Match report: Fed-up McDonald hits rock bottom

Blackpool's David Norris under pressure from Shrewsbury Town's Abu Ogogo (left) and Matt Tootl
Blackpool's David Norris under pressure from Shrewsbury Town's Abu Ogogo (left) and Matt Tootl
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You get the feeling Neil McDonald may soon be starting to take great interest in Sunderland’s results.

While there’s no doubt he wants to be a number one, and is more than capable of being so, his big mate Sam Allardyce continues to be linked with a move to the Stadium of Light as they struggle at the bottom of the Premier League. They could yet become his get out of jail card.

That’s not because there’s much wrong with the job he’s done at Blackpool, more the slow realisation this could be an almost impossible job.

For the first time on Saturday you could almost see the realisation in McDonald’s eyes, Blackpool are again in major trouble this season.

I saw a similar look in Lee Clark’s eyes last season, with the fellow Geordie initially being ultra positive, then begging for new signings, getting mixed up in the off-the-field shambles and eventually walking away.

Privately who knows what McDonald has thought all season, but he’s continually put on a brave face and played down the lack of quality in his squad, despite constant reminders in this very column.

But on Saturday the truth came flowing out.

McDonald said his side had his ‘rock bottom’, offered ‘no positives’ and even suggested he needed eleven new signings (although the last statement was maybe a little tongue in cheek).

Even if he needed eleven he wouldn’t get them, no-one wants to sign for Blackpool.

The problem isn’t McDonald or his players, It is that there’s no good will left in football towards the Seasiders. In the past Pool’s tactics have been based around begging and borrowing the country’s top talent, calling favours off clubs, agents and pals within the game. Now very few remain.

Just look at how Joe Lewis was treated while on loan at Bloomfield Road last season, those stories travel like wildfire through the game.

Would you risk sending your player to Blackpool? The answer sadly is no. And it’s all leaving the latest holder of the Bloomfield Road hotseat in a quite dreadful position, one I have great sympathy with.

I also couldn’t even begin to know what the answer is, apart from of course throwing money around and making offers people simply can’t refuse.

But it’s not just about money, Pool continue to make trouble for themselves - take Nile Ranger.

Why haven’t they just sacked him? He vanished last season, slagged the club off in interviews, publicly ridiculed the manager and even this week totally disrupted McDonald’s pre-match plans.

It’s simple, just terminate his contract. He should never have been kept in the summer and needs to be released now.

Despite all of the above, there was actually a game on Saturday, and another one where McDonald tried his very best to improve things on the pitch.

After hinting of changes in his team selection and after naming the same team for three games running, the Pool boss made four changes and a switch in formation.

In came Jack Redshaw who more than deserved his place following a superb display off the bench a week ago, and he was joined by Kwame Thomas, Clark Robertson and David Norris who made his first start for the club.

McDonald chose to drop his captain David Ferguson for the first time, with keeper Colin Doyle stepping up to take the captain’s armband.

There were plenty of familiar faces around the Shrewsbury set-up on Saturday, with manager Micky Mellon a former Blackpool favourite, but there was one we weren’t expecting in goal.

Mark Halstead, who came through Pool’s youth system and grew up on the Fylde coast, started in goal against his former club. It was his first ever start for the Shrews.

It all meant for a ‘diamond’ formation for the Seasiders in a bold looking team selection, with Redshaw tucked in behind Mark Cullen and Thomas in attack.

After Cullen won a corner, Lloyd Jones had the first sight of goal from the resulting delivery, sadly it was tame and drifted easily wide.

It was a bright start to the game, although it wouldn’t last long and the first real moment of action came in the seventh minute when Doyle came to Pool’s rescue.

Tyrone Barnett found far too much space in between Emmerson Boyce and Tom Aldred and fired goal wards, only for Doyle to get down well to his left and save.

Barnett has struggled in recent seasons, but a player of his ability in front of goal will be disappointed not to have opened the scoring.

The chance sprung the home side into life as Mellon’s side began to get joy down the flanks, particularly Crystal Palace loan man Sullay Kaikai down the right. It was a cross which brought the game’s next chance on 17 minutes, this time full-back Mat Sadler broke forward and crossed into the path of Barnett who headed wide.

That’s one of the problems with playing the diamond, it leaves Pool lacking width and a little exposed in wide areas.

As the half-hour mark passed Pool did get to grips with the pace of the home side, and started to grow into the game.

The Seasiders enjoyed much more possession and looked more likely, sadly they created nothing in that period.

The only moment of note saw Brad Potts booked on 38 minutes for the most needless reason of the whole season, after a 50/50 decision went against him the youngster belted the ball away in frustration. He was rightly shown a yellow card.

Watching the game at face value I had to admit I felt it was pretty even at the break, but having looked at the statistics it appeared pretty one-sided.

Shrewsbury created 11 shots, Blackpool not one.

The second half continued in similar vein from the off and Mellon’s half-time introduction of James Collins almost gained instant reward. A lucky break of the ball at the edge of the area saw the striker in on goal, only for Jones to recover brilliantly to slide and block from six yards.

Despite a couple of decent breaks from the Seasiders, they found it tough to create anything which resembled a clear-cut chance, with Herron’s mishit effort the only moment of note on 52 minutes.

Five minutes later came another opening for the home side, when Kaikai’s free-kick was deflected just over after Boyce had clattered the winger 25 yards from goal.

In an attempt to and a cutting edge to Blackpool’s blunt attack McDonald introduced Martin Paterson for his debut in place of Thomas.

Doyle again came to Pool’s rescue on 61 minutes when he saved from Jordan Clark, the midfielder burst into the box and striking on the back foot from 10 yards.

After all the pressure Blackpool thought they had themselves an unlikely goal, only for the linesman’s flag to rule it out.

Halstead spilled a decent Potts effort right into the path of striker Cullen who sharply turned the ball into the net. Sadly the flag was already raised. Despite Blackpool competing, on 73 minutes Mellon’s side got the goal they probably deserved.

A superb run and through ball by Larnell Cole saw Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro run in behind Pool’s back four and fire through the legs of Doyle into the net. You have to say it was a lovely run, pass and finish for the Shrews.

The goal saw confidence breezing through the home side, with Blackpool having to ride the storm - sadly they didn’t manage to for long.

Just four minutes later it was the same duo combining to score an almost identical goal, this time Akpa Akpro running off Jones to lift the ball over the advancing Doyle.

Blackpool’s situation was made worse moments later when Tom Aldred, one of their better performers in recent weeks, pulled up with what looked like a very painful hamstring injury.

Despite that, McDonald said afterwards he’d taken a knock to the head and should be fine.

This was turning out to be a dreadful ten minutes for the Seasiders and ended with Pool once again rock bottom.

I don’t think McDonald will want to walk away from Blackpool and wash his hands of it, but you have to worry just how long he’ll put up with it all.

Look out for Sunderland’s results - a couple more defeats for them could make his decision very easy.