Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' frustrating defeat at the Kassam Stadium.
Same old story...
There was a recurring sense of déjà vu as Blackpool slumped to another defeat - their 11th of the season - on the club’s first visit to the Kassam Stadium. Oxford United’s stadium, a three-sided affair that was opened in 2001 - a year after Blackpool’s last trip - strangely resembles this current Blackpool side. It is so close to being the finished article and yet, in so many other ways, needs a lot more work doing if it is going to realise its lofty ambitions. Blackpool have shown time and time again this season that they are a good League One side, a very good one when you consider the off-the-field issues, yet they are in danger of letting all their good work go to waste. It was Groundhog Day all over again on Saturday as Blackpool once again dominated the 90 minutes and produced at least four clear-cut opportunities to score. But, as has been the recent pattern, that killer touch eluded them and they were punished for it. How Blackpool conspired to lose this game when all statistics pointed to an away win just goes to highlight their problems - problems Gary Bowyer is only too aware of.
Seasiders find a goalkeeper in fine form
It's no secret that Blackpool need to be more ruthless in front of goal, but on this occasion they came up against a goalkeeper that was insistent on keeping his clean sheet in tact. It’s not over-estimating Pool’s performance to say they controlled the match - almost from start to finish. They played it out from the back confidently and produced some sublime one and two-touch passing to make their way from one end of the pitch to the other. But that’s where the problem lies: once they reach that final third their attacks tend to break down, or if they don’t they fail to find that final touch that sees the ball nestle in the back of the net. But on this occasion, they can certainly have no complaints about a lack of opportunities. As early as the 14th minute Clark Robertson of all people tested Eastwood with a whirlwind of an effort from 25-yards, that appeared to be dipping underneath the bar only for Eastwood to superbly tip it over. The 'keeper was again brought into action for a second time when he got down well to save from Kelvin Mellor, who had looked to finish off a flowing counter-attacking move. Eastwood, a former Blackburn Rovers ‘keeper who will know Gary Bowyer well from their time at Ewood Park, made another two outstanding stops to deny Solomon-Otabor and Robertson in the second half.
D'Almeida was Pool's biggest threat but also their main culprit
Sessi D'Almeida has only made 20 appearances for Blackpool and yet his display at Oxford was comfortably the best afternoon he's had wearing the tangerine jersey. He ran the show in the first half, making some surging runs through the middle of the park to get Blackpool higher up the pitch. That's exactly what the Seasiders have been missing in recent times, that midfielder who is prepared to break forward and isn't just content on sitting back and passing the ball from side-to-side. As good as Jay Spearing and Jimmy Ryan are, they're too alike and Blackpool's attacks are more of a slow, pedestrian affair when they line up together. This time Blackpool broke forward at pace and with purpose and that's when they're at their best. But for as good as D'Almeida was, he was probably the biggest culprit in front of goal. Pool stormed out of the blocks at the start of the second half and two glaring chances came D'Almeida's way in as many minutes. The first fell to him just two yards out from goal as Oxford defender Aaron Martin made a hash of clearing Nathan Delfouneso's cross, but the midfielder couldn't quite force the ball over the line. His second chance was Pool's clearest of the afternoon but again it was squandered. Viv Solomon-Otabor supplied a superb cross to the unmarked D'Almeida but he could only send his header agonisingly wide of the far post. For once Eastwood was beaten, but again Blackpool failed to find the back of the net.
Seasiders undone by a set-piece...again
As Blackpool continued to waste clear-cut opportunities, you begin to think it just might not be their day. But not to worry, a point away from home against a side in the top half of the table is not to be sniffed at. Well, that should have been the mentality but instead, the Seasiders conceded a soft goal from a set piece - again - and lost a game they ought to have won fairly comfortably. It started when Kelvin Mellor needlessly gave away a free kick in a good crossing position and was swiftly booked for his foul. There was a brief stoppage in play while Oxford’s Jack Payne was treated for an injury and in his place came Alex Mowatt. The substitute immediately sprinted over to the far side where he lined up the free kick and swiftly placed it onto the head of Obika, who obliged by heading home into Mafoumbi’s far corner. Blackpool thought they were over their set piece hoodoo, but that particular weakness was brought to the fore once again as they were undone by a fairly routine free kick.
Blackpool showed naivety in the final stages
The home side had done little to earn the goal that came their way just ten minutes from time but they deserve credit for the way they rode out the rest of the game, which they did with considerable ease. Blackpool huffed and puffed but they showed a level of naivety as they continued to play some neat and tidy football instead of launching the ball forwards to put Oxford's backline under pressure. Gary Bowyer said as much in his post-match interview and couldn't hide his frustration at how certain players, in his words, played "schoolboy football" by putting "little passes together" at a time where they desperately needed to get the ball in the box. Instead, Pep Clotet’s side held on for a hard-fought yet undeserved three points but Blackpool can have no complaints - they only have themselves to blame. Bowyer also went on to question whether some of his players are capable of doing it for the 90 minutes, commenting that some of them decided to "take the easy way out". Harsh words, but he's not wrong...