Verdict: Blackpool end week of chaos with defeat to Portsmouth
It's difficult to know where to start analysing the week Blackpool have just endured.
MATCH REPORT: Blackpool 1-2 PortsmouthAny other club that: loses its manager, sees its owner – who still owes £25m to the club’s former director – release a bizarre 1,000-word statement on the eve of a match where hundreds of fans are due to protest against him – with all of this happening in the space of a few days – would be splashed all over the national newspapers and rolling television coverage.
But this is just Blackpool, this is how it’s always been. Or at least that’s how it appears thanks to Owen Oyston.
The 84-year-old watched on from the directors’ box on Saturday, where he was sat yards away from Jonathan Disley, seemingly oblivious to the venom and anger being bellowed at him from outside the ground just minutes before.
Eggs and smoke bombs were hurled towards the main entrance of the West Stand as tensions started to boil over.
But, while the indignation was clear to see, the protest remained peaceful. A large number of Portsmouth fans, who have had to undergo their fair share of suffering thanks to rogue owners, stood side-by-side with Pool fans in an uplifting show of solidarity.
That support stretched to inside the ground, where their anti-Oyston chants rang round the otherwise eerily silent stadium despite the best efforts of the jets at the nearby Air Show attempting to drown them out.
On the pitch, it was as if nothing had happened the previous week as Pool made a blistering start, almost taking the lead inside 20 seconds as Joe Dodoo crashed a low shot off the foot of the post.
But that was as good as it got for Blackpool in the first half. They soon retreated into their slumber and looked every inch the side that had just lost their manager.
Portsmouth are a good side and are tipped by many to feature in the League One promotion race this season.
After a troublesome few years, the club is now back on the up and, thanks to the investment of former Disney chief executive Michael Eisner (that’s Disney, not Disley), a bright future appears on the horizon.
Backed by a superb following, both in numbers and in voice, Pompey have every chance of lining up in the Championship next season.
Yet saying that, there wasn’t a great deal between the two sides at Bloomfield Road on Saturday. Pompey were solid, as Kenny Jackett’s side always are, but it was in attack where their extra quality told.
Unfortunately, that quality in the forward positions isn’t mirrored in Blackpool’s squad. At least two new additions are required, whether they’re loans or free agents, just for Pool to even think about a safe mid-table finish this season.
Ronan Curtis, a 22-year-old winger signed from Cork City in May for a fee to be believed in the region of £100,000, was the difference between the two sides – scoring both of Pompey’s goals. That sort of investment makes the difference at this level.
The winger took advantage of a mix-up in the Blackpool defence to notch his and his side’s first just nine minutes into the game. He showed calmness to slot the ball past Mark Howard after taking advantage of Pool’s centreal pairing’s hesitancy, although the Pool keeper did get his feet to his low effort. Alas, it still looped up to nestle in the back of the net.
He continued to dominate in the final third and he went close on a couple of further occasions in the opening period, crashing one particular effort off the inside of the post as Pool fought tooth and nail just to stay in the game.
But the second did come on the hourmark, again taking advantage of a lapse in concentration from Ben Heneghan to drill a low effort in between Howard’s legs.
To Pool’s credit, they did get better as the second half wore on with all three substitutes making an impact.
Mark Cullen ensured a tense finish when he came off the bench to pull one back eight minutes from time, with what was his first goal since scoring the winner in the League Two play-off final at Wembley in May 2017.
The striker, who endured a nightmare season last year when he was forced to undergo surgery on his hamstring, insisted it was his goal despite it appearing to take a touch off defender Matt Clarke.
Good luck to whoever’s job it is to tell him it’s not his goal, if that proves to be the case…
It almost turned out to be a fairytale first league appearance of the season for Cullen who, in the third minute of injury time, had the ball in the back of the net only to turn around and see the linesman’s flag hoisted up.
So it wasn’t to be and Terry McPhillips was forced to accept defeat in his first game in charge as temporary boss.
I expect him to remain in the dugout for Tuesday’s League Cup tie against Barnsley, but if he remains there for the next league fixture at Shrewsbury Town remains to be seen.
Two former Seasiders who have already expressed an interest in the vacant manager’s job were in attendance on Saturday, in Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Richie Wellens.
Owen Coyle, meanwhile, is another who is understood to have expressed a firm interest in the role. It was rumoured he was spotted at the club on both Friday and Saturday night.
I’ve no doubt there will be no shortage of applications for the role. But will they be able to live up to the miraculous job Gary Bowyer performed? I have my doubts.
As ever at Blackpool, the only thing that matters is the man sitting in the director’s box. While he remains, the club’s future is perilous.