Barnsley 4 Blackpool 2 - full match verdict

Blackpool boss Neil McDonald
Blackpool boss Neil McDonald
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It’s been said in recent weeks that the first goal in games is vital for Blackpool.

And the statistics well and truly back that up.

Would you believe the last time Pool even won a league game in which they conceded was back in September of 2013!

That day a Neal Bishop header earned Paul Ince’s side a 2-1 win at Bournemouth, a day remembered as the one which the wheels came off after the then boss was sent to the stands before confronting the referee in the tunnel.

It’s been even longer since Pool came from behind to win in a game, against Watford in March of the same year.

So as soon as Sam Winnall headed Barnsley ahead after just three minutes yesterday we may as well have gone home, especially when you considered the Seasiders’ current tactics.

Neil McDonald once again opted for the 4-1-3-2 formation which concentrates on stifling the opposition and hitting them on the attack. In the two games he’s used it so far it’s worked a treat, but crucially in both Pool broke the deadlock first.

Once they went behind at Barnsley they never really looked enough of a threat to get back into the game, it took a world class moment from Mark Cullen to draw them level just after the break before a collapse gifted Barnsley the game.

Only when Pool switched to a 4-4-2 did they get any joy in front of goal.

In fact, apart from Cullen’s wonderful effort Pool took 87 minutes to have a shot on target, that prompted an attacking flurry, but by then it was too little too late.

There was no surprise McDonald opted for an unchanged side and formation after three wins on the bounce saw his side climb out of the bottom four.

While things are very much looking on the up at Bloomfield Road problems are never too far away.

And a major one Neil McDonald has to address this week is the fact five of his 18-man squad from Oakwell yesterday are set to leave on Sunday.

It’s a far from ideal situation and one of the reasons McDonald is so against having loan players in his squad, but I suppose it’s been a case of needs must.

As it is Dean Lyness, Hayden White, Will Aimson, Elliot Lee and Andy Little are all due to head back to their parents clubs after Saturday’s game at Burton.

It’s something which could obviously cause major issues.

Pool have already set the wheels in motion to keep at least a few of the above, but it could mean yet another rebuild and one which really isn’t welcome at the moment.

Four of the loan men were selected in McDonald’s starting eleven yesterday, with Little named among the bench.

Barnsley boss Lee Johnson wasn’t happy his side’s Boxing Day clash was also called off, he was desperate for a game away from Oakwell.

In recent weeks the home supporters have turned on the manager and the players, but he couldn’t have asked for a better start.

From the kick-off you could see Barnsley’s intent, getting right at the Seasiders with their three-man attack.

One of the early traits you could see in the home side’s tactics was their full-backs’ willingness to get forward at every opportunity.

And just three minutes in Pool found themselves behind.

Right-back Reece Wabara did brilliantly on the wing to beat David Ferguson before crossing perfectly into the path of striker Sam Winnall who headed brilliantly past Lyness.

It was the worst possible start for the Seasiders, and one which left them looking shell-shocked.

Moments later Barnsley were at it again, and should have doubled their lead.

Another former Pool loan man was at the heart of it as Adam Hammill drifted unchallenged to the edge of the area only to see his effort superbly saved by Lyness.

Once Hammill got into the position he found himself, he should really have scored.

The winger was causing real problems for Blackpool in the opening stages, something we’ve seen in the past at Bloomfield Road.

Hammill is your typcal ‘hot and cold player’ which is probably the reason why he’s in league one.

When he’s hot he’s red hot, and in the early stages he was causing problems.

Luckily Hayden White quickly got to grips with him, as the whole game in general calmed down.

Pool were finally settling down around the twenty minute mark and began to ease their way into the game.

Without creating any real clear cut chances, the possession was much better and Mark Cullen and Brad Potts in particular were beginning to look a threat to the Barnsley back-four.

After a frantic start McDonald will have been content on the half hour mark as they game died down a little, mainly due to Blackpool’s determination to compete.

In other games this season a goal against has led to a bit of a collapse for the Seasiders, but you could tell they were desperate to stay in the game if nothing else.

They were certainly do that yesterday.

Sadly as half-time approached Pool offered absolutely no threat, something which angered the travelling supporters who booed as the whistle went.

In the press box at half-time things didn’t get much better.

While press box refreshments may not be of big concern to you, for me it was as big a reflection of Blackpool’s decline as anything yesterday.

A few years ago we were enjoying the lavish offerings by big clubs, often a three course meal followed by a lovely selection of cakes.

Yesterday at Oakwell there was nothing, and when I say nothing I’m not exaggerating.

Even when we went to make a brew there wasn’t any milk or sugar, desperate times indeed.

As the second half began it was Barnsley who again started the brighter of the two sides, and just two minutes in Pool’s hearts were in their mouths.

Skipper Ferguson, already booked in the first half, clattered into Connor Hourihane and could easily have seen yellow for the second time.

Fair play to referee Christopher Sarginson for refusing to spoil the game.

Almost a minute later Blackpool found themselves back into the game, and in some style.

Potts found Cullen 25 yards from goal and the striker fired into the very top corner giving keeper Adam Davies no chance.

Pool were back in the game out of nowhere, probably undeserved, but at this point McDonald wouldn’t have cared a bit.

What he would have demanded was his side kept their head and built on the goal Cullen has given them - sadly they did the opposite.

Just two minutes later the home side found themselves ahead again when a lovely run from Lloyd Isgrove found Winnell at the edge of the area who guided it superbly past Lyness.

And moments later Pool totally collapsed as Marley Watkins poked home for Barnsley, all buy killing off the game in a whirlwind two minutes.

This prompted a change of plan from McDonald who introduced Bright Samuel and Jarrett Rivers, and switched to a much more attacking 4-4-2.

Moments later they created their first clear-cut chance of the game as Elliott Lee found space in the area, sadly he couldn’t keep his effort down.

With eleven minutes to go came a moment which probably summed up Blackpool’s threat in front of goal as Samuel somehow headed over from two yards.

Fellow substitute Little did brilliantly down the right to put a ball into the area and right onto the head of Samuel who incredibly turned it over from just two-yards out.

It should have given Pool the most unlikely of hopes of a comeback, instead it summed up their attacking bluntness.

As the clock ticked down Blackpool were getting plenty of the ball and with just three minutes to go Rivers almost pulled a goal back as he forced a decent save from the keeper.

The game was so open at this stage and burst into life in the dying moments of the game, with Blackpool giving themselves a real lifeline on 90 minutes.

Substitute Little finished brilliantly after decent work from Potts, and Pool out of nowhere looked like they could well sneak a point.

But in typical fashion in the afternoon Barnsley were allowed to instantly go up the other end as score.

As Potts hesitated in the middle, Ben Pearson’s neat back heal teed up substitute Matty Templeton who made no mistake.

In the end it was a bizarre game for Blackpool who defended terribly, had very little attacking quality but could have easily snuck something from the game.

If anything it shows there’s plenty of work to be done in January for the boss, not least in the next week when he’ll have a fight to keep the loan players.

At least we can’t say the game was dull, sadly Pool came out on the wrong side of a crazy game.