'Blackpool simply played into Burton's hands': Matt Scrafton's verdict on the Seasiders' bleak Burton defeat
With Blackpool ninth in League One and just four points off the play-offs, given everything they’ve been through with the Oystons, talk of cracks beginning to show seem on the face of it absurd.
The Seasiders, who have built so much of their success this season on solid foundations and watertight defending, have now conceded eight goals in their last three away games.
Since Gary Brabin’s abrupt departure, Pool have played three and failed to win any, with their play-off hopes beginning to fade away in the process.
There’s been some pretty awful defeats in recent weeks; the 4-0 drubbing at lowly Bristol Rovers and the drab loss at home to relegation-threatened Oxford United are the first two that spring to mind.
In many ways, Saturday’s abysmal reversal at the hands of Burton Albion was worse than both. At least against Bristol Rovers they created some opportunities.
But at the Pirelli Stadium we had to wait until the 91st-minute for the first genuine save the Burton keeper had to make all afternoon, as he tipped Nya Kirby’s low drive around the post.
When you suffer heavy losses, sometimes you have no other option but to hold your hands up and admit you were beaten by the better team. The worry is, the Seasiders are now being beaten by fairly average sides and making them look much better than they actually are.
Saturday was a dreadful day from start to finish as far as Blackpool were concerned – losing Mark Howard to a serious injury, the keeper snapping his achilles, only compounding their misery.
With Christoffer Mafoumbi being called up to the Congo squad for their African Cup of Nations qualifier, that leaves Myles Boney as their only fit and available shot stopper for next weekend’s reunion with Gary Bowyer at bottom-of-the-table Bradford City.
With the club unlikely to bring in another goalkeeper on an emergency loan, it appears they will try and recall Mafoumbi from Congo’s squad for the game against Zimbabwe.
As for Boney, you have to feel sorry for him being thrown in the deep end like that, coming off the bench to make just his second league appearance for the club, his first since 2016. But you simply can’t excuse the basic goalkeeping error he made for Burton’s second of the day.
The biggest concern going forward is so much of Pool’s recent woes are self-inflicted. The diamond system used in recent weeks simply hasn’t worked since it was first introduced away at Charlton Athletic last month, a game where it was used to nullify Charlton’s own diamond formation. So why hasn’t it been changed?
Terry McPhillips finally changed it when he reverted to a back three with 15 minutes left, but by then Burton were already three goals to the good and the damage had been done.
Of course the formation isn’t the only issue, but you’ve got to give yourselves the best chance possible of getting a result. At the moment, that’s just not happening.
It’s no real surprise that Pool missed the presence and quality of Curtis Tilt and Ollie Turton – any side would notice the absence of two players as good as them.
But the four that did line up at Burton looked nervy from the outset. Donervon Daniels was especially uncomfortable on the left-hand side of the centre back partnership and Michael Nottingham was constantly caught out of position at full back.
Blackpool never got to grips with Burton’s high-energy pressing game, which the hosts deserve credit for. But McPhillips’ men simply played into their hands time and time again, opting to pass the ball out from the back, doing exactly what Burton wanted them to do.
They persisted with the tactic even when they were three down, inviting more pressure on themselves as they clung on to a half-respectable scoreline.
When sides make it clear they’re going to close you down and harass you every time you get on the ball, you have two options. You either play through the press or play over it. In the end, Blackpool tried neither and it backfired spectacularly.
Continuing to play out from the back, even in the dying stages when it was clear it had proved disastrous all afternoon, demonstrated tactical naivety.
The substitutions left a lot to be desired, too. I’ve been calling for Nya Kirby to be given an opportunity for a while since – prior to Burton – he hadn’t seen a minute of action since his impressive start against Charlton last month.
But to bring him off the bench when the side was staring down the barrel of an embarrassing defeat, I’m not too sure what that achieves – other than proving to his parent club Crystal Palace that he will indeed get game time, having barely been used up to this point.
The time to bring him on was in the second half on Tuesday night, when Pool were desperately crying out for a creative player like Kirby to unlock Doncaster’s defence.
Nathan Delfouneso, meanwhile, was rightly aggrieved to have been an unused substitute for the second game running. The forward performed well in the homecoming game against Southend United last Saturday, yet hasn’t had a sniff since. So much for playing well and keeping your place in the side.
We were told pre-match Marc Bola was raring to go and had trained well all week having recovered from a hamstring injury. Pool have badly missed his pace and attacking intent down the left-hand flank in recent weeks, but again he remained rooted to the bench.
Questions are now beginning to be asked of McPhillips, with a couple of dissenting voices from the away end being followed by a chorus of boos at the final whistle on Saturday.
It’s the first time he’s had to endure that during his time as Blackpool manager, and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds. The Seasiders are still in a fantastic position all things considered, but let’s not let it all go to waste now.