By Chris Slavin
Neal Ardley felt the game-changing decision by referee Carl Boyeson to send off Jimmy Abdou was harsh, but he said that his squad must improve on today's away performance at Blackpool.
Speaking during his post-match interview after the 1-0 defeat, Neal said: "I knew that it (sending off) would happen on the day, given the performance of the referee. I knew it was going to end up with a sending off. Jimmy has slid along the ground, he has gone with both feet, but he has not left the ground. It was not dangerous, but his studs were showing. I am not quite sure how the powers that be will interpret that, but it is gone now – we cannot do anything about it.
"I don't think we should just put the performance behind us. As a group we need to be better, if we are going to do anything we want to this season. We cannot come away to any place, whether it is Blackpool or anywhere else, and not carry a threat. We need to have more about us, that's my job and that of the players. We have to play with more quality, be fitter, stronger, and more dynamic. There are so many things that we need to be better at. It has to come from within – that intrinsic motivation in the group to do even better – and we have to win battles."
Neal was satisfied with the first-half display, but he was disappointed with the manner of Blackpool's winning goal.
"I was pleased with the first-half and I thought we may kick-on in the second-half, but within 15 minutes the game plan has gone out of the window and it became a tough afternoon. In the first-half a lot of the stuff we had worked on was good, but we did not play with enough quality going forward. We did not hold the ball up enough as a partnership up top, but there was nothing between the teams. We carved out the best opportunity when Cody McDonald went through, but the keeper made a great save.
"Within 15 minutes the half-time team talk has gone out of the window. The last thing I had said to the players was to make sure that the number 15 does not get behind our midfield and that's exactly what happened for the goal. Even then we could have kept him down the line, but we let him come in on his right foot and he is scoring goals at the moment. We went 1-0 down through our own fault and then you are up against it away from home against a good team. Obviously, the sending off made it harder and when we pushed forward we became more open."
Extended highlights of the game will be on iFollow tomorrow, along with Neal's full post-match reaction.