Will Watt: Final nail in Pool’s coffin, and the players know it

The Bloomfield Road pitch on Saturday
The Bloomfield Road pitch on Saturday
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Only a few thousand home supporters remained inside Bloomfield Road as the full-time whistle blew to end another embarrassing and almost heartbreaking day in the decline of Blackpool FC.

For weeks I’ve tried to find positives, excuses or reasons why Pool are so far adrift at the bottom of the Championship; but it’s simple – they aren’t good enough.

While Pool weren’t totally outplayed, as they had been at Brentford last Tuesday, they were still second- best all over the park against Wigan.

And if Lee Clark has already started to build for next season, he may well need a rethink – this group of players would not be able to compete with this season’s leading League One clubs, like Bristol City, MK Dons, Swindon and – dare I say it? – Preston .

That comment may sound harsh and I’m sure it would offend a couple of Pool’s players, though they would find it hard to argue.

We’ve spoken enough this season about Karl Oyston and the management of the club at the top level. There’s no question the chairman is to blame for this mess but today I’ll stick to the football.

What is this squad missing? For me, a quality centre- half, a creative midfielder, two wingers and a goalscorer – not much, then!

Saturday’s defeat was the final nail in Pool’s coffin. While mathematically there are more than enough points still available, they won’t survive and you get the feeling the players know it. And while Pool are so short on quality it’s untrue, Saturday’s opponents weren’t much better.

Yet it was all too easy for Wigan as their opening goal proved. As James McClean scuffed an effort across the box, Pool stopped and almost appeared to give up.

The second and third goals weren’t much better.

Clark is the only person in authority at Bloomfield Road who is talking to the media at the moment and so it is difficult to understand what’s really going on.

If the club has already decided to write this season off and try to build for next, then maybe performances like Saturday’s would be easier for us all to take.

If this has been a genuine attempt to stay up, then we should all be worried.

Much has been said about Clark by supporters in recent weeks, but without question the manager has stuck to his word on one issue – he’s giving youth a chance.

On Saturday, Clark made four changes to the side thrashed 4-0 at Griffin Park, with three of those brought in under the age of 19.

It meant the side which took to the terrible Bloomfield Road surface had an average age of just 24, many having of them with no Championship experience before being given an opportunity here.

That average age would have been even lower had Niall Maher not failed a morning fitness test. He was due to start but broke down and was replaced by Darren O’Dea at left-back.

David Ferguson, Henry Cameron and Dom Telford were the other young guns to handed a start.

The decision to play the kids in a match also of critical importance to Wigan could easily have backfired and indeed it did, though none of the teenagers deserves criticism – they are giving it all.

Even before the game the writing was on the wall. The contrast between the two sets of fans couldn’t have been greater.

Wigan’s travelling fans may be following the division’s second-worst team but they were in fine voice; Blackpool’s hardly raised an eyebrow as they game kicked-off.

After 10 minutes, the Pool fans’ lethargic attitude seemed justified – absolutely nothing had happened.

But that in itself was a good thing for Clark’s side, who definitely gave as good as they got, although Wigan offered very little.

The state of the pitch means every match at Bloomfield Road for the rest of the season will be a scrappy affair – something we’ll just have to get used to.

It took 18 minutes for the game’s first chance, and even that was a long-range effort from Sheyi Ojo. Joe Lewis saved it easily, although there’s no doubt Wigan were growing into the game.

Watched by chairman Dave Whelan, back from his six-week FA ban for racist comments, Wigan were dealing with the pitch much better than Pool and threatened around the 20-minute mark, winning three corners in a row.

The quality of football wasn’t all that was damaged by the pitch – it appeared to end Cameron’s day just after the half-hour.

No-one was near the winger when he twisted his ankle and was helped off by physio Phil Horner, replaced by Nathan Delfouneso.

It just about summed up the early stages, with both teams struggling.

On 31 minutes Pool at least had a half-chance. Gary Madine swooped to head a Jamie O’Hara corner wide, although it never looked like threatening Scott Carson’s goal.

Both the home side’s chances in the first half came from set-pieces and both via the boot of O’Hara. The other was headed wide by Grant Hall.

Just as it was looking like 0-0 at the break, Wigan took the lead with just seconds remaining. McClean’s scuffed effort from 18 yards rolled across the six-yard box, and Jermain Pennant cut the ball back for Kim Bo Kyung to poke home from four yards. It was dreadful defending from Pool, who were booed off as the half-time whistle blew.

The second half started as scrappily as the first, although there was almost a moment for Pool fans to get excited about on 51 minutes.

Tony McMahon raced on to a David Perkins through ball before going down under a challenge from keeper Carson. Sadly for the home side, claims for a penalty were waved away and the skipper was booked for diving.

Ten minutes later came their best chance for the game, one which Tom Aldred was desperately unlucky not to take. The defender reacted quickest to poke towards goal from an O’Hara free-kick only for Emmerson Boyce to claw the ball off the line.

But after a decent enough spell for Pool, the game was dead and buried on 67 minutes. Pennant’s corner was headed past Lewis by Harry Maguire. It was another poor goal defensively, the Wigan defender losing marker Hall for a header which was far too easy.

McClean made sure of Wigan’s win with 12 minutes remaining, racing through totally unchallenged before finishing brilliantly. Replays suggest the linesman’s flag should have went up as Leon Clarke’s slight touch played it into the striker’s path.

By the time Madine tapped in a late consolation for the club with six minutes remaining, it hardly even raised a cheer.

We were all just glad to hear the final whistle.