Will Watt: Cracks have been there all season, McDonald just chose to ignore them
At times it has appeared Neil McDonald has been walking around with earplugs in and his hands over his eyes.
Since pre-season when Accrington Stanley gave his side a very decent game to Saturday’s defeat at Millwall, just about all of us have seen the limitations of this Blackpool squad.
For months now the boss has defended his players, talked about misfortune, missed chances and what might have been.
It’s a tactic he’s tried to use to put confidence in his players, it’s clear he set out at the start of the season determined not to be dragged into the negativity which surrounds Blackpool FC.
That’s all well and good, but at what point will he start to point fingers and genuinely demand more – he needs to.
You can compare the current situation to a parent of a naughty school kid – if you don’t tell them off when they do wrong, they will simply keep doing it.
What’s needed now is brutal honesty about just how close they are to yet another relegation – only when they realise that will they be able to start to fight to address it.
Blackpool aren’t a new squad any more, they are 36 games into the season and more importantly two points away from safety in the League One relegation zone.
Maybe now it’s time for McDonald to stop wrapping his players in cotton wool and ask why they aren’t meeting expectation because they shouldn’t be where they are.
I’ve said all along that this squad should avoid relegation – now I’m not so sure.
On Saturday Blackpool actually had a player in a defensive wall who turned their back on the ball, a moment which led to Millwall’s second goal and the moment which basically killed off the game.
It’s harsh to point the finger at John Herron as he’s hardly played this season, but when players aren’t willing to take a ball in their face to prevent a goal, you have major problems.
And the question I’d ask is: do Blackpool’s players even realise the situation they are in?
Now is the time McDonald must stop defending the squad, stop pretending that trying hard is enough and be willing to tear a strip off the ones who let him down.
If he didn’t kick down the door at half-time at The Den on Saturday, then he should have.
Although for me he should have weeks ago, Blackpool have been way off the pace for most of this season and deserve to be where they are in the league.
If they are to get out of trouble they have to take their chances, and ironically they couldn’t have had a much better one in the very first minute on Saturday.
Brad Potts lifted a half-cleared corner back into the area where Uche Ikpeazu was to head wide totally unmarked from just five yards.
I don’t think the striker realised just how much time he had on his hands, it was a chance he simply should have scored.
Millwall, backed by a lively home support, responded quickly, and themselves came close to scoring just four minutes later.
Mark Beevers won an aerial battle with Tom Aldred to power a header goalwards, only for Hayden White to stick out a leg to make a vital block en route to goal.
Sadly Blackpool’s defensive firmness wouldn’t last long with Millwall taking the lead moments later.
And it was all too easy.
Shane Ferguson’s long throw-in was allowed to bounce in the box before Lee Gregory nipped-in to loop a superb header past Colin Doyle. The Blackpool keeper had little chance.
The goal settled down the home side who totally dominated possession in the early stages, without really turning them into chance.
With Pool playing a narrow 4-3-3, Millwall had clearly done their homework.
On every given opportunity they were getting the ball wide to their wingers who were taking full advantage of the extra space they were being allowed.
When the Lions full-backs did venture forward, their counterparts in White and Clark Robertson found themselves outnumbered two to one.
And it was from that situation which Millwall had their next chance on 18 minutes.
Mahlon Romeo found space on the right to cross into the path of Gregory who headed wide, he should really have done better.
Where Pool did have the extra man is in the middle of the park where their trio of Herron, Brad Potts and Jim McAlister were matched up against just two middle men from Millwall.
Sadly this was never made to count.
It wasn’t long until Millwall’s lead was doubled, and it was another which McDonald won’t want to see again.
Jed Wallace scoring from a 25 yard free-kick which went right through the middle of Blackpool’s wall.
The reaction of McAlister suggested it was Ikpeazu who turned his back.
Watching the incident again, it appeared to be Herron – either way it was poor by Pool.
As half-time approached Millwall sat back a little and allowed Pool more of the ball, but the bad luck continued as Robertson limped off to be replaced by Emmerson Boyce.
Seconds before the break Pool almost dragged themselves back into the game when McAlister’s corner was cleared only as far as Redshaw whose bouncing effort was cleared off the line.
At the start of the second half Blackpool were at least competing with their hosts more, although when in a relegation battle that should be a bare minimum requirement rather than something we applaud.
The problem for Pool was the final third of the pitch where they were getting no joy in the final third, all too often attacks were collapsing when faced with a wall of navy blue.
Just after the hour mark Brad Potts finally got himself involved, firing a long-range effort just wide of Jordan Archer’s goal.
In an attempt to liven things up, McDonald threw on Mark Cullen in attack in place of the ineffective Herron, Blackpool now had four strikers on the field.
If anything it left the Seasiders looking exposed at the back, and Steve Morison couldn’t have come much closer to making it three with 20 minutes remaining.
He was given space to turn at the edge of the area and curl a lovely effort off the post with Doyle beaten.
Blackpool’s only real glimpse of goal came on 75 minutes when Aldred leapt to head a Redshaw corner over the bar from 12 yards.
The chant of ‘that’s why you’re going down’ followed from the Millwall fans.
Moments later the game was over for Blackpool, as they were reduced to ten men for the third game running when White was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Ten minutes earlier he’d got himself involved with the Millwall fans, his head never recovered from that.
Blackpool did have the ball in the net 10 minutes later when Cullen reacted well to tap home on the rebound from two yards, sadly the linesman’s flag was already raised.
And Pool’s misery was compounded with just seven minutes remaining when Morison scored from the spot after Aldred’s handball gifted the home side a penalty.
As the whistle went to end another poor day for Blackpool I don’t think there should be much surprise in their league position.
All season they’ve been short of the standard required, with only rare glimmers of hope coming with decent wins against Scunthorpe and Wigan.
Pool are now staring back-to-back relegations straight in the eyes and the saddest thing is it surprises no one.
Let’s hope that the last fortnight can be the reality check for McDonald and his players and that a response is forced out of them.
Otherwise Blackpool could actually be swapping places with Accrington Stanley come May.
Accrington Stanley – exactly.