Blackpool's relegation scrap, Reading punishment and fans' meeting: Key talking points ahead of Burnley clash
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The Seasiders went toe-to-toe with Burnley back in August during the thrilling 3-3 draw at Turf Moor, but that feels like a long, long time ago now...
Vincent Kompany was just getting to grips with his new squad of players back then but from that point onwards, the Clarets have been virtually unstoppable – averaging a remarkable 2.24 points per game to sit 19 points – yes, 19! – clear of Middlesbrough in third.
Since then, Pool have won just five league games compared to Burnley’s 21, while the Clarets have only lost once – which gives you a quick indication of the challenge that faces Mick McCarthy’s side on Saturday afternoon.
But who knows? It’s often in these scenarios, where our expectations are low heading into the game, that Blackpool come out and surprise us all.
Reasons for optimism?
As touched upon, they’ve already proven they can cause Burnley problems and they came within seconds of beating their title rivals Sheffield United as well, which gives some credence to the view Blackpool often perform better against sides at the top of the table as opposed to those in and around them.
Perhaps I’m clutching at straws (what else is there to clutch at this moment in time?!), but facing a side like Burnley that will inevitably dominate possession and territory might actually suit the Seasiders.
They can concentrate on defensive solidity, stay in their shape and look to spring the odd counter-attack by utilising the pace of players like Josh Bowler, Morgan Rogers and CJ Hamilton (or two of the three).
If they do create opportunities, one thing’s for sure, they’re going to have to be far more clinical in front of goal than they were against Reading last week.
Looking back, the performance – for what it counts – wasn’t actually too bad against Paul Ince’s men.
In terms of passing the ball and controlling possession, something we’ve not seen much of in recent months, Blackpool were the side in the ascendancy and on this occasion, they also converted that into opportunities, producing 14 shots on the Reading goal.
But that’s where it all crumbled, because Blackpool’s final pass or shot lacked quality, which has been a running theme of the season.
While the Royals created relatively little in the way of clear-cut openings, they were utterly ruthless when they got in and around Chris Maxwell’s goal and put the Seasiders to the sword to eventually cruise to a relatively comfortable home win.
As if another defeat wasn’t a bitter enough pill to swallow for Blackpool, this week’s news of a potential six-points points deduction for Reading will have only rubbed salt into the wound.
Had Blackpool won last week, they’d now be just one point off Ince’s side, assuming the docking of points is triggered this season, of course.
It’s a sad, desperate situation we find ourselves in when we’re having to rely on rival clubs being punished for financial misdemeanours, but that’s where we’re at unfortunately.
Until Blackpool can sort things out on the pitch, we’ve no other option but to keep our fingers crossed that results elsewhere go their way.
But at some point McCarthy’s men are going to have to take matters into their own hands. The sooner, the better as well, because time is rapidly running out.
And yet, despite all the doom and gloom, Blackpool are still only four points adrift of safety. If they can find some wins from somewhere, there’s still a chance.
Given how much of a frustrating campaign it’s been, supporters will understandably be keen to hear from the club’s hierarchy.
They’ll be able to do so on Friday evening when the next edition of the Structured Dialogue Meeting is held at Bloomfield Road.
The appointment and sacking of Michael Appleton, the subsequent arrival of Mick McCarthy, the club’s summer recruitment, the frequent injuries (most notably hamstring!) and the status of the East Stand and training ground plans are all issues that are likely to be raised.
I, like many, am interested to see the outcome of this meeting. Whatever the outcome, let’s hope it provides an opportunity for some unity at a time when the fanbase is anxious and tetchy, and understandably so given the league position and the looming threat of relegation.
Despite the ongoing fears, I expect the fans to turn out in their numbers again for what is an all-Lancashire affair this weekend.
The atmosphere at Bloomfield Road has been out of this world in recent weeks, culminating in the return to winning ways against Stoke City a couple of weeks ago.
Blackpool failed to build on that victory, slumping to back-to-back defeats, but I’m confident the supporters will stay with the team right until the very end – and I don’t just mean this weekend.
That shouldn’t be taken for granted, by the way. Fans can often be quick to turn on their team nowadays, we see it up and down the land on a weekly basis. But Wigan aside, when the frustrations with Michael Appleton reached a crescendo, the supporters have by and large stayed with the team.
The atmosphere on Saturday will be electric once again. Let’s hope they’re rewarded with three points for a second home game running.