Blackpool: Can you bear to watch?

There are no two ways about it. It is car crash viewing at the moment and some may feel unable to bear the thought of more x-rated fare this Saturday. How many more mistakes and concentration losses can our battered south London sensibilities take? How much more hesitancy and confusion? And can we really put ourselves through the anguish of another Lee Bowyer post-match interview?

Some of us have had sixty years of practice but are still struggling. Are there any reasons to be hopeful?  Of course a play-off place is still mathematically possible but current form and history suggest that another season in League is now inevitable.

When we had played thirty games two years ago we were sitting comfortably in fourth place below Luton, Portsmouth and Barnsley and above Sunderland and Peterborough. The only change to the top six by the end of the season was that Doncaster overhauled Peterborough which was no real surprise as they had a game in hand on them. It was the same story in 2017/18. After 30 games we were in seventh place behind Shrewsbury, Wigan, Blackburn, Rotherham Scunthorpe and Bradford who we trailed by two points with two games in hand. The only change was that we overtook Bradford by the end of the season.

So we can safely assume that there is little likelihood of much change this season either. Peterborough, Lincoln, Portsmouth and Sunderland are looking strong and consistent and, although Hull and Doncaster are wobbling a bit, they are not showing any signs of really stumbling. And, even if they do, Accrington, Oxford and Ipswich are better placed to take advantage than we are.

In contrast, Neil Critchley's Blackpool will arrive at The Valley this weekend in good form. They have won four of their last five matches and their 13th position is largely the result of having played only 26 games so far. Their midweek fixture with Doncaster was rained off but prior to that they had beaten Portsmouth and Wigan away 0-1 and 0-5, and Rochdale and Northampton at home 1-0 and 2-0. The only defeat was 0-2 at Ipswich. They also got a 1-1 draw at Hull in mid January.

They have plenty of attacking threat. Jerry Yates leads the way with eleven goals, followed by Gary Madine with eight. CJ Hamilton only has five but he proved too much for Ben Purrington in the away fixture last October. Charlton fans will also be able to assess the progress of Sullay Kaikai who has been a regular starter for them on the left.

Lee Bowyer has confirmed that Akin Famewo will return in defence but who else will play and where is anybody's guess. Apart from Jayden Stockley they all seem to be suffering from fragile confidence which even an early goal does little to diminish. Lee, however, stresses his own resilience:

"I'm fine. I'm thick-skinned. I'm a strong person. I care. It affects me. I care about the club. I care about the results. That's just in me. But it just hurts me. I will keep pushing the players, that's why I'm here. Nothing's changed with me."

And, lest we get too depressed about current form, we shouldn't forget that it was only a couple of years ago that these two clubs were suffering the worst owners in the entire EFL. Plus, it was only six months ago that we were fearing insolvency and expulsion. Some things do change for the better.......

You can join Alan Curbishley, Scott Minto and special guest Kevin Lisbie to watch the match stream here. We don't advise watching it alone but, if you must, have a stiff drink and a telephone nearby: