton’s breakthrough on the stroke of half-time, the game would have panned out entirely differently, I’m sure of it.
Ifs, buts and maybes won’t do Blackpool much good though, especially at this level.
This is where I do have some concern, because once Pool fall behind they do tend to struggle to get back into games (forgetting the miraculous comeback at Reading, naturally).
Aside from the Reading game, Middlesbrough away was the only other occasion where they’ve come from behind to win.
That’s far from ideal given the Seasiders haven’t led in any of the six matches that followed the backs-against-the-wall win at Sheffield United in October.
To me, the standout weak point of Blackpool’s attacking game is their end product in the final third, especially in wide positions.
Demetri Mitchell and Josh Bowler have flattered to deceive over on the right flank in recent weeks while Critchley is still stumbling over the right attacking combination, whether that be three men behind a lone striker or two wingers supporting two strikers.
While I would have liked to have seen Shayne Lavery brought on sooner against Luton, it wasn’t team selection or systems that cost Blackpool a result on Saturday.
When a side goes through a sticky patch, supporters will inevitably point to players currently out of the team as a magical cure to the side’s ills, but football isn’t as simple as that.
It was Mitchell’s turn to start on the right this week and he came as close as any Pool player to breaking their duck in front of goal.
Midway through the first-half, he grazed the outside of the post after surging into the box to meet a loose ball that had been parried away from goal following Reece James’ powerful drive from the left.
It was a real moment of misfortune for the Seasiders as Mitchell’s shot actually hit the heel of a Luton defender, diverting it away from goal rather than in. On another day that squeezes inside the post and the game completely changes, but again we’re talking about ifs, buts and maybes…
Luton keeper James Shea then made two vitally important stops for his side, tipping over Ryan Wintle’s 25-yard piledriver before shifting his body quickly to turn Owen Dale’s close-range header around the post.
Some of Blackpool’s football was particularly eye-catching in the first-half, which is another reason why we should remain positive. It’s not like they’re delivering rubbish.
But all that good work counted for nothing when the Hatters took the lead against the run of play three minutes before half-time through defender Sonny Bradley.
It was a real soft goal to concede too, which only made it worse. A deep cross evaded the returning Chris Maxwell and James Husband, leaving the net wide open for Bradley to stoop above Dale and nod home off the underside of the crossbar.
Pool clearly didn’t learn their lesson, because the away side doubled their lead shortly after the interval in similarly cheap fashion following another deep cross. This time striker Elijah Adebayo, who was in imposing form all afternoon, was the man to nod home at the back post.
Blackpool hadn’t been cut open, they hadn’t been outplayed, they were just on the wrong end of a result because of some lacklustre finishing and two easily avoidable goals.
A third would follow in stoppage-time when the game was already done and dusted, the lively Jordan Clark getting his reward for an impressive display with a calmly-taken side-footed finish to compound Blackpool’s misery.
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