Blackpool boss praises his players for their show of stamina

Despite some misfortune with injuries, Neil Critchley has been delighted – but not surprised – in the way his Blackpool side have coped with their intense fixture schedule.

Saturday, 27th March 2021, 8:00 am

Today’s match-up against Plymouth Argyle is the final fixture of a run of Saturday-Tuesday games that stretches back four weeks to February 27.

The Seasiders remained unbeaten during that run, having avoided defeat in their last 10 games – a streak no other League One side has bettered this season.

Critchley’s side, who remain without eight key first-team players, have no game next Tuesday as they make the trip to Swindon Town on Good Friday instead, before hosting Gillingham at Bloomfield Road on Easter Monday.

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“I think we’ve coped with it really well, apart from the bad luck we’ve had with injuries which has been really unfortunate,” Critchley told The Gazette.

“I was always confident we would stay consistent because of how we train and how we’ve managed the squad through the course of the season.

“I thought we would stay strong physically, which allows us to play how we want to play and that’s been proven recently with our performances. However, we’ve still got 12 games to go.

“It might feel like a bit of a holiday next week when we’re not playing for another two or three days, but I couldn’t be more pleased with how the players have coped mentally and physically between the games and how they’ve been looking after themselves and preparing.

“It doesn’t surprise me, because the experience that myself and my staff have got of periodising your week – training-wise, physical work, loading etc – that’s really important if you want to be in the arm wrestle come the end of the season.

“I expected that, I just hope we can continue with it.”

James Husband, Marvin Ekpiteta, Kevin Stewart, Matty Virtue, Keshi Anderson, CJ Hamilton and Gary Madine all remain sidelined.

While Critchley admitted there’s an outside chance of one or two returning for today’s game, Pool’s head coach isn’t counting on it.

Top scorer Jerry Yates is also a slight doubt, having suffered a dead leg during the 3-1 win against Peterborough United in midweek, while Dan Ballard is away on international duty.

Plymouth will still have their top scorer Luke Jephcott available to them despite the striker appearing for Wales Under-21s yesterday.

The 21-year-old, who has netted 18 times this season, linked up with his teammates last night after Wales’ friendly against the Republic of Ireland, which took place in Wrexham at 1pm.

If Jephcott doesn’t start, that could hand an opportunity to former Seasider Ryan Hardie, who has mostly been a substitute in recent weeks.

The Scot, who scored just once in 12 games during a nightmare spell at Bloomfield Road, hasn’t found the back of the net for Argyle since making his loan move permanent during the January transfer window.

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