Lee’s grounds for optimism

Empty seats at Bloomfield Road
Empty seats at Bloomfield Road
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Blackpool could be just one match from relegation but manager Lee Clark was full of praise for his team after the 1-1 home draw with Leeds.

Striker Gary Madine gave Clark’s side the lead just before the break only for Italian Mirco Antenucci to equalise just past the hour and extend Pool’s winless run to 11 games, though the point did halt a sequence of six straight defeats.

Pool are 17 points from Championship safety with 21 to play for going into the international break, and their relegation will be confirmed if Rotherham win at Birmingham on Good Friday and the Seasiders fail to take three points at Bolton the following day.

Clark feels his side deserved more on Saturday and said: “The level of performance was good. That’s more like the standards we want from the players.

“As difficult as it was on that pitch, my team tried to play football the right way and made good decisions in the right areas.

“There were lots of stand- out performances for me and we should have won. We deserved the three points. The only reason we didn’t win is because we conceded a really disappointing goal through an individual error. That seems to be the case for us each week.”

Pool gave a good account of themselves on an afternoon dominated by supporter protests, with more than a thousand again gathering outside Bloomfield Road before the game. Around half of them then moved on to Jepson Way to watch AFC Blackpool in the North West Counties League rather than staying for the Pool match.

They missed striker Madine heading home a minute before half-time, following in a superb Andrea Orlandi free-kick, only for Leeds substitute Antenucci to lob keeper Joe Lewis from 12 yards.

Clark added: “From one to 11, they probably all had their best games collectively in a while. It was a performance that had a lot more intent, drive and invention to it. We created many more chances, so I was really pleased.

“I was just left frustrated that we didn’t manage to pick up a win for the supporters.

“I think in the last two games we have deserved something.

“I sense the players are looking more at ease now. Maybe it’s the fact we are down and a bit of tension has been taken away.

“Before that we had to win every game, but the players need to learn to handle pressure if they want to play for us.”

Injuries and suspensions left Clark with 18 fit players for Saturday’s game.

“We have been down to the bare bones and young Grant Hall was only half a square peg in a round hole,” he joked, after selecting the centre-half as a makeshift right-back.

“He’s right-footed and can defend, and he did really well. I had no choice but to play him there, unless I went into the under-15s or something like that. With all that in mind, it was a good afternoon for us.”

Leeds’ Neil Redfearn is the latest manager to criticise the Bloomfield Road pitch, which he described as a “quagmire”.

Redfearn said: “It’s a fair result because it’s a difficult surface to play on. It’s about whether you can avoid making many mistakes.

“I have to say it must be an absolute nightmare for them trying to get results on this. All it needs is a path through the middle and you’ve got park playing fields.

“You come to Blackpool, and everybody thinks you’ll beat them six and seven, but it doesn’t work like that.”