The lights go out on Blackpool's EFL Trophy campaign - Matt Scrafton's verdict on Seasiders' cup exit to Scunthorpe
Simon Grayson was midway through his post-match press duties when the lights in the affectionately-titled “brew room” switched off, leaving him and the media stood in pitch dark.
“That’s typical isn’t it, the lights have gone out. That sums up the night,” Grayson quipped, before continuing with his rant about his side’s woeful display.
He was well within his rights to give his players a dressing down given the abject manner in which the lights went out on their EFL Trophy campaign.
The competition has its detractors, and rightfully so, but what it does do is offer the opportunity to get to Wembley. Grayson has previously made it clear that was his and the club’s intention. To be knocked out so early on will be a major disappointment.
It’s also a vital avenue for those players who are normally on the fringes of the first-team to stake a claim. Other than Rocky Bushiri, who at least ran and put a shift in, the rest failed abjectly to make any sort of impression.
While the EFL Trophy is considered nothing more than a glorified reserve competition in many quarters, it’s simply unforgiveable for those individuals to perform so poorly when this might be the only chance they get.
Grayson refused to mince his words after the game, suggesting he’ll have to be busy in the upcoming January transfer market with so many squad players failing to make the grade.
As the Pool boss admitted afterwards, the Seasiders can have no complaints whatsoever with the end result. They were fortunate to even have a goal by their name.
Scunthorpe, who have no luxury of a game this weekend having already been knocked out of the FA Cup, were at full strength and buoyed by a three-game winning streak. It told.
While Pool made eight changes in total, the side that crossed the line was still a strong one and ought to have performed much better than they did.
Pool’s build-up play was slow and ponderous and a far cry from the quick and incisive passing we’ve witnessed in recent weeks. The passing and retention of the ball was dreadful.
The Seasiders utterly failed to deal with Scunthorpe’s aggressive closing-down and a number of players produced an uncanny impression of a deer caught in headlights every time an opposing player came near them.
Scunthorpe’s first goal was as basic as they come, although Kevin Van Veen did well to finish it off emphatically.
But where was the communication between Ryan Edwards and Curtis Tilt to deal with the long ball, which both of them ended up losing with Lee Novak flicking on into Van Veen’s path?
The backline remained stationless for Scunthorpe’s second, as the dangerous Abo Eisa grabbed the first of his two goals in clinical style – beating Mark Howard with a powerful low shot into the far corner.
With Ryan Hardie, who continues to look bereft of confidence despite his recent hat-trick in the reserves, and Joe Nuttall struggling to keep hold of the ball, attacks continued to break down before they even got started at an alarming rate.
Pool did briefly threaten an unlikely comeback when, spurred on by the introductions of Matty Virtue, Sullay Kaikai and Nathan Delfouneso, Nuttall reduced the arrears to just the one goal with 20 minutes remaining.
It was an opportunistic effort from the striker, who has now two goals in as many games, to tap home from a matter of yards after Delfouneso’s curling effort had been saved.
Had Virtue’s low shot found the back of the net rather than being cleared from inside the six-yard box just a minute later, then who knows what might have happened.
But the referee put the breaks on any potential fightback when he flashed a second yellow card in the direction of Callum Guy for an apparent handball as the away side looked to break. It looked very harsh.
Ben Toner, who was famously removed from officiating a Blackpool game last season due to his unfortunate name (read it out loud) at a time when Owen Oyston was losing his grasp on the club, seemingly refuses to forgive and forget.
The Iron made sure of the win – and subsequently their passage into the next round – when Eisa beat the offside trap before rounding Howard and calmly passing the ball into the back of an empty net in the final minute of time.
That sparked a huge exodus from the ground from the home end, while those who did remain vented their anger with a loud chorus of boos at the final whistle. On this occasion they had every right to do so.