'Blackpool somehow conspired to lose': Matt Scrafton's verdict on Seasiders' defeat to bogey team Rotherham
Blackpool fans wanted to see more of a purpose from their team, a greater attacking intent with added guile and creativity.
I’d argue they got most of that on Saturday, it’s just a shame the result didn’t follow – adequately summing up the crazy nature of football we love and hate in equal measure.
But they were playing their bogey team Rotherham United after all, a side they haven’t beaten in over two decades.
Despite a much-improved display from the Seasiders, compared to Monday night’s bore draw against Bolton Wanderers anyway, the hoodoo against the Millers continues.
The South Yorkshire outfit have now won six of the last nine encounters between the two sides, with Pool’s last win coming back in 1997 – the year Tony Blair was first voted into office.
A lot has changed since then, the quality of our politicians aside. But one constant is that, in football, if you don’t take your chances when you’re on top, sod’s law says you will be punished at some point.
That’s exactly what occurred at Bloomfield Road at the weekend as the Seasiders somehow managed to conspire to lose a game they had total control of for the vast majority of proceedings.
Stats don’t often tell the whole story but, Pool producing 12 shots on goal to Rotherham’s six is as fair a reflection as you’re likely to get.
Despite coming into the game in fourth position in the table, there was a bit of pressure on the players’ shoulders who had received some flak during the week after their impotent display at the University of Bolton Stadium the previous Monday.
A lot of that reaction - or overreaction - was knee-jerk, for the Seasiders were taking on a completely transformed Bolton side to the one that was getting tonked 5-0 every other week at the start of the campaign.
Yet saying that, the players and management team knew as well as anyone that they needed to see improvements.
The players responded, producing a dominant 45-minute display which was as entertaining as it was purposeful.
But there was just one problem, the scoreline remained goalless at the break.
The Seasiders had done as much as they could to ensure that wasn’t the case, Matty Virtue lobbing an effort onto the crossbar, Sean Scannell fizzing an effort towards the far corner that was superbly tipped away and Armand Gnanduillet seeing his near-post header well held.
Simon Grayson’s men, who completely nullified the Millers as any sort of attacking threat in the first half, had done everything right but score.
Football fans aren’t stupid and there is always that sense of foreboding that – when luck isn’t on your side – things will probably end up getting worse before they get better.
Lo and behold, a fairly innocuous lobbed ball into the Blackpool box ends up with the Millers taking the lead.
Former Seasider Clark Robertson played his part, heading the ball back across the face of goal towards beanpole striker Matt Smith, who bundled home into the far corner.
Blackpool can’t say they weren’t warned. For a start, every man and their dog knows Rotherham are a side that are particularly strong from set pieces.
But, secondly, the visitors had briefly threatened on the stroke of half-time from a similar set piece, centre back Michael Ihiekwe glancing a looping header onto the top of the bar with their first venture forward of the afternoon.
It was a sign that Blackpool ought to have learned from, but Rotherham needed just six minutes of the second half to punish the home side for their defensive frailties.
Should we need more proof that luck just wasn’t on Blackpool’s side, we got it when Curtis Tilt beat the goalkeeper to a cross to tower a header into the back of the empty net – only to be greeted by the linesman’s flag incorrectly being raised.
That was the second harsh call of the day, with James Husband also being adjudged to have broken through on goal from an offside position when replays show he was on by a good two or three yards.
To Rotherham’s credit, they managed the game well from this point onwards.
Blackpool fans won’t like it, they certainly didn’t at the time, but their particular method of ‘game management’ proved successful.
Every time a Rotherham player hit the deck, which happened a frustrating number of times, the referee bought it and blew for a stoppage.
So much so, there ended up being eight minutes of time added on after the 90 was up.
Not that it particularly mattered by that point, as Rotherham had already wrapped up the three points a couple of minutes earlier.
Robertson was again the focal point, coming back to haunt the club he enjoyed three successful years with by slamming home a peach of a strike to double Rotherham’s lead.
This coming from the defender that only managed three goals during his entire spell on the Fylde Coast – and none of those coming at Bloomfield Road.
It looked as though Blackpool’s spell without a goal would stretch to four hours, but they did eventually manage to pull a goal back from the penalty spot when Gnanduillet converted from 12 yards following a foul on Curtis Tilt.
It was actually a surprise when keeper Dan Iversen didn’t save the spot kick given he was the thorn in Blackpool’s side all afternoon, thwarting them time and time again with a string of impressive stops.
The goal proved nothing more than a late consolation though, coming with virtually the last kick of the game.