Blackpool boss Neil Critchley's warning: We mustn't lose the tie at Oxford

Blackpool can’t qualify for the League One play-off final tonight – but they can certainly rule themselves out.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 8:00 am

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That’s the message from Pool head coach Neil Critchley going into the first leg of their semi-final against Oxford United.

The Seasiders make the trip to the Kassam Stadium (6pm) before welcoming the U’s back to Bloomfield Road for the decisive second leg on Friday (7.45pm).

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Neil Critchley's goal is to be 'right in the tie' come Friday's second leg at Blackpool

Critchley warned: “You can’t qualify in the first leg but you can certainly go a long way to losing the tie. That’s happened quite a few times.

“We’re going to be no different. We don’t know any other way.

“Our home record and away record are very similar. We don’t play any differently. We don’t know how to do anything different.

“We try to be us. This is Blackpool, this is how we want to play, this is our identity home or away, so our approach will be the same.

“We’ll have a plan. We’ll know what we’re trying to do.

“It’s easier said than done to carry it out but we’ll be going to Oxford trying to pick up a positive result.

“We know how difficult that will be but, come the second leg, we want to be right in the tie to give us the best chance of getting through to Wembley.”

Both sides are in fine form heading into the semi-finals.

Oxford snatched the final play-off spot after winning six of their last seven, while Pool finished the campaign with four straight victories and without conceding a goal.

Pool also ended the season with the league’s best defensive record, while Karl Robinson’s side scored an impressive 24 goals in their last seven games.

Speaking of Blackpool’s mean defence, Critchley said: “At one point, we had used nine different centre-back pairings and it might be more than that now.

“Normally, you’d have a settled back four in front of your goalkeeper, but that’s not been the case this season.

“For us to have the best defensive record just goes to show how we work and how the players take on board everything they’re asked to do. We’ve changed systems as well throughout the season.

“If you look at some of the teams in our division, you can pretty much pick their best team and how they’re going to play.

“That’s not always been the case with us but we still managed to find a way of winning games and being successful.

“The defensive record is obviously testament to Maxi (Chris Maxwell) because he’s been outstanding, but we defend together as a team.

“The whole team defends, right from the front all the way through the team.

“That’s something we’re massive on, defending together and attacking together. The team is more important than any individual.”

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