Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' 2-2 draw at Exeter City.
Football is a game of fine margins
On the face of it, a draw away at one of the country’s most in-form teams seems like quite a welcome result and one Gary Bowyer probably would have taken before the game. The Grecians have only lost one of their last 16 games, after all, and their unbeaten run on home turf now stretches back to November. But it was the manner of the draw which will have hurt the most, with the men in tangerine squandering a 2-0 goal lead for the second week running to be pegged back to 2-2. Had the Seasiders held onto their leads against Crewe last week and Exeter this weekend, they would be just three points off the play-offs with a game in hand. As it is, they’re now seven points off and look destined to remain in mid-table mediocrity for the remainder of the season.
How badly do the players want to win?
That was the question asked by Gary Bowyer after the final whistle, with what was the first indication of the season that maybe not all is right inside the Blackpool changing room. It's a dangerous tactic to employ because it can go only one of two ways: either the players react accordingly and put in an impressive performance against Barnet on Tuesday or they wilt completely and down tools. Bowyer was visibly despondent at the final whistle and opted to use several one-word answers when questioned in his post-match interview. He also sent the players straight back out onto the pitch after the game to hold a team meeting amongst themselves. Bowyer can only do so much and it is down to the players to show the grit and determination required to hold on for results in the dying stages, instead of carelessly throwing them away as has now happened for the last two games. If that's not going to happen, any talk of the play-offs is utterly pointless.
Late equaliser was oh-so-predictable
Of course, as we are constantly reminded after every game, there are still plenty of games left to play and plenty of points still to pick up. But are Blackpool, who have only won two of their last 12 league matches, all of a sudden going to go on a run which sees them finish in the top seven? It seems unlikely. The quality in the Blackpool squad seems to be there but if Gary Bowyer’s damning post-match comments are anything to go by, it’s the desire and will to win that is the problem. Exeter’s equaliser was oh-so-predictable and yet they didn’t have to do a great deal to earn it. In fact, for the majority of the second half the Seasiders had successfully neutered the Grecians’ advances and they made a good League Two side look like a very average one. But all they needed was a five-minute spell and the Blackpool defence crumbled.
Pool defensively at sea
Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and admit the opposition has scored a good goal. On Saturday, that wasn't the case at all. Exeter's first came after captain Andy Taylor was bullied and beaten to the ball on the edge of the box by Jack Stacey who saw his cross spilled by Sam Slocombe to the feet of the unmarked Ollie Watkins, who duly took advantage and tapped home. The players had clearly lost their concentration in first half injury time and exactly the same happened in second half stoppage time, when Reuben Reid was afforded a free header after Watkins was given the freedom of Pool's right-hand side to cross to his strike partner. It would be easy to blame the defensive mistakes on the absence of Tom Aldred but if we're being honest, these mishaps have been happening time and time again this season.
Looking at the bigger picture...
There was only one moment of joy for Blackpool supporters this week and it certainly didn’t come on the pitch at St James Park. There’s a bigger picture to look at and that’s the future of the football club, which took a sharp turn in the courts during the week when president Valeri Belokon won his legal case against the Oystons. In a statement to The Gazette following the verdict, a spokesman for the Latvian said: “While Mr Belokon welcomes the judgement, it brings him little joy when Blackpool Football Club remains in League Two." That's a pertinent comment given the Seasiders now languish in 15th place in England’s bottom tier following their 2-2 draw at Exeter. With a second, more significant case coming up on the horizon, things may soon begin to look up for the long-suffering Blackpool fans.