'Blackpool's quality in front of goal has been their undoing': Matt Scrafton's verdict on New Year's Day defeat to Sunderland

Sunderland players celebrate Josh Maja's match-winning goal
Sunderland players celebrate Josh Maja's match-winning goal
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It might have been the first day of a New Year but there was no stopping Blackpool’s recent slump in form, which continued with a harsh narrow defeat at home to promotion-chasing Sunderland.

READ MORE: Terry McPhillips worried by Blackpool goal drought

It seems bizarre that Blackpool’s performances have remained pretty consistent when you consider they’ve lost four of their last five games in League One.

The Seasiders haven’t been doing anything particularly different in recent weeks.

Their displays have remained at a similarly high level to the ones we saw churn out regular results earlier in the season. It’s just a case of Blackpool not being able to put the ball in the net when chances come their way.

How Terry McPhillips’ men didn’t record a goal against Sunderland I don’t know. Chris Taylor, who produced his best display in a tangerine shirt, somehow managed to hit the post when he himself admitted it was probably easier to score.

That had come just four minutes after Sunderland had taken the lead through Josh Maja, a striker who now has 15 goals for the season. It’s pretty obvious that’s what Blackpool are lacking.

Armand Gnanduillet had Pool’s two clearest other chances, the first of which was literally centimetres away from resulting in an equaliser.

In fact, at the time it looked to most people in attendance as if Gnanduillet’s effort had rolled over the line, but replays have since shown a Sunderland defender managed to recover in time to clear the ball via a post without it crossing the line.

It’s those fine margins which are making all the difference, and at the moment for Pool it’s those sort of situations – which earlier in the season were going their way – that are now going against them.

Sunderland did have chances themselves – they were always going to with the abundance in quality they’ve got in attack.

Blackpool were thankful to Mark Howard, who made two outstanding saves in the second half to keep them in it.

Blackpool didn’t deserve to be on the losing side yet again, but it’s their lack of quality in front of goal which continues to be their undoing.

It’s a miracle that a side that has scored just 26 goals in 25 games is still in the top 10.

Injuries, suspensions and other absences have obviously taken their toll too.

Pool simply can’t cope with having Curtis Tilt, Ollie Turton, Jordan Thompson, Jimmy Ryan and Mark Cullen all out at the same time.

But it was good to see both Donervon Daniels and Joe Dodoo return to action, the latter coming off the bench while Daniels started the game, having missed the last two for family reasons.

Daniels, playing at right- back, was caught out for Sunderland’s match-winning goal, appealing without success for offside and allowing Aiden McGeady too much time and space to deliver a pinpoint cross for Maja to prod home.

With McGeady’s undoubted quality on the ball, you simply can’t allow him that luxury.

That had come after Sunderland, roared on by their 7,800-strong visiting contingent, had made the brighter start.

There have been so many lows in the recent history of Blackpool Football Club that the home fans being outnumbered by three to one at Bloomfield Road probably barely features in the top 20, but it’s still a sad indictment of how bad the situation has become.

Blackpool, who always tend to struggle and fall away in the winter months, now face a crucial few weeks.

And that might not have anything to do with matters on the pitch, irrespective of Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Premier League Arsenal.

No-one expects Pool to do much business, if any, during the transfer window, which officially opened yesterday.

And when he is asked about potential outgoings, McPhillips sounds increasingly doubtful over his ability to keep hold some of his top talents. Tilt for one is likely to attract interest, with Wigan Athletic sure to revisit their bid from August.

Gnanduillet is another who McPhillips – somewhat bizarrely – seems to be touting around to clubs higher up the pyramid.

Callum Guy’s loan deal becomes permanent any day now, so that frees up one potential loan slot. Whether it gets filled remains to be seen.

It might also be a case of allowing one current loanee to return to their parent club, again to free up space more than anything.

Permanent signings, especially for a fee, are simply implausible given the current situation.

Speaking of which, Pool fans will continue to patiently wait for decisive action from Valeri Belokon, who broke his prolonged silence to deliver a special New Year’s message to supporters last Friday.

While the message and an end – of sorts – to the recent impasse was most welcome, it will be actions and not words that will bring an end to this sorry saga.

And then hopefully we can move on and forget about the day a club from 150 miles away was given the freedom of the Fylde coast.

McPhillips commented on how pleased he was to see Bloomfield Road “bouncing”, yet that was all down to the invasion of Sunderland fans who filled over half of the stadium.

Surely we all long for the day when that sort of atmosphere at Bloomfield Road is back for good, and not because of huge away contingents but because the Blackpool community is again united and supporting its team.