“You’ve always got the negative side. You’ve always go the difficult questions. You never ask me any nice questions or talk nice about the players when we win.”
Those were the words of Neil McDonald after Saturday’s game when asked what appeared to be a routine question suggesting Blackpool must start winning games following good victories for the side’s below them.
While most managers would have trotted out standard lines about wanting three points as quickly as possible, McDonald chose a rather strange time to start feeling sorry for himself.
Maybe after years of watching the Seasiders I am being unfair on a side which sit 18th in League One, just one point from the drop zone.
As he said, Blackpool have lost just two of their last six, which is how the positive- minded may well think. But there are always two sides to every tale, and in those same six games Blackpool have earned just six points.
Should Pool continue that form which McDonald seems pleased with (earning a point a game) in their remaining 14, his side will end with 48 points – two short of the 50- point survival target he talked about on Thursday.
Blackpool MUST start winning more games if they want to say in League One, something I have always said they’ll do.
With McDonald’s words ringing in my ears, it’s best we keep opinion out of this report and look at the facts.
On the day Swindon came out on top in all the game’s key statistics. They enjoyed 65 per cent of possession, had 17 shots to Blackpool’s six, with 11 to Pool’s four being on target.
On top of that, the Seasiders managed just three corners, while Swindon won 11. So if this report seems at all negative, the above counts as justification.
In Pool’s last hundred games they have won at only THREE stadiums – one being Bloomfield Road. They’ve won twice at Wigan’s DW and once at Scunthorpe. No wonder we are all a little negative.
That may go some way to explaining why one of the most positive reporters in the business, and one often criticised for being so, wasn’t offered a handshake by the manager after Saturday’s game.
Just before we actually talk about the match, the “never write anything nice about my players” line is one we have to object to. The Gazette has been a fully paid-up member of the Colin Doyle and Tom Aldred fan clubs, often raving about their performances, as well as singing the praises of many of McDonald’s squad.
But praise shouldn’t be something handed on a plate – it has to be earned.
McDonald made two changes to the side which drew against Oldham on Tuesday night, and there was no surprise to see the Seasiders return to a 4-4-2.
Mark Yeates came back into the starting line-up in place of Jack Redshaw, as McDonald aimed to add width to Pool’s play. In goal was a huge boost, with the return of Colin Doyle who shook-off an ankle injury to start in place of Dean Lyness.
One consistent theme this season for Blackpool has been the importance of scoring first. When they have done they often go on to at least get something out of the game, and on Saturday they couldn’t have started any better.
After just two minutes the Seasiders went ahead. David Norris’ dangerous corner was met by Tom Aldred who fired a powerful header past Lawrence Vigouroux in the Swindon goal.
Before most had even taken their seat, Blackpool were ahead. The trend when Pool do fire an early goal is often to tuck in and make themselves very difficult to break down, and that’s exactly what happened on Saturday.
The Seasiders’ two banks of four got deeper and deeper, with Philliskirk even dropping into a No.10 role behind Cullen who lead the line alone.
The biggest issue was would Pool be able to defend for more than 70 minutes – the answer is often no, and the 17th minute brought a prime example of why not.
With Pool defending well enough, a nothing effort from range by Jon Obika led to Swindon drawing level.
The striker’s effort from 25 yards was right down the throat of Doyle, only for the usually dependable keeper to drop a right clanger at the feet of Nicky Ajose from five yards.
It was Ajose’s 17th of the season, he doesn’t need much of an invite to score and he won’t have an easier tap-in this season. Pool were a little shell-shocked, but it did little to change their tactic or style, taking 25 minutes for their second and only other effort on goal in the half.
Yeates found space to test the keeper from 25 yards, though it was an easy save for the keeper.
At this point it wasn’t the best game of football, with the wind causing havoc and stopping anything like a pretty game of football.
In Ajose, Swindon have a very dangerous striker and on 33 minutes we got a glimpse of his quality. He was given time and space to turn at the edge of the area before firing an effort goal wards, a fingertip save will have done Doyle the world of good after his earlier mistake.
As half-time approached Blackpool started to come out a little, and had a claim for a penalty just before the break.
Aldred was again forward for a free-kick, and as the ball travelled his way he went down under a Nathan Thompson challenge, but referee Phillips Gibbs waved it away.
It’s one which could easily have been given, but for me Aldred was giving as good as he got. His appeals for a penalty were waved away.
After the break Doyle instantly made up for his mistake with the first chance of the second half when Obika was played in on goal only to be denied by a full-stretch save.
While keepers can’t go and score a goal after an error, saves can be just as important. It was much more like the Doyle we know.
With the wind at their backs, Pool found it difficult to get into a rhythm, often over- hitting passes or being forced into long balls towards Cullen as the home side started to dominate possession.
It’s ironic that on a day Uche Ikpeazu’s height was needed, he was missing through injury. After allowing Swindon even more time to pick their passes, Pool paid the price.
Just after the hour mark Bradley Barry did well down the right before whipping a superb cross into the middle which was met by Ajose who tapped-in. It was a lovely ball into the box and one Pool simply couldn’t deal with.
At this point it looked like Blackpool were pretty much finished, but out of nowhere four minutes later they were level. A rare corner was lifted into the box by McAlister towards defender Clark Robertson who was clearly hauled down in the area.
The referee didn’t hesitate to point to the spot and Philliskirk stepped-up with all the confidence in the world to fire into the roof of the net. A superb spot-kick.
The goal gave Pool renewed hope and for a brief spell breathed life back into Blackpool’s play, but when push came to shove they lacked that sharpness in the final third.
That wasn’t something Swindon struggled with. Ajose was causing all sorts of problems, and on 77 minutes he almost got a third.
He raced on to a wonderful ball only for Hayden White to come out of nowhere to block en route to goal. It was a superb tackle from the right-back, Pool always look a better team with him in it.
As the clock ticked towards the end, Ajose was to fire a winner and complete his hat-trick.
As Potts looked to be fouled in the build-up, the striker was given far too much time to turn and pick his spot, firing past Doyle who was maybe put off by Aldred’s attempts to clear in front of him.
It was a poor goal to concede, and one Robertson, Potts and substitute Jarrett Rivers will probably feel they could have done more to stop.
With Pool’s chances limited, they had a golden one in stoppage time when McAlister’s free-kick met an unmarked Will Aimson at the back post, but the defender couldn’t get enough on the ball to head home.
It was a defeat for Blackpool and, as McDonald would insist, their second in six games. But just as importantly, they’ve won just one in that period. Blackpool need to win more games – no one can argue with that.