Blackpool keeper picks up the plaudits following his display at Tranmere Rovers

Tuesday, 31st December 2019, 6:00 am
Mark Howard made a decisive late contribution in Sunday’s draw at Tranmere Rovers

The 33-year-old impressed in the 1-1 draw at Tranmere Rovers on Sunday in his first league appearance since rupturing his Achilles in March.

He replaced the injured Jak Alnwick, who is expected to be sidelined for weeks with a bicep injury he suffered in the Boxing Day defeat to Accrington Stanley.

But in Howard, who made a crucial save to give Pool a point in the last minute at Prenton Park, the Seasiders have a more than capable replacement according to Virtue.

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“It was an unbelievable save from him at the end, but that’s him all over,” the midfielder said.

“He’s the ultimate professional who trains right every day and you can see the rewards.

“He’s dug the lads out in the last minute or so of the game and I don’t think many other keepers save that to be honest, so we owe him one.”

Simon Grayson’s men were unable to capitalise on their early goal, which has been credited to Ben Heneghan.

Virtue insists he got the final touch though to poke the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs and across the line after Heneghan had headed towards goal from a Liam Feeney corner.

“All day, I think it was mine! I think I got the last touch anyway,” the 22-year-old said.

“Ben is a centre-half so he doesn’t need to score, so I’d rather have it so I’m claiming it.

“I think judging by the celebration everyone has got to give it to me, haven’t they?”

Despite ending a run of back-to-back defeats, the draw against lowly Tranmere was a frustrating way to end the year for the Seasiders, who now sit 10th in League One.

Pool were once again guilty of not showing enough quality in the final third on a pitch that made passing football virtually impossible.

“It was probably a fair result,” Virtue conceded.

“This is a tough place to play. If you look at the pitch we probably had to change the way we wanted to play as we had to go more direct and play off second balls and play down the sides.

“That suits them to a tee really as that’s how they play, so we had to deal with that and then do it back to them. But a point is probably fair.”

Speaking about the pitch, the former Liverpool man added: “It’s up there (with the worst he’s played on).

“Accrington away last year was another bad one so those two are probably on a par.

“It was just so boggy and hard to move the ball quickly. You really had to bypass passing it on the floor until you got into the final third where you had to.

“It’s difficult but it’s those sort of things we have to come and deal with, so we’ll take a point but we wanted all three.”