'There is no defending the players this week': Matt Scrafton's verdict on Blackpool's defeat to Milton Keynes
It was hoped last week’s defeat to Coventry City was just a one-off, but it appears there might be deeper-lying problems.
I defended the players for the loss against the Sky Blues, given it was their first of the season and came in injury time – when they were holding on with 10 men – against a very good side who are now top of the table.
But there is no defending Blackpool’s display this week, where Simon Grayson’s men slumped to a second straight defeat in pretty embarrassing fashion.
To lose your unbeaten run on home turf is frustrating in its own right, but to do it with a 3-0 scoreline ought to serve as a wake-up call.
Because Pool’s three-game winning start to the season now seems like a distant memory. Grayson’s side are now winless in their last five.
The Seasiders are now looking far too predictable and appear to have been sussed out fairly quickly by their opponents.
The tactic of working the ball out to Liam Feeney in space down the right-hand flank to whip balls into the box for Armand Gnanduillet initially proved successful. But, quite clearly, you need more strings to your bow than that.
It’s far too simplistic to put Pool’s woes down to the absence of Nathan Delfouneso, but the Seasiders have looked a little ‘off’ since going to two up top in the forward’s absence.
Grayson’s men appear a far more threatening outfit when Sullay Kaikai and Delfouneso are able to swap and change freely behind Gnanduillet.
But Kaikai looked anonymous against MK and in truth, a little lost. For all of his talents, which there are many, he is not your typical number 10 who will thread balls through to the strikers. He is a pacey, exciting winger who gets the fans off their seats every time he gets on the ball.
Blackpool’s problems at the top end of the pitch are only part of the problem though, because the defence looks all at sea.
Conceding three goals two weeks running is quite simply unacceptable and not what you would expect from a side battling to stay up, never mind one that has its eyes on promotion.
Grayson says his Pool side will go back to basics and with 11 goals conceded in eight games, that must surely start with being solid, hard to beat and a side that keeps clean sheets. If that means struggling in front of goal for a game or two, then so be it.
That’s by and large the way things are going anyway, because the Seasiders have a dearth of creativity and a real lack of inventiveness at the moment.
MK, to their credit, did their homework. They got their early goal, which came after Pool failed to deal with a cross into their box yet again, sat back, pressed well and got their rewards in the second half.
But the game, much like last week, centred on one specific defensive lapse in concentration.
With an hour on the clock, Blackpool had MK on the ropes and it was just a matter of time until they got that equaliser.
But Curtis Tilt, for the second home game running, inexplicably trod on the ball attempting an unnecessary drag back on the edge of his own area.
It allowed Jordan Houghton the simple task of surging through on goal where he slid the ball past Jak Alnwick with ease.
What was most worrying after that setback was how easily the Seasiders wilted, the visitors running in a third with barely an attempted tackle or block in sight. MK had chances to add a fourth and fifth, too.
Should the alarm bells be ringing? Not just yet. But it’s clear changes must be made.
It’s concerning that it took until the 68th minute for Grayson to make changes, when it was clear early on that the system – and the personnel he chose to play in it – wasn’t working.
Ryan Edwards is a strong centre half who should only be playing in the middle. Having him bring the ball out from the back on the right-hand of the back three is just not his game and that’s through no fault of his own.
That’s a position Ollie Turton has excelled in early on this season and yet he found himself on the bench.
Edwards’ flaws were laid bare when Feeney, looking for support down the right when being tightly marked, had no one behind him willing to get involved.
Armand Gnanduillet and Joe Nuttall is a combination that just isn’t working up top and one suspects never will. They are too similar and often occupy the same areas of the pitch.
But the biggest concern will be over Tilt, who stormed down the tunnel after finding himself in the peculiar position of being subbed off – something he’s certainly not accustomed to.
He didn’t take it well, initially walking off the pitch, rather than jogging – when Pool were 2-0 down and were desperately searching for a route back into the game – before opting to head to the changing rooms, rather than watch the rest of the game from the dugout.
Nuttall, the other man to be replaced at the same time, sat among the rest of the substitutes.
Perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into this, but maybe all is not well. This, after all, is Blackpool’s strongest asset who has still yet to sign a contract after almost three months of negotiations.
With that deal up at the end of the season, it’s a situation Grayson will have to handle delicately. It’s far from the only issue at his door right now though...