'The performances are getting worse, not better': Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's defeat at Wycombe and what it means for under-fire boss Simon Grayson

Head bowed and hands in his pockets, Simon Grayson emerged from the tunnel tieless to deliver his usual post-match interview.

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 9:50 am
Updated Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 9:51 am

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On body language alone, the Blackpool boss appeared a broken man.

Prior to Tuesday’s long trip south, Blackpool’s last trip to Wycombe Wanderers came on the opening day of the 2018/19 campaign – when a new-look side battled their way to a goalless draw.

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Blackpool's Joe Nuttall battles for the ball

What was so notable about that fixture? It proved to be the final game of Gary Bowyer’s reign - the former boss handing in his resignation just two days later having come to the decision he could no longer work for the club’s despised former owners.

Could history be set to repeat itself, with Blackpool witnessing a change in manager following another outing at Adams Park?

The majority of the fanbase certainly appear to have made their mind up, with ‘Grayson out’ chants audible from the away end for the second game running.

A defeat on Saturday, when the Seasiders make the journey down the M40 once again, this time to Oxford, could spell the end for the under-fire boss.

The stats make for grim reading. While Blackpool remain 15th, they’re now 10 points adrift of the play-offs on the back of a dreadful run that has seen them lose five of their last six outings.

Fail to win at the Kassam Stadium at the weekend and it’ll be 10 games without a win in all competitions.

No-one can question Grayson’s previous managerial record, especially when it comes to earning promotion from this division - achieving it on four occasions with four different clubs.

But winning is not a habit Grayson has enjoyed since leaving Preston North End in June 2017.

In hindsight, his move to Sunderland – who were in freefall at the time on and off the pitch – turned out to be a horrendous one.

Since then, and including a short spell at Bradford City and his seven months in charge at Bloomfield Road, he’s won just 12 of the 55 games he’s taken charge of, losing 21.

In fact, since Blackpool’s impressive start to this season which saw them win their opening three games, he’s overseen just five wins in his following 23 games.

The 50-year-old will claim he needs more time and will argue his January signings need to be bedded in.

He’s right, to an extent, but Blackpool’s performances are getting worse, not better, and the club are in danger of becoming cut adrift of the play-off spots.

Continue to play like they did during the first half against Wycombe for the foreseeable future then Grayson’s days will certainly be numbered.

It was the most shambolic 45 minutes we’ve witnessed from the Seasiders this term and they were fortunate they were only two goals down at the break. It was that bad.

While Pool have clearly not been at their best in recent weeks during their winless run, their displays have remained okay-ish.

This wasn’t the case in the opening period at Adams Park on Tuesday night, because Grayson’s charges were woeful from the get-go.

It took just five minutes for the home side, who were out of form themselves having lost five of their last seven, to make the breakthrough.

Nick Freeman had the simple task of prodding home into the bottom corner after Ollie Turton’s attempted clearance landed straight at his feet.

Jordan Thorniley, looking rusty and nervy on his debut, should have done better in the build-up.

The centre back, in for Curtis Tilt, was then dragged out of position three minutes later allowing Wycombe to play a rudimentary ball over the top for Alex Samuel to outpace Ben Heneghan before slotting home.

Eight minutes in and the game was as good as done.

The Chairboys had chances, good ones as well, to extend their lead, while Pool were in complete disarray with their players looking like complete strangers.

Grayson insists Pool played with a back three in the first half but to most onlookers it appeared a four, with Grant Ward playing in a bizarre central midfield role that meant the entire left flank was left free for Wycombe to roam into.

That left Marc Bola completely exposed at left-back and it was no surprise to see chance after chance come from that side of the pitch.

Whatever system it was, it made for a confusing picture and at times the players themselves didn’t appear to know what they were supposed to be doing.

Grayson finally made a change on 35 minutes, dropping Joe Nuttall back to the left and leaving Gary Madine up front by himself.

Again, it was too little, too late, as the damage had already been done in Pool’s nightmare opening eight minutes.

Pool at least showed a bit of fight and gave it a go in the second half, but in truth a comeback never looked likely.

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall did manage a consolation goal on his debut off the bench four minutes from time, seeing his long-range effort parried into the net by goalkeeper David Stockdale.

Nuttall, preferred to 15-goal striker Armand Gnanduillet despite having just one league goal to his name all season, did waste a golden chance to level in the second minute of stoppage time when he looped a header over the crossbar.

But if we’re being honest, the Seasiders didn’t deserve a point. Anything other than a Wycombe win would have been a robbery.

Pool can have no excuses, not even the delayed kick-off which meant the fixture started at 8.50pm after an air ambulance landed on the pitch for a medical emergency.

In fact, excuses are beginning to run out.