'The Seasiders got exactly what they deserved': Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's EFL Trophy defeat to Carlisle
It might ‘only’ have been the EFL Trophy, but the manner of this defeat should start the alarm bells ringing.
The Seasiders went into the game with a point to prove after their weekend defeat to Rotherham United.
They also knew a win at Brunton Park would send them into the knockout stages of the much-maligned competition with a game to spare.
While Simon Grayson made eight changes from the weekend, Blackpool were still able to name a strong side and one that ought to have got the job done against a weakened Carlisle team.
But what followed was insipid, it was lackadaisical, it was complacent and it was simply unacceptable. The Seasiders got exactly what they deserved, and that’s nothing.
Ask most supporters whose clubs partake in the EFL Trophy what they think about the competition and the vast majority will tell you it’s a waste of time.
It’s hard to argue with that viewpoint, which is obviously shared by Carlisle’s fanbase seeing as only 911 fans were there to watch the game – the sixth lowest crowd in the club’s history.
But for Blackpool it was an opportunity to get back to winning ways and for the fringe players to make the most of their chance and force their way into Grayson’s thinking for the next league game. Not one player did that.
As was the case for the recent draw against Bolton Wanderers, it wasn’t so much the result that was the issue – although it clearly wasn’t the best – it was the fashion in which they laboured to it.
Blackpool were actually the stronger side in the opening half and controlled much of the game.
They edged ahead in fortuitous circumstances when Calum Macdonald’s shot/cross slipped through the arms of Carlisle keeper Louis Gray and into the back of the net.
At that stage it appeared just a case of how many goals the Seasiders would get, but complacency soon set in.
The most simplest of passes began to go astray, mistakes crept in across the park and Pool failed to heed the warning signs by continuing the play the ball out from the back despite the constant pressure.
Carlisle barely laid a glove on the Seasiders in the opening half but, for some strange reason, Pool started to become charitable and felt like they should gift them chances.
Callum Guy played a weak backpass that was almost pounced upon by Harry McKirdy, before Ryan Loft somehow conspired to stab wide of goal after Pool’s defence parted like the Red Sea.
Pool were far too lethargic and relaxed on the ball at the back in the face of Carlisle’s aggressive pressing.
They were eventually punished for this in first-half stoppage time, Loft atoning for his glaring miss by looping an effort over Mafoumbi via the aid of a deflection.
Pool’s defending left a lot to be desired once again, the back four being carved open after Michael Nottingham had attempted a needless flick.
All in all, while the first half display wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad either. Pool were the better side and were dominant for most of it.
But the second half was a completely different story - it was the worst I've seen from Pool all season.
The Seasiders were penned back on the edge of their 18-yard box for most of it, constantly inviting pressure on themselves due to their failure to string two or three passes together.
Grayson’s men were completely toothless in attack, with the only chance coming the way of 17-year-old debutant Ewan Bange who could only shoot straight at the keeper after being sent through on goal.
It was a similar story to recent displays for the Seasiders, who were guilty of pedestrian build-up and producing far too many sideways passes. Again and again attacks broke down in the final third.
That allowed Carlisle the chance to pose a threat on the break and they most certainly were.
It looked as though Pool had got away with their second-half laziness when substitute Nathan Thomas struck the inside of the post for the home side with just eight minutes remaining.
But, with the game heading towards a penalty shootout to decide which side would claim the bonus point, Canice Carroll wrongfooted Mafoumbi with a swerving 30-yard effort to win it for the Cumrbians.
It left Pool, who now need a positive result in their final group game against Wolves’ Under-21 side to progress, scratching their heads and licking their wounds after being given a deserved dressing down in the changing room post-match.
This competition might be pointless, but that’s no excuse for what we witnessed last night.