Results won’t mask fact Blackpool remain short

Llyod Jones looks the part so far for Blackpool
Llyod Jones looks the part so far for Blackpool
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If nothing else Neil McDonald has certainly changed results.

After a dreadful campaign last season it’s quite refreshing to see a Pool side who are so far unbeaten in all of the new manager’s pre-season games in charge.

It was also refreshing to hear Blackpool’s supporters chanting the manager’s name and applauding their team off the pitch at full-time.

But before anyone thinks I’m slowly losing the plot and becoming optimistic - I’m fully aware all this counts for nothing.

And with just two weeks left until the start of the season the starting line-up showed just how many gaps remain in McDonald’s squad.

As well as trialist Jim McAlister again starting in midfield, Tom Aldred was once again used out of position at right-back and Charles Dunne started in a totally foreign left-wing role.

It’s a set-up which is far from ideal for Blackpool’s new boss.

I’m now also aware of just how average the Scottish Premier League is, if St Johnstone really are the fourth best side in Scotland.

Saturday’s hosts offered very little and looked nothing more than an average League One side, which I suppose bodes well for Blackpool.

Trialist McAlister’s first half goal earned a win in Pool’s first real test of their pre-season against a St Johnstone side who have already started their season in the early rounds of the UEFA Cup.

The game brought to an end a week-long Scottish training camp which has seen Pool train three times a day, and maybe that showed in their start to the game.

Pool were a little sluggish and could well have been behind on five minutes when Brad McKay drifted in at the back post totally unmarked, only for him to scuff his goal wards effort.

A minute later though was a much more positive moment for the Seasiders.

Brad Potts forced a save at the near post after Jarrett Rivers jinked inside before finding a bursting run forward by trialist Jim McAlister who teed-up the midfield man.

The opening 20 minutes was tough for Pool who had to be content with the odd long ball and very little in terms of sustained possession.

One area they were getting a good test in was defence, and to be fair Pool’s back four dealt with a few corners and attacks very comfortably indeed.

Liverpool loan man Lloyd Jones in particular dealt with everything thrown at him with ease.

As the half went on Blackpool at least started to see more of the ball, with Potts at the heart of Pool’s neat midfield play.

The silence of the crowd probably mirrored the excitement levels on the pitch as half-time approached, this wasn’t a classic by any means.

But Blackpool did manage to go in ahead at the break courtesy of trialist McAllister. David Ferguson’s cross spun off a defender perfectly into the former Dundee man’s path, and after composing himself McAlister finished finely with a neat side footed effort.

The rain battered down in Perth as the teams come out for the second half and within a minute the home side could have equalised when Liam Craig fired just wide at the near post.

Up the other end Blackpool’s new strike partnership of Mark Cullen and Jack Redshaw combined well to create space before Cullen forced a very decent save out of keeper Alan Mannus.

The second half saw Redshaw become much more involved in the game as he dropped deeper into pockets just in front of midfield, something which seemed to work pretty well.

Blackpool looked a much more composed outfit after the break and on the hour mark couldn’t have come much closer to doubling their lead. Again Potts was involved, this time whipping a dangerous ball across the box which Cullen turned onto the post.

As both teams made changes the game started to open up and with 15 minutes left St Johnstone should have equalised. Sloppy play from Potts allowed Craig in on goal, only for Pool keeper Colin Doyle to stand strong and produce a fine save.

Doyle was once again called into action late on with a fine double save, but Blackpool saw the game out with some real flashes of promise.

It continues McDonald’s unbeaten record as Pool boss, with just two games remaining before the real action begins. The new manager will be pleased with his start at Bloomfield Road but there’s no doubt he needs three or four more of real quality.

Pool: Doyle, Aldred, Ferguson, Robertson, Jones, Rivers (Samuel 61), Potts, McAlister (Oliver 61), Cullen, Redshaw, Dunne (Cameron 85).

Subs not used: Letheren, Higham, Ball.