When will it ever end? Yet again we saw another disasterclass away from home. For 12 minutes or so we looked a bit of a threat, with all the usual hallmarks of a Ruben Selles pressing side being evident… and then Sam Hutchinson effectively killed the game with one act of stupidity in the box. From that point onwards we were well beaten and it only continued to get worse.
A sharp contrast between the last two results where we’d won at home with a spirited and uplifting performance against Bolton Wanderers, followed by that insane 9-0 win away from home versus Exeter City. This was back to the sandy beaches of Blackpool with a bump, where we didn’t have a clue how to stop the tide or not to drown in our own sorrows.
We lost in every department all over the pitch, there were so many points of failure, in honesty. None more so in central areas where we didn’t have the power or personnel to cover runs or provide cover for the fullbacks who crossed with impunity, time after time.
Sam Hutchinson, despite laying on the only goal of the game for us, was particularly culpable with his needless lunge in the box for Blackpool’s opener. Before that moment, Clinton Mola was guilty of conceding possession high up the pitch and the rest unfolded like a cheap sheet.
Why Hutchinson thought a challenge in the box, where he looked to be an unlikely winner, was the best course of action, we’ll never know. He could have attempted to stop the cross, rather than the man, he could have put pressure on the man and not taken the risk, but he chose neither of these things. It was a ridiculous decision to make and act upon.
From that moment on the heads dropped. It was clear as day that the fragility away from home made this very much an uphill task. Clinton Mola had an afternoon to completely erase from his memory. Not only did his error create the penalty to happen, he was out-jumped in the box for the second goal, he lost his man for the third goal also.
Then, that man Hutchinson again, lost control of the ball in the midfield for the fourth. One stayed on the field and the other was immediately hooked at half-time.
Of course, the problems weren’t entirely down to them, it was a team effort. We were second place all over the park. Ball control was very poor, the tempo was almost static at times, we created next to nothing.
We all know and appreciate that there’s a steep learning curve for these players; we all want to see them grow and thrive, but they can only learn by gaining experience. It’s just that this isn’t the kind of experience we want them to have.
It’s also a valuable experience for manager Selles. We saw very clearly that his favoured 4-2-2-2 is a system that has its limitations when the ball has not been won high up the pitch. If the midfield is bypassed and the wide players are not closed down effectively then bad things are going to happen. It didn’t help that Tyler Bindon and Nelson Abbey were bullied for the entire game either. For the first time we saw the true rawness of their youth and it wasn’t pretty to watch.
And that’s the problem: everything is so new, so inexperienced, with little history to back up of how to be better, how to act in certain situations, how to stop events from happening. It was all so naive, but predictably so. They have not got a reference point on how to prevent certain events from occurring in the first place.
There’s got to be a point where we have to adjust or just play differently away from home. We can’t play so openly, so expansively and expect to gain better results just by having the expectation that our system and players are technically better than the home side. It just isn’t enough. We have to learn how to be compact, press in our own half, earn the right to sneak on the counter and, perhaps, get lucky.
At the moment, we’re just hoping that the home side has a nightmare and that we can pass our way out of trouble, but when control of the ball is so poor and the young players can’t think outside the box and see what’s required in real time, rather than stick to their posts dutifully, then it’s hard to see when and how this is going to change.
No doubt, this game will be analysed and hopefully the lessons will be learned by Selles and the players. There has to be some scope to change a system when it is not fit for purpose. It’s fine to have it as a template but it has to be brought into focus when it has been so exposed by a more savvy and physically larger team as Blackpool.
All of this can be chalked down as “experience”. We just don’t want them to learn by being bullied, bombarded and brutally beaten every other weekend. Whilst they can learn, and no doubt will learn, by suffering through adversity we’d rather not witness all the flaws be exposed every time on the road. It’s just too much to watch time after time. That kind of evolution cannot come too soon.