Date: 16th April 2011 at 6:32pm
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An inexcusably poor Blackpool performance gifted relegation rivals Wigan all three points at Bloomfield Road.

The Latics ran out 3-1 winners and rarely had to break sweat as they easily kept the timid Pool at bay for most of the game – who now occupy a bottom three spot for the first time this season.

The home crowd were buoyed before kick off with the news that Matt Gilks was back between the sticks but even his inclusion couldn’t prevent Hugo Rodallega putting Athletic in front within three minutes – and it was all Blackpool’s own doing.

Craig Cathcart – who unbelievably has been exempt from criticism in recent months during the Seasiders’ slump – was the culprit as he attempted a quick free kick on the halfway line. His wayward pass found a blue shirt and within seconds Rodallega was racing clear, capitalising on Cathcart slipping over, sliding the ball past Gilks to put the visitors in front inside three minutes.

That stunned Pool, who had actually started fairly well with a high tempo ethic to their game. That high tempo was actually the undoing of the team, with Cathcart feeling as if he had to carry on the high octane beginning to the game. These are the type of mistakes that separate the seasoned teams and the newcomers in the Premier League, as we saw with Burnley last term.

But the sluggish way in which Ian Holloway’s team went about their business wasn`t about being na├»ve newcomers or even being any worse than the opposition – they simply didn`t believe they could get back in the game.

Elliot Grandin had a headed chance towards the end of the half which was easily saved by Al Habsi and that was all Blackpool could muster, despite being allowed to play by Roberto Martinez’s men.

The away side knew that allowing the Tangerines to have the ball wouldn’t be much of a problem for them. The Latics tend to defend in numbers and lie deep when playing away from the DW Stadium which meant long balls from Charlie Adam and Ian Evatt towards DJ Campbell weren’t piercing the backline in behind, but going down defenders’ throat.

When Wigan had the ball going forward, they always looked dangerous. With plenty of room to play with – sometimes 10 yards of space in front of them – they were able to manoeuvre into positions which could hurt the Seasiders. Emerson Boyce found Rodallega in between the two centre halves but his header sailed over the crossbar.

The lack of communication between the back four (Evatt and Cathcart look like they’ve never played together) along with poor passing and the needless giving away of possession was infuriating the vocal home support. But the midfield looked to have got themselves back in the fixture before Wigan basically settled the game one minute into injury time.

The goal was again all Blackpool’s fault. As the team attempted to pass and keep the ball in their own half, Charlie Adam was caught on the ball by the impressive Diame who found Charles N’Zogbia in space; the former Newcastle winger powered towards goal before rolling a shot beyond Gilks, sending the 1,500 travelling fans into ecstasy.

That ecstasy was met with derision from Pool fans as the team was booed off for the first time in Holloway’s tenure at half time.

You would hope that going 2-0 down at half time would spark some sort of reaction from the players, but they allowed the game to drift as Wigan sat in, meaning Adam and co had to force the issue.

They failed to force anything and Ollie had to make changes. That he did on the hour mark, as the ineffectual and downright lazy Grandin was hauled off along with Luke Varney and the unusually quiet Gary Taylor-Fletcher. James Beattie, Jason Puncheon and Matt Phillips came on in their places.

But the game was put out of sight in the 67th minute. The midfield – noticeably Keith Southern – were unable to get anywhere near their Wigan counterparts, with Ben Watson made to look like Paul Scholes as they passed their way around the hapless Pool challenges. Eventually the ball broke to Diame 20 yards from goal and his fairly weak shot took a deflection past the wrong-footed keeper.

What has been galling since Christmas is how easy it is for away teams to shut up shop against us at Bloomfield Road. Our midfield plays far too deep, meaning whoever is leading the line (in this case Beattie) is completely isolated. That would be fine if we were capable of winning any second ball, but somehow every other team are either better positioned than us or just want it more.

Blackpool did rally slightly towards the end (and when the game was well beyond them) as a Matt Phillips cross was converted by Campbell with seven minutes remaining.

However, it was a despicable performance from start to finish, lacking in ideas and fight. I don’t think it is an over-reaction to say that, because the team have been a shadow of their 2010-selves for a number of weeks.

The manager finds it difficult to pick the right team, despite players such as Jason Puncheon seemingly making it easy to pick them. Why Puncheon wasn’t involved from the start today remains a mystery. And it remains to be seen whether the players are motivated to fight back from this.

It is going to be a long five weeks until the end of the Premier League season as Pool enter the dropzone for the first time. It remains to be seen whether the manager has the skills to motivate the players to get results to keep us in the division; the fact that he needs to motivate them speaks volumes for the predicament we currently find ourselves in.


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