Blackpool skipper Jay Spearing says the Seasiders can hold their heads up high after their gutsy Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Premier League Arsenal.
The Seasiders pushed the Gunners all the way at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night, eventually going down to a narrow 2-1 defeat.
Blackpool were more than a match for Unai Emery’s side, who were two up when a red card to Matteo Guendouzi changed the game in Blackpool’s favour and Paudie O’Connor headed home to set up a thrilling finish.
The Seasiders had chances to level and take the game to penalties until O’Connor received a straight red for a late challenge on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang which has earned the defender a three-match ban.
Spearing told The Gazette: “We had a game plan in the first half and for the first half an hour or so we stuck to it really well.
“They got in behind for the first and we’re a little bit gutted about the goal. It was a bit of a bitter blow because we didn’t see it coming at all.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great pass but the lad’s (Stephan Lichsteiner) slid in and it can go anywhere. Unluckily for us it’s gone in.
“But we didn’t let it affect us. We carried on and stuck to our game plan, and we played some good stuff.
“We went in at half-time and thought, ‘We’ve just got to have a go’ because we had absolutely nothing to lose.
“At the start of the second half we started to play a little bit more, even before the sending off.
“We got in behind and down the sides. I thought (Liam) Feeney was causing a lot of problems.
“With their sending-off, I thought we could have got back into it.
“Paudie has hit the bar with a header and again we’re a little bit disappointed at the way their second goal has gone in (from Emile Smith Rowe).
“But I’m proud of every one of the lads, including the staff. We’ve had a right go, and we can come away holding our heads high and look forward to Saturday.”
Blackpool were not fazed midway through the second half, when Emery brought a trio of internationals off the bench in Lucas Torreira, Alex Iwobi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Spearing added: “They’ve brought on Aubameyang to kill the game off as well as Iwobi. They knew we were on top. They could feel that.
“We were causing them problems, and every lad who went out there and performed deserves credit.
“We probably deserved to get a little bit more out of the game but we were unlucky.”
Chris Short has left his role as fitness coach at Blackpool to take up the position of head of sports science at fellow League One club Oxford United.
Short, 48, joined the Seasiders in July, initially working as first-team coach.