Match verdict: Saturday felt a little like a funeral

Blackpool's Mark Cullen (right) and Wigan Athletic's Donervon Daniels battle for the ball
Blackpool's Mark Cullen (right) and Wigan Athletic's Donervon Daniels battle for the ball
Have your say

“RIP Blackpool FC”. Those were the grim words painted on a bed sheet and held up by Blackpool fans as it started to rain goals for Wigan.

They struck a chord to some of the few thousand inside Bloomfield Road – Saturday almost felt like a funeral.

The Seasiders aren’t quite mathematically down yet, and a pretty unlikely three-game sequence could see them avoid back-to-back relegations, but not even the biggest of gamblers would be betting against a dreadful end to a dreadful season.

And while relegations are nothing new to all football clubs, it just feels like Blackpool FC will never quite be the same again.

As I walked around the pitch at the end to what I thought was the post-match press conference (we’ll come back to that in a moment), I noticed hundreds of season tickets among scarves thrown on to the pitch.

It was a symbolic gesture from fans, many of whom say they have no intention of setting foot in the stadium again.

I have to say it’s clear to see why. The energy, life and soul appears to have been totally drained out of it.

Ahead of the game as many as 3,000 gathered to march in protest of the Oyston family and their running of the club, and even the ones who continued to support the team and attend games have now totally lost heart. Despite all the talking this season from Neil McDonald, the football has largely been dreadful.

While on Saturday they were actually the better side for as much as 60 minutes of the game, they managed just one shot on target.

It’s something which has cost them all season, and maybe confirms many people’s suggestions that the players maybe just aren’t good enough for this level of football. The higher you play, the fewer chances you’re allowed to miss.

McDonald is now hugely under pressure and it’s well and truly showing.

After games the Blackpool boss speaks to local radio before turning to the written press (including myself) to face often tough questions about his side.

On Saturday he totally ignored us. Without even a word he turned his back on myself and four national journalists, refusing to even acknowledge us.

It prompted laughter from a couple of the national boys. They couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing.

It’s simply our job to ask questions.

Like him we are currently operating in the most difficult of conditions.

Like him we are simply trying to do our jobs.

The result?

Well, Blackpool’s fans don’t get an explanation of why their team hasn’t scored in four games and why one more point from Fleetwood will mean another relegation.

McDonald wouldn’t explain himself, which baffled everyone I’ve spoken to.

In the opening 45 minutes Blackpool were excellent. They actually dominated Wigan and should have been ahead at the break.

At the heart of all that was Jack Redshaw, who was the best player on the pitch, yet McDonald took him off.

The reaction of the supporters, who roundly booed, probably suggests they agreed with my thoughts on that on.

There may well be a rational reason from McDonald, but since he refused give it, we can only be baffled.

As for the actual football, well done to Wigan. They came down into League One in a similar mess to the Seasiders, and have responded in real style.

Among their ranks are plenty of well-known names among their starting 11 – Donervon Daniels, David Perkins and Michael Jacobs were all part of Pool’s dreadful Championship season last time around. Perkins last week picked up the Latics player of the year award after a superb season – he was released from Blackpool last summer.

Latics started the game well, showing very few signs of nerves as they searched for a promotion winning point, taking just two minutes for their first glimpse of goal.

Former Pool loan man Jacob’s rattling the wall with a free-kick from a very dangerous position after Clark Robertson had fouled Will Grigg.

In the opening 10 minutes Blackpool played their part, although the quality of the visitors always looked a threat.

And on 10 minutes we saw the first on target effort of the game, when Jacobs found space to turn and shoot goalwards from 20 yards, Colin Doyle was a match.

Just a minute later, though, Blackpool had a flash of hope of their own, only for some quick thinking by Latics keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen to thwart the danger. He rushed out to beat the ball away as Jack Redshaw snuck in behind Wigan’s back four.

For the next 15 minutes there was very little between the two sides, but then came as big a chance as Mark Cullen has had all season.

Some slack defending allowed the strike to run clear in on goal from the right-hand side, only to drag his effort across goal and wide. It was the sort of chance you have to score in do-or-die games, or at least hit the target.

And it was the Seasiders who continued to put the pressure on as the half progressed, with another chance coming their way just after the half-hour mark. This time it was Tom Aldred who rose to meet a Jim McAlister corner, only to head over from five yards.

I know McDonald always claims to be pleased with his team, but at this point he for once had genuine reason to be, Pool were on top and winning the battles.

What he won’t be happy with is the amount of very decent chances Pool were failing to make count, or even hit the target with.

The latest saw Redshaw with an almost open goal after a terrible mix-up between Perkins and Jaaskelinen allowed him in behind, only for the striker to fire over.

To be fair to Redshaw it was a very tight angle although a little more composure would have gone a long way. At half-time you get the feeling Gary Caldwell will have had a few choice words to say to his players, and they started well after the break.

Just five minutes into the second half came their best chance of the game, as Will Grigg turned Robertson in the box, only for Doyle to be alert and beat the chance away.

Blackpool suffered a blow just moments later as Cullen pulled up with what looked like a torn hamstring as he chased a ball into the corner, it’s likely his season is over.

But after an hour of competing, battling and showing promise, Pool went behind.

Jim McAlister and Liam Smith got in each other’s way, allowing the ball to fall to Chris McCann who blasted an effort into the top of the net from the edge of the area. The effort appeared to take a deflection off Aldred, but it was a very decent strike from the Irish midfielder.

What didn’t help Pool was McDonald’s decision to take off Redshaw soon after, the forward had been their best player on the day, causing real problems in the hole. McDonald’s baffling decision was booed by the home supporters.

I felt like booing myself.

The atmosphere inside Bloomfield Road was about to get much more hostile, as McDonald’s side totally collapsed in familiar style.

After gifting possession away on the half-way line from a Pool throw-in, substitute Yanic Wildshut was allowed the freedom of Blackpool to cut inside and lash past Doyle on 71 minutes, before the same player was allowed to do exactly the same a moment later.

With five minutes to go, Connor McAleny’s corner was headed on by Craig Morgan at the near post and as Pool’s players ball-watched Grigg headed home at the back post.

The full-time whistle was greeted by mass celebrations from Wigan.

A point for Fleetwood today will be the end for Blackpool.

One positive was the behaviour of Pool’s fans, who made their point in an organised, orderly and legal fashion. They should all be proud of themselves. Also credit to the police and the club’s ground safety officer Tony Pinder for his handling of the day.

The club may not have actually died, but it’s on life-support.