Blackpool 1 Portsmouth 0: Neil Allen's verdict - Abject display from lacklustre Blues as prolific scoring touch disappears

The Pompey goal machine had netted 36 times in the previous 16 games to establish them as League One’s deadliest team.

Tuesday, 1st December 2020, 8:56 pm
Marcus Harness was once again an attacking threat in Pompey's trip to Blackpool. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

Perhaps they were due a blank at Bloomfield Road on the law of averages.

Nonetheless, the manner of the 1-0 defeat will disappoint most. The Blues were part of an awful game in the first half – in the second, as a team, they were abysmal.

While Blackpool managed to raise their performances levels after the break to tower above the visitors, Kenny Jackett’s men deteriorated alarmingly.

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Of the attacking quartet of Marcus Harness, Ryan Williams, Ronan Curtis and John Marquis who have been instrumental in the recent goal rush, only Harness can escape heavy criticism at Blackpool.

The Blues were unrecognisable from recent performances, their last the 6-1 hammering of non-league King’s Lynn in the FA Cup.

They barely mustered a shot and, after half-time, couldn’t even retain possession of the ball as the Tangerines dominated far too comfortably.

Curtis looked tetchy and frustrated, Williams was condemned to serve as a second right-back, while Marquis chased but couldn’t hit the target with three half-decent opportunities.

Even Andy Cannon, increasingly such a pivotal figure, was out of sorts and removed from the action alongside Curtis on the hour mark.

Not even three substitutions could inject life into the lacklustre Blues, who allowed Blackpool to cruise to victory with embarrassing ease.

In fairness, it has been a while this season since we witnessed such an insipid Pompey display.

Yet it once again reared itself in a bitterly cold Lancashire in a frustrating and poor defeat.

Jackett had rotated his side for Saturday’s crushing 6-1 success over King’s Lynn in the FA Cup second round.

However, he returned to his first-choice team at Bloomfield Road, with Ryan Williams representing the only change to the side which drew 1-1 with Oxford United in their last league outing.

The Australian winger replaced Ellis Harrison, who moved to the bench on a bitterly cold Lancashire evening.

Also among the substitutes was Haji Mnoga, with Bryan Morris dropping out and serving as the 19th man.

Meanwhile, Michael Jacobs remained sidelined by injury, while James Bolton and Paul Downing continue to be out of favour.

In an uneventful start, the first corner of the game arrived in the 16th minutes, following a challenge by Lee Brown.

Sullay Kaikai’s corner from the right found its way to James Husband at the far post, yet his looping header was comfortably taken by Craig MacGillivray.

There was little action in either penalty area, with both sides concentrating on retaining possession and remaining highly patient.

Certainly nothing was separating the sides in an apparently evenly-matched contest at Bloomfield Road.

The Tangerines had the first meaningful attempt on goal in the 25th minute, when CJ Hamilton fired in an angled shot from the left.

It was touched by MacGillivray and smashed into the side-netting, earning the hosts their third corner of the match - and also the third in the contest overall.

A lovely move sparked by Andy Cannon’s sublime touch and pass to Marcus Harness on the left flank threatened a rare Blues attack.

But eventually the attacker was squeezed out as he neared Blackpool’s penalty area and the promising break was halted.

On 31 minutes, a break down Pompey’s right, involving Callum Johnson, John Marquis and Harness saw the latter’s shot blocked for a corner.

It represented the Blues’ first flag kick of the game, although Jack Whatmough was unable to steer his far-post header on target to challenge keeper Chris Maxwell.

The visitors were livening up and, when Harness drove into the penalty area, Marquis picked the ball up and fired a shot narrowly wide of the far post.

At the other end, Jerry Yates produced a juggling take of the ball before crashing a right-footed shot which MacGillivray dived forwards to catch.

An awful first half ended with the scoreline goalless and neither side coming out of the opening 45 minutes with any credit.

The second half began in similar fashion, although on 54 minutes, Marquis and Daniel Ballard slid in for the ball, leaving the Blackpool man requiring treatment.

His screams prompted referee Joshua Smith to stop the match for his left leg to be examined, but he was fine to continue.

Jackett made a double change on the hour mark with Ben Close and Harrison coming on for Cannon and Curtis.

Neither player could argue with the decision, having been well below-par during proceedings, warranting a switch.

It signalled Harness moving out left, with Harrison up front alongside Marquis and Close in the centre of midfield.

Ballard collected the first booking of the game for a cynical block on Marquis with his arm as the striker nudged the ball past him.

However, the deadlock was broken on 63 minutes after a Blackpool counter attack.

The cross was put in from the right and there was Anderson to finish into the far bottom corner of the net to make it 1-0.

Immediately, Williams was brought off for Cam Pring, with substitute asked to play wide on the left and Harness moved over to the right.

Pompey were noticeably short of ideas and Marquis went it alone in 70 minutes with a solo run and subsequent shot which flew just wide of the post.

Naylor then put an excellent ball over the top, but Marquis’ shot on the run was once again lacking accuracy.

Then a promising attack was halted when Pring’s delivery from the left lacked accuracy and sailed comfortably into the arms of Maxwell.

With time running out, Marquis crumpled on the edge of the area while attempting to take a shot and was booked for simulation.

During five minutes of time added on Marquis had a glimpse of goal, yet his powerful shot was parried by the keeper for a corner.

That was to be the last piece of meaningful action for Pompey as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat against the Tangerines.