I was always told that every cloud has a silver lining; in every moment of pain and despair, you can find something positive to cling to.
Last weekend, as fans trudged out of Sincil Bank following a 6-0 defeat, I’m sure the silver lining was ‘it can’t get any worse’. That was certainly the case last night at Bloomfield Road.
The first game of the Michael Appleton era has brought with it questions, plenty to discuss and, in my humble opinion, signs that it isn’t all doom and gloom despite our horrible run of defeats.
Let’s be honest; one win in ten is not great form at all. I know several fans carry that over to last season and start talking about a longer run of bad form, but this campaign started in August and should be judged as such. The cup matches shouldn’t be held in too much regard either and in truth, we’ve only had three ‘poor’ performances in those defeats (Wycombe, Bristol Rovers and Oxford). All three came during utter turmoil and I think to label this run as problematic would be accurate but perhaps not entirely encompassing of the circumstances it is set against.
The very, very cynical amongst you (Mr Pearson) might note things haven’t been the same since Jan Siewert got sacked as Huddersfield manager. He went the day we beat Southend 4-0; we’ve won one since.
However, last night was the curtain going up on a new era and talks of losing runs and the like has to be put on hold. It won’t help Michael Appleton or David Kerslake to be lumbered with the form of the previous few weeks, it’s not happened on their watch and therefore as far as I’m concerned it’s played one, lost one. That’s the cloud, but I can see silver linings in last night’s performance.
Pre-match much was made of possible changes to the side but I found it very telling indeed that we were unchanged from the Oxford defeat. I expect that was partially enforced as Michael Bostwick and Jake Hesketh are both still out, but I wonder if it was a clever move by Appleton too. That defeat wasn’t pretty and to drop one or two players might have damaged their confidence massively. In our previous heavy defeats against the likes of Rotherham (6-0, 2011), Barnet (6-0, 1991) and even Derby County (7-0, 1985) at least one player never played for the club again. In picking, the same team our manager ensured that last week was a freak result from a decent side, not a defining moment in our collapse.
In fact, anyone hoping to see something altogether different last night were perhaps largely disappointed and the fact few spoke volumes about where we actually are as a football club. I said on the podcast I felt we weren’t as bad as the run suggested and in going with the same XI that notion has only been reinforced. Remember, Blackpool are a pre-season favourite for the top six and a side with means far beyond ours. They have got a big squad, a manager promoted four times from this level already and whilst I don’t think they’re living up to expectation, to name an unchanged side from a 6-0 defeat in such a high-profile game suggests a level of trust.
Something else that was largely the same was the way we conceded the first two goals. I have to be critical when I feel it necessary and at this level, against sides with real quality, you cannot give the ball away in the middle of the park as easily as Joe Morrell did. I like Morrell and I thought he had a good game on the whole, but in conceding possession he allowed Gnanduillett to get away and feed in Liam Feeney. He easily outpaced Jason Shackell who couldn’t get near a block and Sean Scannell found too much space in the box to make it 1-0.
Yet another early goal to fight back from and if we’re being brutally honest one that should have been stopped at three key points; Morrell’s sloppy pass, Shackell’s lack of pace and inadequate closing down on Scannell. Individual errors? Perhaps, but for me, the simple issue is the huge lack of pace we have across the back.
Morrell will be having nightmares about the second, a slick knock between the legs from Jordan Thompson leading to a class finish. It all started with Feeney again and although there was a huge element of class about the execution, they did seem to be afforded some time around the box before they scored. It’s harder to mark this goal up to an error rather than class, but 2-0 down after 21 minutes is not a good look when you’ve been stuffed 6-0 the week before.
I feared for us at that point. Genuinely I thought we’d looked ragged and Blackpool had a threat every time they broke forward. I felt it could only be a matter of time before a third, fourth and maybe fifth. In my gut, I could see the tweets from Grimsby fans revelling in our collapse once more. I didn’t tweet anything though; I learnt my lesson against Rochdale.