Problems at the back for Pool

Chris Basham

Chris Basham

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STAND by Chris Basham or Matt Hill – you may be needed.

Pool’s biggest issue ahead of tomorrow’s Championship clash with Reading is in the centre of defence.

Craig Cathcart will have a fitness test on the thigh strain which has kept him out of the last two matches. Alex Baptiste’s hamstring, which flared up in the first half at Leicester, makes him a major doubt.

If neither are fit, then Basham will most likely slot into the heart of the back four alongside Ian Evatt with Hill on the bench.

That’s one headache for Ian Holloway, the other is how to replace Jonjo Shelvey.

At least in that attacking area of the pitch, the boss has plenty of options.

Billy Clarke and Brett Ormerod couldn’t even get on the bench at Leicester, while Callum McManaman, Tom Ince and Kevin Phillips were all substitutes. So Shelvey can be replaced, though the team will definitely miss the Liverpool man’s happy knack of popping up with a goal (six in his nine Pool starts).

Whatever the personnel, Holloway will be keen for a better performance than his team turned in at Leicester in midweek.

But despite that setback, the manager believes his players are learning to become a top-end Championship side and that they might, just might, be able to do something special again this season.

“Do I feel like we are one of the Championship’s top clubs? No you have to earn that right and you only find that out by the end of the season,” said the boss.

“But what I will say is that we are learning that we are a pretty good team. Others are paying us respect by the way they line-up against us and that didn’t happen when I first took over. Most opposition managers saw Blackpool as an easy touch almost.

“We have to try and keep evolving. We used to have a very good group of players last year, now we’ve got a new group who wants to build a reputation for themselves and I think it is coming.

“I think we can look forward to every game this season, and think we have a half-decent chance of winning. That is different to when I first took over.

“Saying it is easy though. Doing it will prove very difficult.”

Despite what happened at Leicester, this Holloway is very different to the one of a few weeks ago, when he was disillusioned with the way his team were playing.

Heartened by the four-game unbeaten run which followed the horror show at Burnley (a defeat which especially hurt because Holloway lives in the town), the boss believes there’s a bright future.

“I do believe we’ve got over the nervousness that the club had. We’d got into the losing habit a bit. Now we don’t look so nervous,” he added.

“Those nerves were probably most apparent at West Ham when we shipped three goals in seven minutes. I’ve never seen any team in a tangerine shirt do that since I’ve been here.

“But I don’t feel like we’ll do that any more.

“We’ve let goals in during recent games, against Middlesbrough and Birmingham, but not let it affect us. We’ve come back.

“Gradually I believe that attitude among the players that we had during the promotion season – the way they’d shrug off going a goal down and just hit back by scoring – will start to come. It has already started. I’m seeing it, and that’s all I’ve wanted since the start of the season.

“The trick now is to keep it going.

“I hope we can get in front in every game, stay in front, and go further in front but I can’t say we are definitely going to do that because unfortunately it’s not that easy and the Championship doesn’t work that way. We saw that at Leicester.

“We just have to keep being brave, play without fear, and let’s see where that takes us.”