The old saying goals win games is one of the most obvious in the book, but it explains a lot of Blackpool on-the-field problems at the moment.
The Seasiders find themselves in a division which has proved average at best this season, with very few teams having anything like the quality of the Championship.
Basically League One is much of a muchness. And for that reason it’s those moments in front of goal, or decent chance which make all the difference for teams.
Too often this season a game will be pretty even only to be decided by one goal, and it’s that goal Blackpool just never seem to get.
In fact, they are officially the worst scorers in the whole division, no-one has fired fewer than their 15 goal far this season.
While obviously that points to a lack of quality in attack there’s another statistic which is pretty damming.
Only five players have scored a league goal this season – the lowest in the whole league. Players simply aren’t chipping in.
When you don’t score and don’t defend well either, no-one should be surprised to see Pool second bottom.
On Saturday the biggest surprise in Neil McDonald’s team selection came with the choice to throw Andy Little in for his debut from the start.
The Preston loan man hasn’t kicked a ball in anger this season so far, but he was one of three changes to the side at the weekend.
In came Hayden White who returned from injury at right-back, Bright Osayi-Samuel on the right and Little in attack. It was a big chance for Little, the question was always going to be how long he lasted, sadly the gamble backfired.
While he looked lively in the 41 minutes he managed on the field, throwing a player who hasn’t even been training with Preston’s first team this season straight in was always going to be tough.
Ultimately it would be one I’m sure McDonald regrets. One notable absence from the squad was Jose Cubero who wasn’t involved at all, I think it’s fair to say Cubero won’t be at the club come the end of January.
While the Costa Rican arrived in a blaze of publicity having featured at the World Cup in Brazil, the fact he’ll most likely sneak out of the backdoor suggests how successful his spell at Blackpool has been.
It’s fair to say he’s never really been given a run in the team, and the mess which welcomed him last season was always going to make things tough. It’s a shame. He’s obviously a player of talent, but it simply hasn’t worked at Bloomfield Road.
As for the action, well Little was certainly in the thick of it during his 41 minutes on the field, taking just 30 seconds for his first effort on goal.
It was a chance he made and finished himself, chesting a long ball into the path of Mark Cullen who teed him up for a long-range effort which drifted just over. It may have been off target but it showed the striker certainly isn’t shy in front of goal.
What was clear in the opening stages was the influence of the wind which was right at the backs of Blackpool in the first half. It was making conditions difficult, and Southend attempted to take advantage of that, launching long throws into the box.
Their first was only half-cleared into the path of Kevan Hurst whose volley fired into the turf, taking the sting out and leading to a simple enough save for Dean Lyness.
Two minutes later Hurst was again causing problems, this time highlighting the best and worst of Pool defender Clark Robertson.
He allowed the striker to sneak in behind him only to lunge in for a superb last gasp tackle to deny the striker.
While it was a game of no goals you always got the feeling there could be goals, with a real open feel to proceedings. And on 17 minutes a moment which left McDonald furious.
As the ball bounce at the edge of the area David Norris nipped in ahead of Adam Thompson before appearing to be fouled right on the edge of the area. While Pool claimed for a penalty, referee Graham Horwood said there was no foul. From my view it wasn’t a penalty but there’s no doubt Norris was fouled.
McDonald would have been pleased by the fact his side were keeping things tight at the back, after conceding far too many in recent weeks.
But on 21 minutes they almost shot themselves in the foot. David Ferguson’s terrible back pass was cut out by David Mooney who raced in on goal, only for a typical Tom Aldred last gasp tackle to save the day.
It was a poor moment from Pool’s left-back, luckily he got away with it.
At this point it was Phil Brown’s Southend who were growing into the game and looked most likely to break the deadlock. Despite this it was the Seasiders who found the game’s next chance, and it couldn’t have gone any closer to breaking the deadlock.
Jim McAlister’s corner was powered goal wards by Little, only for the ball to rattle off the underside of the bar and off the goal line. You can often judge an incident by player reaction – the fact three Pool players raised an arm to appeal suggest it was close.
Loan man Little was looking lively in attack and causing problems, but on 41 minutes McDonald’s gamble well and truly backfired.
As the striker chased a ball he instantly pulled up with a hamstring injury, his afternoon was over. Let’s hope he’s back sooner rather than later.
Kwame Thomas replaced him and was instantly involved as he burst forward and did brilliantly to tee-up Cullen eight yards from goal, sadly he totally scuffed his shot.
When your team is on the back of five defeats on the bounce and are playing away from home it’s a chance you really need to take. A poor miss.
At half-time McDonald would probably have been the happier of the two managers, with one or two murmurs of frustration from the home supporters. With the wind against them Blackpool offered very little threat at the start of the second half, something which would continue for most of the rest of the half.
It took 11 minutes for the half’s first glimpse of goal, Ryan Leonard’s free-kick easily saved by Lyness.
Blackpool’s best player on the day was Aldred at the back who was defending solidly, but it was at the other end he almost made a real impact on the hour mark.
He plucked a cross from the sky, turned on a sixpence before firing goal wards, it was an effort a striker would have been proud of, sadly it was an easy save in the end. Three minutes later Aldred was back doing what he does best, defending. He did brilliantly to clear a Worrall cross off the line, it was a fantastic save.
Blackpool were looking flat in attack and McDonald opted to take Cullen off, but to my surprise it was Martin Paterson who replaced him.
The striker has done little to warrant being ahead of Jack Redshaw in the pecking order, his cameo on Saturday did little to improve his chance.
While Blackpool were doing nothing in terms of attack, you knew a goal from either side would be the winner. It went Southend’s way with just 14 minutes remaining, and it came from a Pool attack.
As Samuel lost possession in attack Southend countered superbly and as Worrall broke down the left he crossed to big defender Thompson who guided it home from eight yards. The goal smashed the stuffing out of Pool and they never ever looked capable of getting back into the game.
You always got the feeling one goal would be the difference in such cold and blustery conditions, and that proved the case with 16 minutes left.
As Samuel attacked for Pool his heavy touch lost possession and allowed the home side to break before Worrall burst down the left, crossing into the path of big defender Thompson who powered a header home from close range. The fact the goal came from a Blackpool attack left McDonald furious, but it’s nothing too surprising in recent weeks you have to say.
By the time Pool finally introduced Redshaw it was too late, although a half-chance for Paterson in the dying moments almost nicked a point.
While it was another poor defeat for a team still in need of new faces and more important quality, Pool will look back to Cullen’s chance just before half time as the game’s key moment.
A few years ago Blackpool had Kevin Phillips, who ate up those sort of chances for breakfast. How they could do with a finisher now.