Blackpool boss Neil Critchley says: Matty Virtue and CJ Hamilton 'gutted' to be out for rest of season

Neil Critchley admits there’s no getting away from how big a loss Matty Virtue and CJ Hamilton will be for Blackpool between now and the end of the season.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 8:22 am

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Pool’s head coach revealed on Saturday that both players will miss the remainder of the campaign.

A scan has shown that Virtue, who missed chunks of the early part of the season with a hamstring injury, tore his ACL (knee ligament) during the 2-0 win at Oxford United nine days ago.

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Matty Virtue suffered a season-ending injury at Oxford

Hamilton, meanwhile, broke a metatarsal a week earlier in the goalless draw against Fleetwood Town.

That was only Hamilton’s third game back after hamstring problems of his own had kept him out for two and a half months.

Critchley told The Gazette: “They’re not coming back, either of them, so they’re both gutted.

“They’re not used to being injured. If you look at their record of playing games, it’s fantastic.

“CJ has never been injured before, so he’s been so unfortunate. He doesn’t remember the incident against Fleetwood. We can’t even highlight it.

“We thought he was okay but it wasn’t settling down, so we had to send him for a scan, which showed a clean crack.

“The advice was that he’d have to pin it, so an operation just extends the period of time he’s going to be out.

“I’m gutted for him and he’s gutted as well because he wanted to come back and play a part after returning from a hamstring injury.

“They’re both big players for us, there’s no hiding that.

“So they’re both disappointed and so are we.”

The sickening news came after Blackpool were held to a 2-2 home draw by Plymouth Argyle on Saturday.

The Seasiders were pegged back by Joe Edwards’ stoppage-time strike, the fifth draw in Pool’s last six home outings.

Argyle arguably deserved their point, though, having controlled the first half.

And they enjoyed a 1-0 half-time lead, given to them by former Seasider Ryan Hardie.

The striker made his move to the south coast permanent during the January transfer window after two loan spells over the previous 12 months.

Hardie scored just one goal in 12 appearances during his shortlived spell at Blackpool last season but he caused problems for defender Jordan Thorniley for the entirety of Saturday’s first half.

It led to Thorniley’s removal at the break, the centre-back being replaced by the returning Daniel Gretarsson, but Critchley says there was another reason for the switch.

The Pool boss added: “He felt his calf. It tightened up a little bit, and with the way our situation is we didn’t want to take any chances.

“With Daniel on the bench, it’s a like-for-like replacement.

“Jordan wanted to carry on but we also knew that was a risk, so with our situation it wasn’t a risk we were willing to take.”

Critchley was referring to Blackpool’s injury problems, though Marvin Ekpiteta, James Husband and Gary Madine are all making progress in their recoveries.

Elsewhere, Dan Ballard could return from international duty in time to feature in Good Friday’s trip to Swindon Town, although that depends on whether he features for Northern Ireland against Bulgaria on Wednesday.

Blackpool remain sixth in League One, above Doncaster Rovers on goal difference, but five clubs are now within two points of the Seasiders.