Match verdict: Oldham 1 Blackpool 0 - Pool in deep, deep trouble

It may have been sixteen years ago, but for many Blackpool fans the name Ryan Sugden will probably ring a very sombre bell.

Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 9:36 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 9:41 pm
Blackpool manager Neil McDonald

The record books show the striker’s only goal for Oldham earned the Latics a point in the dying seconds of stoppage time against Steve McMahon’s Blackpool.

Anyone who was there that day will remember it was a scrappy, horrible goal which instantly relegated Blackpool to League Two.

I’m not sure Matt Palmer and his goal last night will go down in folklore, but it could be just as vital a goal.

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Make no mistake about it, Blackpool are in desperate, desperate trouble at the bottom of League One - and I’m not sure there’s much anyone can do about it.

Neil McDonald’s men have casually and carelessly slipped into a downward spiral they now have little control over.

Only when you actually sit back and reflect on last night’s game do you realise just how poor the bottom of League One can be.

In recent years Blackpool fans have maybe been spoiled by the standard of football on offer in the countries top two divisions - and it’s fair to say at least one of the teams on show at Boundary Park last night will soon find out the standard of the fourth tier.

On a drab evening two distinctly average sides battled it out on a sandpit of a pitch, neither side doing it with particular style or grace.

Both managers in the build-up talked about expecting a scrap between the two sides, and I suppose that’s what they got.

If that’s the way it’s going to be for the next nine games, we’ll I can’t see many fans bothering - there certainly won’t be anyone celebrating if this style of play somehow sees them scrape out of trouble.

I’m starting to think it won’t.

At the weekend everyone could see, and bemoaned, the lack of width in Blackpool’s play, last night McDonald lined-up with exactly the same set-up of four central midfielders shoe-horned into a 4-4-2.

His players have no confidence at all and even the leaders they do have in their team now seem to be struggling to stick their chests out and make their mark.

While McDonald trots out the lines about cup finals and working hard on the training ground, it’s sadly going to take much, much more.

It’s not just eight games without a win for Blackpool now, they have only scored one goal in their last five.

McDonald made two changes to the side which lost at home to Coventry on Saturday, with Hayden White and Uche Ikpeazu coming into the starting line-up in place of Emmerson Boyce and Jack Redshaw.

It meant Pool starting with four central midfielders in the team again, and a distinct lack of width.

From the very start you could see this wasn’t going to be a game of slick passing with a pitch with more sand than grass.

Both sides struggled to get the ball down, it was already clear a battle was ahead.

Blackpool actually managed the game’s first effort towards goal, but it was what’s known in these parts as a pee-roller.

Keeper Joel Coleman hardly had to strain to pick-up, rather than save, Ikpeazu’s long-range effort.

Moments later came Oldham’s first attack, with Jonathan Forte showing his pace to win a corner which Pool struggled to deal with.

A scramble to block Liam Kelly’s effort half-cleared into the path of Anthony Gerrard who volleyed over from the edge of the area.

Luckily it wasn’t a more famous member of the Gerrard family, his cousin Steven, which the chance fell to.

The state of the pitch didn’t seem to matter for the home side in the early stages, with their game plan clearly to punt the ball towards striker Aaron Amadi-Holloway as often as possible.

To be fair to the striker he did OK, holding off Lloyd Jones on a number of occasions to bring the likes of Curtis Main and Mike Jones into play.

For the opening 15 minutes it was very much attack against defence as Oldham took the game to Blackpool.

The sit and soak it up technique is something McDonald has been a big fan of from day one - just one goal in the last five suggests it’s not exactly a successful tactic.

That said, Blackpool did venture forward on a few occasions, with Jim McAlister and David Norris getting into good positions on a couple of occasions only for the final touch of quality to deceive them.

On 22 minutes came Colin Doyle’s first real involvement of the evening, when midfielder Matt Palmer jinked past David Norris to shoot from 20 yards.

It was a powerful effort but luckily right down the throat of Pool’s keeper.

One major positive for Blackpool in the opening stages was right-back Hayden White.

Before the game Jonathan Forte was highlighted as Oldham’s danger-man down the left-wing, but White totally bullied him from the off, he gave didn’t give the winger an inch.

As half-time approached the game opened up out of nowhere, with both sides seemingly feeling the game was there for the taking.

There was very little quality, particularly in the final third when it really mattered, but there’s no doubt both sides showed intent.

In a strange way it was rather entertaining, a bit like the early stages of ITV’s X Factor, we all knew it was rubbish, but it still entertained.

After the break it was Blackpool who came out of the traps the quickest, with Norris getting the halves first glimpse of goal.

He made a very decent burst into the box to meet a Danny Philliskirk lay-off, only for the midfield man to blast well wide left-footed.

Philliskirk was again involved moments later as Brad Potts mustered Pool’s first real effort on goal of the game.

He broke from the middle of the half before finding Potts who had overlapped and shot goal wards with the inside of the foot, keeper Joel Coleman was a match to it.

In the first four minutes of the second half we’d seen more action than the previous 45, and there was more to come.

This time it was Oldham who tested the keeper, with Holloway tee-ing us Main who’s curling effort had Doyle at full-stretch - it was a good save.

The game out of nowhere had come alive and it wasn’t long before the deadlock was broken.

Again big striker Holloway was involved for Oldham in a lovely move as his pass was guided into the top corner by Palmer, to be fair it was the best move of the game.

McDonald responded by finally introducing a winger in the form of Mark Yeates, who replaced the totally ineffective Liam Smith.

But just after the hour mark it could have got much worse when Holloway headed a left-wing cross just wide from ten yards.

In truth Blackpool never looked like getting back into the game once Oldham scored, they simply offered nothing.

The patience of the travelling fans was clearly wearing thin when McDonald introduced Martin Paterson in place of Philliskirk - chants of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ we aimed at manager McDonald.

It was probably pointing out his decision to leave both Jack Redshaw and Mark Cullen sat unused on the bench.

Despite the changes Blackpool never ever looked like they had the character to drag themselves back into the game, even McDonald’s constant berating of the referee we’d seen earlier in the game ended. He simply stood with his hands behind his back for much of the last ten minutes.

There’s no dressing this up - Blackpool are poor.