‘Anyone who finishes above Blackpool this season will win the league.’
Those were the words of Neil Warnock just three years ago, after his Leeds United side had been played off the park by Ian Holloway’s Seasiders.
Pool were a feared team in the Championship, and half the time opponents were a goal behind in their heads before the game even kicked-off. Flash forward to Saturday and not one person inside Dean Court even thought Pool were capable of scoring, let alone winning, and the bookies agreed.
Lee Clark’s men went into the game a staggering 14/1 to win. In fact, most offered lower odds for a 7-0 Bournemouth win (66/1) than a 1-0 Blackpool victory (68/1).
On Saturday, Pool didn’t even manage a shot on target and one of their four off-target efforts drifted out for a throw-in, which pretty much summed the Seasiders up.
While football is clearly about ability and tactics, it’s also about confidence and belief, and Pool have none of either.
You get the feeling this group of players don’t really believe they can score a goal, let alone win a game. Ultimately, they are nowhere near good enough to compete in the Championship, blunt as that may sound.
The Seasiders haven’t named the same starting 11 in consecutive games all season and yet again there were plenty of changes, most notably the return of Andrea Orlandi from injury.
The major blow for the Seasiders came in the middle of the park. Jamie O’Hara was given time abroad to recover from an ankle injury, a major blow. The skipper looks set to miss tomorrow’s game against Charlton too.
Connor Oliver was brought into the middle of the park, while Charles Dunne returned from suspension at left-back and Michael Jacobs made his debut on loan from Wolves.
In contrast to Pool, Bournemouth are absolutely flying and you could tell as much from the atmosphere around Dean Court ahead of kick-off.
In a way, the excitment around the place reminded me of Bloomfield Road in the promotion year of 2010. Every credit to them.
As for Pool’s supporters, incredibly over 300 made the long trip, although I’m told a stag-do party of 100 probably boosted the figure. And the travelling support almost had something to cheer after just a minute, when Pool won a free-kick in a very dangerous area. Sadly, captain Orlandi couldn’t make it count.
While manager Lee Clark had vowed not to be defensive and did play with two up top, there was certainly a solid look to the way his side was set up.
Two banks of four often met Bournemouth’s attacks, though ultimately Pool’s lack of quality let them down. After a pretty even opening spell, Brett Pitman gave Pool a warning of what was to come after seven minutes, when he turned 25 yards from goal and fired over.
Moments later, the in-form striker would break the deadlock and it was all too easy. Pitman found space behind Oliver and was able to carry the ball unchallenged into the box before firing low past Parish. The striker was allowed to run 10 yards unchallenged as Tom Aldred and Charles Dunne backed off.
At this point you could see confidence oozing from the home side and you really feared the worst for the Seasiders.
Bournemouth were getting plenty of joy down their left wing in particular, with Pool attacker Tom Barkhuizen again chosen as right-back and often left isolated.
After a keep-ball session by Eddie Howe’s side, Pool finally started to compete and actually strung together a few decent passes – each one ironically cheered by the travelling support.
But even during the Seasiders’ best spell, Bournemouth always looked lively and they almost doubled their lead when Matt Ritchie’s right-wing cross was glanced wide by Callum Wilson.
Pool had just one effort on goal in the first half, though it did follow a very decent move.
Orlandi broke forward and played a neat one-two with Nathan Delfouneso before opening up and curling a shot high and wide. Sadly the chance fell to his weaker right foot.
Any hope of a shock leveller was dashed on 36 minutes, when Pitman met a deep Ritchie cross to guide the ball into the net. Pool looked for a flag from the linesman but it quite rightly stayed down.
The saddest fact about Saturday’s game was how easily Bournemouth were able to score. The league leaders hardly had to work for their victory and Pool’s afternoon got worse just before the break.
Pitman found space 25 yards from goal, and with his confidence flying he hit a tame effort goalwards. Elliot Parish fumbled it into the net. It was another dreadful goal for Blackpool to concede.
At this point, around 50 of the travelling Pool supporters made their way to the exits, and who could blame them? Every single one of them deserves better.
At half-time, an angry Clark spoke about keeping it tight and showing more fight for the shirt. He’d hardly retaken his seat when Bournemouth scored again.
This time Wilson stepped up to stroke his 19th of the season from the penalty spot after Orlandi had fouled Marc Pugh just inside the box.
From there on in you feared the worst. Pool, however, did manage to prevent any further goals, though their goal continued to be battered by one-way traffic.
There was one bright moment for the travelling supporters on 54 minutes and one which did raise a cheer. It was an ironic one, though, as forgotten midfielder Jose Cubero came on for his first appearance since September, replacing the totally ineffective Oliver.
If one moment summed up Pool’s afternoon it arrived on 70 minutes, when substitute Tony McMahon tried a long-range shot only to see the ball glide out for a throw-in.
Grant Hall had a couple of half-chances as the clock ticked towards full-time, though neither of them looked like causing Bournemouth any problems.
After the match an angry Clark questioned a number of his players and for the first time admitted Pool are down.
Sadly, relegation looks likely to be only the start of Pool’s problems. The club is a laughing stock and the fans deserve much better.