Depleted Blackpool to name their NINTH centre-back pairing of the season against Peterborough United

Blackpool will name their NINTH centre-back partnership of the season when they take to the field against Peterborough United tomorrow night.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 7:44 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd March 2021, 9:02 pm

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Neil Critchley's side are currently facing a centre-back crisis, with Marvin Ekpiteta and James Husband out injured and Dan Ballard now away on international duty.

That leaves Jordan Thorniley and Daniel Gretarsson, who has only just returned from a two-and-a-half-month lay-off, as Blackpool's only fit and available centre-halves.

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The likelihood is that Critchley will partner Thorniley and Gretarsson together for the first time this season to become Pool's ninth different pairing of the campaign.

The only realistic alternative, if Gretarsson isn't fully fit and up to speed, would be to partner Thorniley with Ollie Turton, who has played at centre-back on just one occasion this season - alongside Ekpiteta during the 4-1 defeat to Ipswich Town.

Otherwise, Pool could tweak their formation and start with a back three, but this seems unlikely given they've excelled in a back four all season.

Remarkably, despite all the constant chopping and changing in the centre of defence - a result of injuries, suspensions and positive Covid-19 tests - the Seasiders boast the second best defensive record in League One.

Marvin Ekpiteta and Daniel Gretarsson have played together just seven times this season

Critchley's men, who have kept six clean sheets in their last nine games and 15 all season, have conceded just 29 times this season. Only Sunderland (27) have conceded fewer.

The Seasiders began the season with Ekpiteta in the centre of defence alongside Michael Nottingham, only for the latter to depart for Lancashire rivals Accrington Stanley in October.

Husband would shortly be moved from full-back into the centre, only to pick up two red cards playing in that position.

Ballard arrived on loan from Arsenal at the start of October to partner ever-present Ekpiteta, but soon found himself out of the side after being handed a three-match ban for his straight red card at AFC Wimbledon.

The 21-year-old has also missed vital game time following call-ups to the Northern Ireland squad earlier in the campaign.

Ekpiteta and Gretarsson would then take the mantle, building a solid partnership before Gretarsson injured his hamstring at the start of January and Ekpiteta injured his hamstring in mid-February, bringing an end to his record of being the only Blackpool player to start every league game.

Since then, Ballard has partnered both Husband and Thorniley.

Ekpiteta/Ballard and Ekpiteta/Gretarsson has been the most common pairing used this season, although they've only taken to the field seven times each.

Pool's centre-back pairings (and how many league games they've played together in brackets)

- Ekpiteta & Nottingham (3)

- Ekpiteta & Husband (3)

- Ekpiteta & Turton (1)

- Ekpiteta & Ballard (7)

- Ekpiteta & Gretarsson (7)

- Ekpiteta & Thorniley (4)

- Ballard & Husband (4)

- Ballard & Thorniley (4)

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