The best way to describe Saturday’s game is probably work in progress.
When going into a new season most football fans usually have a gauge of how their side may do. Let’s be fair, last season we all knew Blackpool were going to struggle.
But driving towards Colchester on Saturday with a new manager, a new squad and in a new division, none of us had a clue...and probably still don’t.
Although we at least now know a couple of things.
Firstly, Neil McDonald has done a decent job so far in the circumstances. With all the problems surrounding the club again this summer, the fact he’s compiled a squad capable of competing at all deserves real credit.
But secondly, he’s going to need more.
Colchester are hardly going to set League One alight, yet Pool in the end probably should have lost the game.
And for that reason Blackpool and McDonald have plenty of work to do before the transfer window slams shut, mainly in attack.
While Mark Cullen clearly caught the eye with two fine goals, and Jack Redshaw has already shown enough to prove a threat, the lack of plan B when things started to go against the Seasiders in the second half is something McDonald will be looking to address.
Blackpool need at least three or four more signings, it’s as simple as that.
All that said, there were plenty of positives. Once again Bright Samuel showed flashes he can go on to be a top player, particularly in the build-up to Cullen’s opening goal. At present he drifts in and out of games too much, totally understandable for a player so young.
Blackpool also seem to have got themselves a very capable goalkeeper in Colin Doyle, many of his team mates owe him a pint for saving them on three separate occasions.
The centre of the park could be an area McDonald also feels the need to strengthen, as well as finding a system which gets the talented Brad Potts on the ball in the final third.
Jim McAlister is busy and keeps things ticking over, but a big strong enforcer type certainly wouldn’t go a miss, particularly with Jose Cubero looking a little off the pace when he came on as a second-half substitute.
Being so far away from the troubled waters of Blackpool was probably a perfect place for McDonald to start life as manager, and the conditions down in Essex were just about perfect.
On a lovely afternoon and with a perfect pitch, the new boss decided to hand eight debuts with his starting eleven, although there was one slight surprise.
Despite returning from a successful summer with Costa Rica, Cubero was only named on the bench.
As predicted, Doyle took the No.1 spot ahead of Kyle Letheran, and he was behind an almost whole new Blackpool back four.
Emmerson Boyce, who joined just three days before the kick-off, was joined by Clark Robertson, Lloyd Jones and skipper David Ferguson.
Youngsters Henry Cameron and Bright Samuel were rewarded for their good pre-season form with starts on the wings, while Mark Cullen and Jack Redshaw led the line.
After all the off-the-field issues which have dominated talk, it was a relief to finally see the football start as ref James Linington got things going.
McDonald has preached positivity this summer and his Blackpool side certainly started in confident fashion.
McDonald’s men were on the front foot from the off, although the game’s first chance fell to the home side when George Moncur forced a simple enough save from Doyle.
The 600 Pool fans behind the goal were in fine voice, mixing support for their side with constant protests against the club’s owners.
And on seven minutes they almost had a sensational moment to cheer about.
Striker Redshaw picking up the ball just over the half-way line, jinking past a couple of defenders and playing a one-two with Samuel before poking his finish just wide.
He probably should have at least hit the target but after such a superb run we’ll forgive him.
Eight minutes later, Redshaw should have put Pool ahead.
Cameron capitalised on a slip from full-back Matt Briggs to burst forward and centre a perfect pass into the path of Redshaw who scuffed his back-post effort with an empty goal at his mercy.
Luckily it was quickly forgotten as Blackpool were soon ahead. Samuel burst down the left and cut a brilliant ball into the path of Cullen who had the easiest of finishes from three yards.
While it looked a simple goal, the striker’s movement was superb in the build-up.
Blackpool’s young guns were playing with a real confidence about them, and could have doubled their lead five minutes later when Potts burst into the box before seeing his effort deflected just over.
It was the away side who looked most likely, but it was Colchester who got the game’s next goal, and in stunning fashion too.
Jones’ defensive header was nudged into the path of Alex Gilbey who, on the half volley, blasted an effort into the top corner. It was against the run of play, and certainly knocked the stuffing right out of McDonald’s men. Ironically the Seasiders conceded an almost identical goal in their friendly against Accrington last week – it would appear lightning does strike twice.
As the half went on the home side grew in confidence with Chris Porter shaving the crossbar soon after with a five yard header.
With the break minutes away the game once again burst into life.
Pool had keeper Doyle to thank on 44 minutes as he did brilliantly to deny the lively Gavin Massey after he was fed in by Porter.
A huge save and one which boosted Pool to take a lead into the break, as Cullen found his second of the game.
The striker picked up the ball on the left and cut inside at the edge of the box before drilling a superb low effort past former Pool keeper Elliott Parish. It was the perfect boost for Pool and came right on the half-time whistle.
Sadly it was the home side who seemed to be given a shot in the arm by the goal, and it was Tony Humes’ side who started the better after the break.
Colchester were getting far too much space and time on the ball, prompting McDonald to introduce a third midfielder in the form of Cubero.
Sadly seconds later the home side were level.
It was made by Massey who was causing David Ferguson alsorts of problems down the left, and his cross was well finished by Darren Ambrose from eight yards.
The goal was well deserved for the home side, and it was the start of a pretty uncomfortable end to the game for McDonald’s men.
Pool were particularly struggling to deal with the cross-field diagonal towards winger Massey which was getting the better of skipper Ferguson, it was backs to the wall stuff.
McDonald’s men did manage a chance of their own just before the hour mark, one which midfielder McAlister knew was a biggie.
Good work from Cullen saw ground open up for McAlister 12 yards from goal, sadly his effort was well blocked by a Colchester defender.
Watching the game at times it was easy to forget Pool were in a lower league, infact it was a fairly entertaining game from start to finish, but we were all given a reminder of the difference in quality with 23 minutes left when Moncur should have put the home side ahead.
Colchester broke with real pace in a move ending with Moncur clear in on goal, luckily his tame effort went straight into the hands of Doyle.
Soon after Doyle once again saved Pool, but managed to hurt himself in the process.
A mistake from Cubero in the middle of the park allowed Massey a free run in on goal, only for Doyle to once again stand strong and beat the effort away.
Sadly the Irish keeper looked to dislocate his shoulder in the process, to be replaced by Kyle Letheran.
Colchester could have won it late on, particularly when Moncur went close in stoppage time.
But after last season, every single point gained should be a positive.
I’ve managed to write a full report without mentioning the off-the-field issues, they will stay away for another day, but on it at least there’s progress, even if quite slow.