Matt Scrafton column: Blackpool's goalscoring comes under the microscope
The step up to the Championship was always going to be a big one, but it isn’t until you live and breathe it in the flesh that you realise just how brutal it can be.
I still maintain that Blackpool played well on Tuesday night against Huddersfield Town, they were just undone by a manic 14-minute period where the Terriers tore through Neil Critchley’s side and scored three goals in quick succession.
Prior to that – and after, it has to be said – the Seasiders were the side in control. Their play was measured and they built up their attacks well. They created some presentable chances too, Shayne Lavery squandering four alone.
That, to me, has to be the main concern – scoring goals.
While the men in tangerine were utterly fabulous in winning promotion from League One last season, it was their defensive solidity that was the difference.
During the regular 46-game season, Pool actually ‘only’ scored 60 times, which was 20 fewer than champions Hull City and 23 behind second-placed Peterborough United.
Rochdale, meanwhile, scored one more than Blackpool and they ended up being relegated to League Two.
On a side note, it’s no coincidence that Blackpool, Hull and Posh take up three of the bottom four spaces so far in the Championship this season.
The gap between the two divisions is wider than it’s ever been.
To bridge that gap, Critchley and his staff are going to have to find a way to score goals on a far more consistent basis than they’re currently doing.
The Seasiders have netted just once from their four league games at Bloomfield Road so far this season, their other four coming on the road.
One particular conundrum is the form of last season’s top goalscorer, Jerry Yates, who has had a slow start to the season.
The 24-year-old only has one goal from his opening nine games in all competitions – and that one came from the penalty spot.
Yates also endured a slow start in League One last season, taking 11 games to get off the mark for his new club – so let’s hope he rediscovers his form in a similar fashion this year.
Is Yates underperforming or is he just not getting the service? It’s difficult to say.
Against Fulham on Saturday, the striker was making the right runs in behind whenever Blackpool won the ball high up the pitch, but the passes from Josh Bowler were overhit. There’s not a great deal Yates could have done about that.
Sometimes you have to make your own luck, which is something Lavery is certainly doing.
While the Northern Irishman wasn’t quite at it in front of goal against Huddersfield in midweek, at least he was getting into goalscoring positions to miss the four presentable chances that came his way.
If Yates isn’t scoring, it isn’t as if he doesn’t offer anything to the team.
His pressing from the front is crucial and he’s a tireless and willing runner.
It’s important to note that Yates would often go on these barren runs last season, only to suddenly spark into life and score four in four, five in five, six in six and so on.
While we’re only six games into the new league season, the striker’s form has to be a concern for Critchley.
With Pool already a little shy on goals, they’re depending on their talisman to deliver the goods.
Knowing Yates, he’ll hit form in no time. Let’s just hope it’s sooner rather than later.
Last season the former Rotherham United man sprung into life once he was partnered with Gary Madine, which makes Madine’s return all the more timely.
The 31-year-old got 20 vital minutes under his belt off the bench on Tuesday night, but he’ll now need to continue building up his fitness before he’s considered for a start.
Nevertheless, it’s great to have him back in the fold because he offers something that Pool’s other forwards don’t possess, which is the ability to win headers, hold the ball up and knock opposition defenders around.
If Madine can get back to full fitness and rediscover the form he showed alongside Yates midway through last season, he’ll prove invaluable.
As a final aside, it’s important to remember that players aren’t robots.
Just because they return from injury doesn’t mean they can be thrown back into a side and play 90 minutes in every game.
Case in point: Kevin Stewart. The midfielder was magnificent against Fulham last weekend on what was his first start of the season.
There was consternation among a section of the fans when the ex-Liverpool man was named on the bench against Huddersfield.
However, asking the midfielder to play three games in a week was always going to be a tall ask having barely featured during the Seasiders’ pre-season.
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