Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' harsh defeat which brings their season to an end.
Pool didn't end the season on a high, but they deserved to
Blackpool continued their fine run of displays with another positive performance at the New York Stadium, yet they somehow contrived to lose the game. Rotherham are a good side, they’re set to feature in the play-offs for a reason, but they were heavily reliant on their goalkeeper Marek Rodak on Saturday to claim their result. The on-loan Fulham man made a string of fine saves to pick up an unlikely clean sheet, when on another day Blackpool could have had three or four. Rotherham just edged it in the first half while Blackpool were under-par, but they weren't any real clear-cut chances of note and Christoffer Mafoumbi didn't have a great deal to do. But the second half was one-way traffic, with the Seasiders on top throughout yet they couldn't find a way through. The impressive Will Vaulks netted with an effort from the edge of the box that Mafoumbi could perhaps have done better with, but his teammates should also have done a better job of closing him down. Other than that, the Millers - who now prepare to take on Scunthorpe United in the play-off semi-finals - offered very little and yet that solo effort proved to be enough to take the points.
Seasiders lacking that clinical touch
As good as Rodak was, Blackpool can only really have themselves to blame. They had the chances but that clinical touch just wasn’t there. Ollie Turton missed a golden chance to equalise at the death when it looked easier to score, while Nathan Delfouneso had earlier failed to hit the target with a close-range volley when he only had the keeper to beat. Kelvin Mellor and Colin Daniel were also denied by fine stops while Dan Agyei went close on a couple of occasions in the final stages. Delfouneso has been in fine fettle recently, scoring five in five games heading into Saturday’s game, but for all of his strengths leading the line isn’t one of them. That’s what he was tasked with doing at Rotherham due to the absence of Kyle Vassell and Armand Gnanduillet, but it didn’t really work. In fact, he found himself back on the wing halfway through the first half with Kelvin Mellor thrown up front instead. This is a guy that – despite scoring seven goals this season – is naturally a right back. It’s fair to say that, through no fault of his own, that little experiment didn’t work out. But another tactical change that almost did pay dividends was Pool’s late change to a 3-5-2 system, which was brought about following the introductions of Mark Cullen and Dan Agyei. It resulted in Pool dominating the final stages of the game as they threw bodies forward at will, but unfortunately the goal they richly deserved eluded them.
Top half finish an incredible achievement
After a forgettable winter period, Gary Bowyer’s side ended the season as one of the league’s form sides having picked up four straight wins in the month of April to leave Blackpool in the top half of the table. That is quite the achievement for a side that, promoted from League Two last season, were odds on to be relegated straight back to the fourth tier. Gary Bowyer and his players deserve an enormous amount of credit for not only keeping the club on stable terms, but also laying the foundations for what could, and hopefully will be a bright future despite the off-the-field problems that continue to beset it. “The players are on the beach” is a phrase we often hear banded about in the final stages of the league season, but it’s one accusation you can’t level at Blackpool’s players who, despite Saturday’s defeat, have ended the season just as well as they began it. They played well against both Shrewsbury Town and Rotherham, two sides that are due to battle it out in the play-offs, and yet only managed to pick up one point from those two games. On both occasions Blackpool had more than enough chances to pick up two comfortable wins, but it wasn't to be. Either way, that shouldn't detract from what has been another fine season for the club on the pitch.
The club's future is now on the line
The season is now done and dusted, but the fun is only just about to begin. A hugely significant summer awaits the football club as Owen Oyston scrambles to keep control, with Latvian Valeri Belokon and apparent investment groups waiting in the wings. Nine players, the majority of them key ones, are out of contract. A further 10 have been released. Blackpool have the nucleus of a very good squad and, with three or four astute additions, aren’t far away from being a top six side. Keep the likes of Clark Robertson, Kelvin Mellor and Kyle Vassell and the Seasiders have every chance of building on this season’s success. But, given the well-documented problems that don’t appear to be going away any time soon, you couldn’t blame any player for seeking a way out. Robertson, voted Blackpool’s player of the season last week, will attract plenty of attention. Jay Spearing virtually said his goodbyes on Saturday. And then there’s question marks over the future of the manager, too. Gary Bowyer told the media at Rotherham that preparations were underway for next season and as it stands, he’s under contract and manager of Blackpool Football Club. But when asked what his future holds, he replied: “I don’t know, it’s football isn’t it? Nobody knows.”
Blackpool fans in fine voice
Last but not least, it would be remiss of me not to mention Blackpool’s superb away support. The 682 fans that battled their way through the delays on the M62 to make their way to South Yorkshire were magnificent from start to finish. It was the loudest and most vociferous I've heard them this season, either home or away. They sang non-stop, even directly after Will Vaulks had put Rotherham in front with a sweet finish from the edge of the area. Gary Bowyer certainly appreciated it, reserving special praise during his post-match interview. He also seemed distracted during the game as kept glancing over to the fans who were housed behind the goal. With that sort of backing under new owners next season, Blackpool will surely be a force to be reckoned with. Let's hope the next time I step foot inside Bloomfield Road I will be joined by hordes of others, preparing to watch their first home game in years with the shackles of Oyston ownership finally released. Change needs to happen and it needs to happen fast, now let’s wait and see what the next few months bring...