Port Vale 2 Blackpool 0 : Pool can’t score and can’t win, where will it end?

Blackpool manager Neil McDonald
Blackpool manager Neil McDonald
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On the way to Vale Park there was a very interesting debate on the radio.

The guests were talking about Sam Allardyce, his style of management and whether managers like he and Tony Pulis belonged to the past.

While one side will say his well-drilled, unattractive style can often lead to results, the other is quick to remind us that football is nothing but an entertainment industry.

And the word entertaining is a key one at Bloomfield Road this season – the football has hardly tested the morals of the thousands who insist they won’t be returning to support the club.

Interestingly, on Neil McDonald’s first day as boss, he said: “It’s all about winning, isn’t it? Whether it’s long ball or tiki-taka, we have to find that mixture, whichever way we can, to win games. If do that, we’ll change people’s perceptions.”

I can’t really argue with that but the problem is Blackpool have managed just four wins in 19 League One games.

A poor run has seen the manager’s tune change in recent weeks – he has been quick to point out his remit is just to avoid relegation.

If that’s the case, then the pressure won’t yet be mounting on the Pool boss but huge questions have to be asked about where this club is going.

Is 20th in League One what Blackpool Football Club, with its tens of millions of pounds in the bank, really strives for now?

If so, then we may as well all call it a day, although I have to say 20th place doesn’t look likely at present.

The fact just 172 fans made the trip down the M6 last night proves the Blackpool public aren’t exactly enthused, and I can’t see that changing any time soon.

For most of last night’s game, it was a shame more didn’t bother as they’d have seen a Blackpool side much-improved, though ultimately one which lost again after conceding twice in the last seven minutes.

From minute one there was a real purpose about their play, creating a number big chances in either half.

What will really concern McDonald is that even when his side play well and are the better side, they still don’t find the quality to win.

Worryingly, Pool have failed to score in six games. No matter how the picture is painted, it’s bleak for Blackpool.

The Seasiders slumped to their seventh defeat on the bounce, just one short of their worse ever run of results.

A loss against Fleetwood on Saturday would see McDonald’s men in the record books for all the wrong reasons – even the dreadful Jose Riga and Lee Clark sides of last season didn’t manage that.

The first surprise last night was McDonald’s selection – he made just one change. With Andy Little injured, Pool turned to youngster Kwame Thomas in attack alongside Mark Cullen.

It meant Jack Redshaw was again left on the bench, although McDonald revealed the striker has been struggling with injury.

For me he’s too good a player to sit on the sidelines. If he’s fit enough for the bench, he’s worth throwing in from the start.

Martin Paterson was denied a start against his local club. He grew up just three miles from Vale Park and began his career with their arch-rivals Stoke City.

The pitch appeared to be very heavy. After relentless rain leading up to the game, many of Pool’s players could be seen running off to change their boots during the warm-up. It certainly wasn’t going to be one for the purists.

When the rain is coming down sideways, you know it’s going to be a long night for the players.

Despite the conditions, it was refreshing to see both sides at least attempting to play in the opening 10 minutes, with some neat moves in the middle of the park.

When push came to shove, neither was able to create anything like a chance in the final third.

In fact, it took 12 minutes for the first chance, and Bright Osayi-Samuel couldn’t have come much closer to opening the scoring.

He battled his way through on goal and beat keeper Jak Alnwick with a header only for Ryan McGivern to get back to block on the line.

Alnwick had just about recovered to beat the rebound away after it fell to Jim McAlister five yards out.

Five minutes later came Vale’s first effort, one which had Pool keeper Dean Lyness scrambling a little.

Lively striker Ajay Leitch- Smith drove towards Pool’s back four before firing a 25- yard effort goalwards. Luckily it was deflected just wide.

A pretty dull spell followed until Cullen tumbled in the area under a Richard Duffy challenge on 28 minutes. Referee David Webb waved the claims away. For me he got the call spot on.

While the football wasn’t exactly memorable, you could certainly see a rise in aggression among Pool’s players.

It’s something McDonald spoke about last week – wanting his side to be more ‘nasty’. There were definite signs of that, in particular from Hayden White.

The full-back totally bullied winger Sam Foley in the first half, flying into him at every opportunity. It was good to see White impose himself.

As half-time approached, the frustration of Blackpool’s boss was clear to see as he got involved in a situation needlessly.

With the referee stopping the game due to a Port Vale head injury, Pool chose to kick the ball out of play instead of kicking it back to their opponents.

That infuriated the home supporters and clearly the referee, who awarded the home side the weakest of free-kicks as play restarted.

Webb was doing the sensible thing to calm the situation down, much to the annoyance of McDonald, who stepped onto the side of the pitch to berate him.

The Pool boss could easily have been sent to the stands.

If he had been, he’d have missed another massive chance for his side, and one which they simply should have finished.

Again Samuel was involved, and when his effort was blocked it landed at the feet of David Norris five yards from goal. His weak effort was clawed off the line by the keeper. It’s a chance I’m sure Norris will feel he should have taken.

That would be the last action of the first half. Whatever Vale boss Rob Page said to his players at the break seemed to fire them up. They burst out of the traps for the second half.

Vale peppered Pool’s box with several quick crosses into the area, only for some decent defending to deny them.

Even so, it was again Pool who had a decent chance to break the deadlock. This time McAlister’s effort was blocked by Adam Yates after Cullen teed him up in the area.

McDonald’s men came again on 65 minutes, when Aldred powered a header goalwards from a corner only for Alnwick to beat the ball away.

As the rain battered down on Vale Park, conditions were becoming tough, and with 15 minutes to play the first goal looked likely to be the winner.

And it was nearly a Blackpool old boy who scored it for the home side.

Good work from substitute Chris Birchall down the right saw him cut the ball back to the edge of the area and right into the path of Carl Dickinson, who drove left-footed wide of the post.

If that was a let-off, Pool would be made to pay just moments later.

Keeper Lyness could only watch on in horror as Leitch- Smith’s effort squirmed under his body and over the line after a lovely pass by Kelly.

Moments later, Birchall compounded Pool’s misery by tapping home the easiest of goals to seal the game.

With many of Pool’s relegation rivals winning, it was another dreadful evening for the second-bottom Seasiders, who now have an even steeper mountains to climb.

No matter what positives came from last night’s game, another 90 minutes without any points or goals simply isn’t good enough.

A home clash against Fleetwood is the very last thing Blackpool need right now. Sadly, it’s the reality.