'The stats are starting to become pretty damning': Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's defeat at Lincoln and what it means for Simon Grayson's future

Blackpool are now down in 15th, they’ve scored just five goals in their last eight winless games and they’ve lost four of their last five league encounters. The statistics are starting to become pretty damning.

Saturday, 18th January 2020, 10:21 pm
Updated Saturday, 18th January 2020, 10:22 pm
The Seasiders continue to endure a winter of discontent
The Seasiders continue to endure a winter of discontent

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The Gazette's player ratings from Blackpool's defeat to Lincoln

The pressure is beginning to mount on under-fire manager Simon Grayson and, for the first time this season, we heard signs of dissent from the terraces.

It might have only been faint, but the chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” were clearly audible among the 741 Blackpool fans at Sincil Bank on Saturday.

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While I don’t expect Simon Sadler to swing the axe so soon given the recent investment and backing he’s given to Grayson during this month’s transfer window, he might not be able to ignore those calls for much longer.

Pool fans are now starting to ask themselves how a side that finished in 10th place last season under the guidance of a rookie manager now finds itself languishing in the bottom half of the table.

What it all means is that Tranmere Rovers at home next week is absolutely huge.

The fact Tranmere are third from bottom means the Seasiders would be expected to beat them anyway should they harbour genuine ambitions of reaching the top six.

But with Micky Mellon’s men taking on Watford in their postponed FA Cup replay against Premier League side Watford on Thursday night, the knives will certainly be out for Grayson should his side fail to overturn them on home turf less than 48 hours later.

Grayson continues to argue that he just doesn’t have the required quality at his disposal. Many Pool fans would probably agree.

But how does he expect the players he’s currently got to perform to their maximum when they constantly hear in the press that they’re not good enough?

It’s a fine line. We all want the manager to come out and say it how it is but sometimes you’ve got to manage situations and do and say what is required to keep spirits up.

I’m not saying the Blackpool players aren’t playing for Grayson, because they are. There’s no shortage of effort and commitment, but that can only get you so far.

The lack of creativity and guile in the final third has been a running theme of Blackpool’s season and there’s no getting away from it.

But are the Pool players being given the licence to attack and express themselves? Grayson says yes, others will say otherwise.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, pragmatic football is all well and good when you’re grinding out results but when you’re not, the writing is on the wall.

I’m almost getting bored of writing the same things every week but this defeat followed a familiar pattern.

Blackpool came out of the blocks quickly and looked bright early on, pinging the ball around with confidence and giving the hosts plenty to think about.

They came within inches of making the breakthrough after just nine minutes, but they were unfortunate to see Nathan Delfouneso’s clever glancing header bounce away to safety after hitting the inside of the post.

Once Pool knew that early goal wasn’t going to come, they began to retreat and Lincoln - buoyed by their 5-1 thrashing of Bolton Wanderers in midweek - began to grow in confidence.

Pool, meanwhile, gradually began to run out of steam and, more importantly, ideas.

Lincoln were awarded a fairly generous-looking penalty on 20 minutes when Jay Spearing was harshly adjudged to have brought Max Melbourne down in the penalty box.

The skipper, not for the first time this week, was forced to take rash action to make up for his teammate’s mistakes - Liam Feeney the man to let Melbourne drift behind him and into the penalty box unopposed.

While Spearing’s challenge was tough, it appeared fair and, crucially, he looked to have taken the ball which flew away in the other direction to which the Lincoln full-back intended it to. The referee disagreed.

Fortunately for Pool Mark Howard was back to his best and got down superbly to tip Tyler Walker’s spot kick around the post for a penalty. It was the best of two wonderful stops from the 33-year-old.

Pool had penalty appeals of their own turned away shortly before the interval when former Seasider Neal Eardley looked to have hauled Armand Gnanduillet to the ground. But a corner was all Blackpool got, despite their passionate appeals.

Things just aren’t going Blackpool’s way at the moment and that was evident in the build-up to Lincoln’s decisive strike.

Ben Heneghan attempted to make a clearance inside his own half only to see his punt smash straight into teammate Spearing. At any other time the ball would fly up the pitch and the game would resume as usual.

But Pool’s luck is out at the minute and the ball instead ricocheted straight to the feet of the dangerous Walker, who slipped in strike partner Tyreece John-Jules to calmly finish beyond Howard.

Three minutes later we saw further proof of Pool’s misfortune as Curtis Tilt saw a bullet header cleared off the line.

When your luck’s not in, it’s not in, but at some point the Seasiders must start making their own luck rather than bemoaning things not going their way.

Despite the introduction of new signing Gary Madine, Pool were unable to muster much of a fight in the final 10 minutes.

The striker, now in his second stint with the club having spent time on loan at Bloomfield Road in 2015, was forced to play off scraps and aimless long balls during his 30 minutes on the pitch.

Lincoln, eventually easing to a ninth home victory of the campaign, were ultimately able to keep Grayson’s men at arm’s length in the final stages.