Blackpool handed defender fitness boost

Craig Cathcart
Craig Cathcart
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ALEX Baptiste has been ruled out for a fortnight but Craig Cathcart is back in the nick of time for Blackpool.

While Baptiste undergoes treatment on a grade one hamstring tear – the least serious hamstring problem for a footballer – Cathcart has passed a fitness test on his damaged thigh and will replace Baptiste at the heart of the back four against Reading today. Chris Basham will be on the bench as cover.

The main question now is how the boss will replace Jonjo Shelvey.

The 19-year-old, back at Liverpool after his loan spell was cut short, was playing in the hole between midfield and attack. Billy Clarke, Tom Ince and Callum McManaman are the main contenders to get the nod today.

Holloway said: “There are so many who can step in and it is a great opportunity for someone. “It would have been nice to bring Keith Southern back in for Jonjo, but that obviously won’t be the case for a while, so I might have to do things slightly differently, with maybe a forward-thinking player in that role.

“Luckily we can adapt because I’ve got a really talented squad, with loads of good attacking players.”

Holloway sees today’s encounter with the Royals as yet another good test. “Look who we are playing at the moment,” the manager said. “Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Leicester, Reading ... any one of them would grace the top flight. But the great thing is that Blackpool could too and that’s what we’ve got to remember and be confident.

“Reading, like everyone else in the division, like to get the ball down and pass it, so it should be yet another really good game. Their manager Brian McDermott is a smashing man and his players really play for him. They are great at set-pieces and have pace. Noel Hunt is a fantastic, energetic player with all sorts of ability.

“But we’ve got things we think can hurt them, so hopefully it will be another edge-of-the-seat thriller.”