Match verdict: “Who knows where Oyston was, probably out shooting’

Blackpool's Mark Cullen holds off the challenge from Sheffield United's James McEveley
Blackpool's Mark Cullen holds off the challenge from Sheffield United's James McEveley
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I’ll always remember once asking Ian Holloway if Karl Oyston was at a Blackpool game back in the days when we basically didn’t have a care in the world.

He replied: “Who knows where Karl is. He’s probably out shooting.” It was a bit of a dig at the chairman’s yearly habit of choosing shooting trips ahead of watching his club play on a Saturday.

In the words of Ollie, who knows where Karl was on Saturday? – but I’d have expected him to be at Bramall Lane.

After being banned from football activities for six weeks you’d expect the Pool chairman to have returned full of beans and desperate to solve the clear problems which now see the club rock bottom of League One.

On Saturday Oyston was nowhere to be seen. If he had attended he’d have witnessed a squad which was desperately short of players, quality, confidence and most importantly points.

I’ve been accused by some this summer of being ‘over negative’ with my reporting, with one caller to the office last week claiming I’m being negative because the club have restricted mine and The Gazette’s access this summer.

Well, sadly, right now I’m being proven right – Blackpool’s team isn’t good enough, and Neil McDonald agrees.

Last week he desperately tried to add players to his side and even had bids accepted, sadly they are yet to be completed. Why? Well, you do worry about who would want to come to Bloomfield Road at the moment.

On and off the pitch it can’t be a nice place to be. And once again the manager and players are the ones who are taking the brunt of it.

Some don’t, but I have sympathy for McDonald and his young squad, there’s no doubt they are doing their best.

While he knew what he was letting himself in for, there’s no doubt the manager took the job for the right reasons and is sincere in his positive approach.

As for the players, they aren’t letting the fans down, can’t be blamed for lack of effort and there’s no hint of them taking the club for a ride. They just need more quality.

On Saturday Blackpool’s game plan was all about keeping things tight and hoping for something on the attack, which for an hour probably worked perfectly.

But is that what the club has become now, a team which goes into League One games to keep things tight. It’s not long ago Pool were lining up at Anfield with three up front....and winning.

On a roasting afternoon in Yorkshire there was a couple of surprises in Blackpool’s line-up and another change in formation.

Tom Aldred was rightly handed his chance after watching his replacements ship nine goals in four games, while Connor Oliver came into midfield.

It meant for a switch of formation to 4-5-1, or 4-3-3 if you’re optimistic, as McDonald looked to shore up his line-up against a much fancied Sheffield United side.

Sheffield United’s team were like a who’s who of former Championship players, what McDonald would give to be able to call on a couple of those.

In particular in attack where a forward three of Billy Sharp, Conor Sammon and Jose Baxter would trouble most Championship defences.

Their midfield contained a familiar face, in the form of ex-Seasider Chris Basham, while Mark Howard lined-up in goal.

With the pre-match atmosphere inside of Bramall Lane I’m sure McDonald would have wanted his players to have a nice, calm introduction to the game – well they got exactly that.

In fact, in the opening 15 minutes nothing at all happened. No chances, no half-chances, shots or moments of note.

It was all very boring, but will have suited Blackpool down to the ground.

The Seasiders, with five men packing the midfield, were quite clearly happy to sit back and allow the home side to play in front of them, with Mark Cullen looking a very lonely figure in attack.

It wasn’t pretty, but the silence inside of the stadium as the 20-minute mark passed showed Pool were at least looking solid for the first time this season.

After 17 minutes there was finally an effort on goal, and it came from a unlikely source in left-back David Ferguson.

He burst forward and tried his luck from all of 30 yards, unfortunately for the Seasiders it drifted just wide.

As with a couple of the league games so far this season, Blackpool were actually the better side as the midway point of the first half came and went.

Oliver in particular was catching the eye with Pool competing much better in the middle of the park.

It took 27 minutes for the home side to have anything like an effort on goal, although Connor Sammon’s tame effort was never going to beat Kyle Letheren who comfortably saved down to his right.

Seven minutes later was another half chance, this time for Blackpool as Clark Robertson rose to head an effort straight at Howard from a Cameron set-piece.

One player who has been forced to be patient so far this season is defender Aldred, who must have been wondering who he had offended to be unused in all the games despite major defensive problems for Pool.

And with just two minutes before the break on Saturday he produced a block which was as good as a goal for the Seasiders.

Che Adams cut the ball back into the path of Sammon who drove an effort towards goal, only for Aldred to fling himself in the way and divert the effort over.

At half-time the talk in the press room was of a very lacklustre Sheffield United and a defensive-minded Blackpool.

But as the second half began it was the Seasiders who made the charge going forward, rattling the post after just a minute.

Brad Potts was fouled right on the edge of the box by Basham and skipper David Ferguson’s curling free-kick had Howard beat, but not the woodwork.

While it was all positive, we all knew at some point Sheffield United would get a chance in front of goal, and it game on 56 minutes.

Jamal Campbell-Ryce did brilliantly down the right before crossing perfectly into the path of Sammon who couldn’t miss from two yards – well some how he did.

The striker clearly took his eye off the ball for a split-second and mis-kicked wide, it was the miss of the season and a huge slice of luck for the Seasiders. The chance strangely lifted the home side and their supporters, and for the next 10 minutes it was pretty much one-way traffic.

And there was no surprise when United took the lead on the hour mark.

A clever set-piece from Sheffield United saw Basham block off Boyce and allow Billy Sharp all the space in the world to fire past Letheren who will probably feel he could have done better.

I suppose it was only a matter of time, Sharp ALWAYS scores against Blackpool.

What followed was a very difficult period for the Seasiders against a home side given a shot in the arm by the goal, but Pool at least held firm and didn’t concede a quick fire second which McDonald has spoken about so often. And the Pool boss made a change to try to spark his side’s comeback on 68 minutes, introducing Jack Redshaw in place of the quiet Cameron.

Sadly with 17 minutes left the game was dead and buried when substitute Mark McNulty was given far too much space to drift forward and curl a wonderful effort past Letheren from the edge of the area. It was all too easy.

And that would probably be the best way to described the final 15 minutes of the game as the home side totally took their foot off the gas, Blackpool simply could find a way to threaten in anyway.

There was a long-range effort from Potts which went close at the death, but apart from that there was very little.

In the end it’s another defeat for Blackpool and one which leaves them bottom.