'Events transpired against Blackpool': Matt Scrafton's verdict on shock Carabao Cup defeat to Macclesfield
With Blackpool starting the new League One season like a house on fire, you could be forgiven for expecting them to simply blow away Macclesfield Town in the Carabao Cup.
And in some respects, they did exactly that, producing a performance equally as impressive as the ones we witnessed against Bristol Rovers and Southend United.
And yet, remarkably, Simon Grayson’s men somehow find themselves out of the competition at the first hurdle.
It certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort, for the Seasiders were utterly dominant and the game against Sol Campbell’s League Two outfit was as one-sided an affair as you’re likely to see.
But unlike their opening two league fixtures, Pool were made to pay for a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal and were punished for their only two mistakes.
Pool were in command of the first half and yet, despite only conceding the one shot on target to their 12, the Seasiders only found themselves level at the interval.
That, unfortunately, was due to Rocky Bushiri’s nightmare own goal on the defender’s first start for the club.
Grayson’s side had earlier edged ahead with a sublime team goal, Ollie Turton of all people glancing home a lovely header after running onto Liam Feeney’s delightful cross - just one of several exquisite deliveries from the revitalised wing back.
The home side had chances to extend their lead, too, Armand Gnanduillet wasting a good headed opportunity before another debutant, Ryan Hardie, missed two chances in quick succession.
But five minutes before the break Macclesfield found themselves back on level terms, the goal coming against the run of play being an understatement.
They didn’t have to do a great deal to earn it, either. Former Seasider Jacob Blyth delivered an innocuous enough looking cross that should have been dealt with fairly easily by Bushiri.
But the inexperienced 19-year-old, for some inexplicable reason, decided a flicked clearance inside his own six-yard box while he was facing his own goal.
The Belgian defender got it all wrong, the ball flying in the opposite direction to where he intended and, unsurprisingly, it left Christoffer Mafoumbi flummoxed, the goalkeeper unable to do anything as he watched the ball trickle past him and into the bottom corner of his net.
It wasn’t like Bushiri was particularly under pressure, the nearest player to him was a good four or five yards away.
Grayson spoke post-match about the need to be patient with Bushiri because, while he has undoubted ability, he has a tendency to be a little rash at times. This was one such occasion.
My concern, though, was Bushiri’s positioning, which demonstrated a lack of the most basic and fundamental defensive principles.
But, given his tender years and the fact it was his first start in a tangerine shirt, Bushiri should certainly be given the benefit of the doubt.
To his credit, he didn’t appear overly flustered by the mistake and remained fairly solid for the remainder of the game.
Blackpool came firing out of the blocks at the start of the second half and again, the chances continued to come their way but that killer touch was lacking.
The Seasiders’ wastefulness in front of goal was their downfall last season and it’s only natural comparisons will be made whenever chances go amiss this year.
But I think that’s unfair on Grayson’s men, who have already demonstrated huge improvements in the final third this season with seven goals from their opening three fixtures.
With 65 minutes on the clock, the Silkmen couldn’t believe their luck when they were gifted yet another goal to make it 2-1.
This time it was skipper Jay Spearing who made the mistake, losing possession deep in Blackpool’s own half allowing substitute Virgil Gomis the chance to run through on goal where he made no mistake, unleashing a fierce shot that flew into the back of the net via the underside of the crossbar.
But again, Pool deserve credit for responding well, producing a barrage of pressure ably supported by the healthy 3,700 crowd that produced an impressive atmosphere considering just one side of the ground was open.
Sullay Kaikai produced another crowd-pleasing display but he’s still yet to open his account for his new club.
The winger, for all his good points - and there are many - is currently lacking a cutting edge in front of goal and the former Crystal Palace man was guilty of failing to hit the target on more than one occasion.
But given Kaikai’s talents, it’s surely only a matter of time until the 23-year-old breaks his duck and gets that first goal and when he does, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the floodgates open.
Chances continued to come and go for Pool and it seemed like it was just going to be one of those frustrating nights where nothing went their way.
And yet, as the game entered the first minute of stoppage time, the Seasiders were gifted a penalty when Gnanduillet was bundled to the floor. With Spearing off the pitch, the striker dusted himself down to take the penalty himself, sending the keeper the wrong way to send the game straight to spot kicks.
Unfortunately that’s where Blackpool came unstuck, Macclesfield keeper Owen Evans emerging the hero after saving from Kaikai and Jordan Thompson before dispatching the winning penalty himself.
It means there will be no repeat of last season’s cup exploits for Pool, who took Premier League giants Arsenal all the way in their last-16 tie at the Emirates Stadium.
But now isn’t the time for knee-jerk reactions, for Pool performed well - producing a mammoth 27 attempts on goal to Macclesfield’s five and boasting 62 per cent of possession.
It was just one of those nights where events transpired against them, but that should take nothing away from the promising signs we continue to see.