Blackpool got what they deserved for showing Stoke City far too much respect

How does the saying go again? Don’t get too high after a win, don’t get too low after a defeat…

Read More

Read More
Michael Appleton slams Blackpool's 'passive' first-half display during Stoke Cit...

By the same token, it’s not suddenly the end of the world because the Seasiders slumped to a disappointing first defeat of the season at Stoke City.

Saying that, it’s clear there are plenty of things to work on for Michael Appleton. I’m sure he knew that when first taking the job but perhaps the task ahead of him is even bigger than he realised.

I don’t mean that in a defeatist way, just that if Appleton is going to stick with his 4-3-3 system – with all indications suggesting he will – then it’s going to take a while for his players to get used to it.

As it stands, I’m not entirely sure this squad of players is suited to play that formation. Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise because the vast majority of them were brought in by a head coach who was happy to switch things up from game to game, so needed versatility and flexibility throughout the squad.

Appleton, on the other hand, needs specific players for specific roles. Without overhauling the entire squad in one or two windows, I can see some inconsistent displays being a regular theme over the next few weeks as the players get to grips with exactly what Appleton is demanding from them.

Stoke condemned the Seasiders to their first defeat of the season

Against Stoke, Blackpool can have absolutely no complaints about the result. Barring a 15-minute spell at the start of the second-half, they were second best throughout.

While the result is naturally frustrating, the thing that disappointed me most was the approach the Seasiders took.

At the bet365 in March, Neil Critchley’s then side had copious amounts of joy pressing from the front, forcing Stoke’s tall, but not exactly ball-playing defenders into mistakes and taking the initiative from the off.

On this occasion, the visitors paid Stoke far too much respect – and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way to Stoke, because they were the better side and they deserved their victory, which could and probably should have been by a greater margin.

But if Blackpool had taken the game to Michael O’Neill’s side, ‘had a go’ to coin an overly simplistic phrase and still lost 2-0, that would have been a whole lot more palatable.

But to surrender fairly meekly? It was just a shame to watch, because the end result seemed pretty inevitable once Stoke were given the licence to build up their play from the back without anything resembling pressure, resulting in the home side getting into dangerous positions – especially in the wide areas – on a worryingly consistent basis.

This is where Stoke again deserve credit, because their quality from wide positions was very good, Josh Tymon in particular down the left.

But again Blackpool caused themselves problems by sitting off and allowing the time and space for Stoke’s wing-backs to pick out their intended targets in the middle, as they did for both of their goals.

Callum Connolly was a good four or five yards off Tymon when he swung in a cross that Harry Clarke headed home at the back post, completely unmarked.

For the second, this time it was the lively Jacob Brown who got across his marker too easily to steer home with an impressive first-time finish.

From a Stoke point of view, both goals were well worked and clinically dispatched. From Blackpool’s, they involved some pretty desperate defending, in all honesty.

When your captain Marvin Ekpiteta is having an uncharacteristically poor game, you know you’re in for a tough afternoon. The defender is the prime example of a player struggling to get to grips with the new-found responsibilities demanded of him, because he’s looking uncomfortable on the ball and constantly in a mad-hurry to get rid of it, which is the antithesis of what his boss is looking for.

On a more positive note, the man behind him Dan Grimshaw was thankfully on form making two or three excellent saves, otherwise it could have been a really difficult afternoon for the Seasiders.

In attack, Josh Bowler – the hero of last season’s win – was the only man looking likely to make anything happen to the point where the Seasiders were almost entirely reliant on the winger, which has to be a concern should the 23-year-old depart between now and the end of the transfer window.

Off the bench, meanwhile, we saw a few glimpses of debutant Charlie Patino, who showed enough quality in his 20-minute cameo to leave the Blackpool fans drooling with excitement.

While his ability on the ball caught the eye, as well as the smoothness with which he drifted past players with a simple drop of the shoulder, it was the way he instantly picked himself off the ground after being cynically hacked down by a Stoke man which impressed me most.

The 18-year-old, who will be delighted to already have his own catchy song, might have to get used to that in the Championship this season.

One man who clearly wasn’t happy was Gary Madine, who was brought off after just 22 minutes after taking a kick to the shin.

The striker exchanged some stern words with Appleton as he left the pitch, clearly unhappy he was being brought off despite slumping to the ground only a few seconds earlier.

Even after the two shook hands, the bickering continued before Madine took his seat on the bench.

I’m sure it was something or nothing, a miscommunication in all likelihood. But it summed up a disappointing day on the Potteries on Saturday.