Bradford City manager Gary Bowyer held a dressing room inquest before emerging to insist his team must scrap until the final moment of their difficult season.
The Bantams were battered and bruised by a rampant Blackpool who rarely had to get out of second gear during the one-sided victory at Valley Parade.
While Bradford are no worse off than before the game, with six points separating them from Southend in 20th, they still prop up League One and it is hard to see how they can bridge that gap given Saturday’s performance.
Armand Gnanduillet and Matthew Virtue-Thick gave the Seasiders a two-goal lead before the Bantams had a great opportunity to reduce the arrears when they were awarded a penalty only for Eoin Doyle’s spot-kick to be saved by Christoffer Mafoumbi, the goalkeeper drafted in to replace Mark Howard rather than report for duty with Congo for their African Cup of Nations qualifier against Zimbabwe.
Blackpool punished them for the miss as well as some slack defending allowed Gnanduillet to net his second and Chris Taylor fired home before David Ball nodded home a far-post consolation as the hosts went down to their third successive defeat with Jermaine Anderson limping off to compound matters.
There were shouts of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” from some among the Valley Parade crowd and also an air of resignation as Bowyer’s former team moved to within two points of the play-offs although the home fans showed a real touch of class as they applauded Gnanduillet off the field.
When questioned about whether Bradford have the fight to at least attempt to get out of trouble, Bowyer was adamant they must give everything until the final whistle of the season rather than let their heads go down as they did following the missed penalty.
He said: “I can only go on how they have been since I have been here and this is my fourth game now and first week I didn’t see that. I saw aspects of it today – like I said after a certain point of the game – but they are fully aware now that they know that is not acceptable when you are playing for one: Bradford City and two: when I am managing Bradford City.”
It was Bowyer’s fourth game in charge since replacing David Hopkin but he made no excuses about the team he inherited and was clearly as angry with the meek manner of defeat as the loss itself.
“What we have to do is work with the ones we’ve got,” he said. “I knew it was a challenge coming in and the challenge has become even harder but I ain’t giving up, I’m not having anybody giving up and that’s what I have just laid down to them – that if they think they are just going to come up and see the remaining games out they won’t be around me.”
I knew it was a challenge coming in and the challenge has become even harder but I ain’t giving up, I’m not having anybody giving up and that’s what I have just laid down to themGary Bowyer
So, too, did he understand the fans’ frustration, many of whom had left the ground after the third goal with more than 20 minutes remaining, while acknowledging many had to be won back following their surrender.
“Totally agree,” he said. “100 per cent. The only way that you do that is by showing fight and showing passion for the shirt and then winning games. If you are showing the fight and showing the passion and the commitment, sometimes the supporters acknowledge that and if the result doesn’t go with you they are okay with it. I am not happy with what has gone off.”
Blackpool counterpart Terry McPhillips backed Bowyer to guide Bradford through their survival battle.
He said: “I still think Gary is the right man for Bradford, and I think they can still stay up. You have to give his side credit for keeping going but we gave an outstanding performance, and have set down a marker as to what we can do.”
Bradford City: O’Donnell, Caddis, Knight-Percival, O’Connor, Chicksen, O’Brien, Akpan, Ball, Payne (Butterfield, 45), Anderson (Wright, 74), Doyle (Clarke, 80). Unused substitutes: Paudie O’Connor, Wilson, Patrick, Devine.
Blackpool: Mafoumbi, Nottingham, Heneghan, Tilt, Bola, Feeney, Spearing (Taylor, 76), Virtue-Thick, Evans (Pritchard, 64), Delfouneso, Gnanduillet (Kirby, 81). Unused substitutes: Anderton, Dodoo, Boney, Long.
Referee: A Coggins (Oxfordshire).