Blackpool have plenty riding on today's trip to Oxford United
Neil Critchley says it would be wrong to treat Blackpool’s clash against play-off rivals Oxford United as just another game.
Karl Robinson’s men sit eighth in the League One table, three points ahead of the Seasiders having played two games more.
Both sides have their eyes set on the top six, making this afternoon’s encounter at the Kassam Stadium a hugely significant one.
“The more games you play means you’ve got fewer games left, so there’s more of an added importance to each game,” Critchley admitted to The Gazette.
“Because they’re in and around you, you don’t really want them to get away from you. You want to catch them up or at least make sure they don’t get away from you.
“It’s the next game, however I’d be lying if I said there’s not a bit more on the game.
“If you look at Oxford, and then the Peterborough United game on Tuesday, and then we’ve got two or three other games against sides that are up there, we’ve got games coming up where we don’t want to be losing ground on the teams around us.”
Oxford, who held Blackpool to a goalless draw at Bloomfield Road earlier in the season, were 3-0 winners against top-six rivals Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday night, a second victory from their last three games.
The U’s got off to a slow start this season but now find themselves right in the mix for a second consecutive year, having been beaten in the play-off final by Wycombe Wanderers last term.
“They had a really good result in midweek and they’re a team with a good squad of players,” Critchley added.
“The home game this season, we played well on that day and probably deserved to win the game.
“I remember saying before that game that I thought they would pick up and we were looking at a top-10 team.
“They’ve got aspirations of getting in the play-offs like they did last year and they’ve got a good group of players and an experienced manager who knows the level.
“After beating Doncaster 3-0 at home on Tuesday night, they’ll be full of confidence expecting to back that up.
“We know how tough it’s going to be, but we can draw confidence from our last few away performances when we’ve played brilliantly well against good opposition and won the games.”
As for Blackpool, they’ll be looking to build on their eight-match unbeaten run, a streak that has included three consecutive away wins and four straight home draws.
Two of those victories have come against promotion challengers in Portsmouth and Charlton Athletic, and Pool will be hoping to add Oxford to that list this afternoon.
“We’ve been frustrated in the past few weeks because of the draws,” Critchley said.
“It’s quite funny because I said a few weeks ago that we’ve not had many draws this season, so it’s quite ironic we go and draw four home games on the bounce.
“It has been frustrating because, some of those draws, we should have turned into wins.
“We also have to remind ourselves we haven’t been beaten. We have been playing quite well in those games for large periods, we’ve been the better team against some good opposition.
“We’re on a good run as well, so with loads of games and points still to play for, we have to just go to Oxford and replicate our away form which has been very good recently.”
Oxford will be boosted by the return of striker Sam Winnall this weekend, while Luke McNally and Anthony Forde could also come back into contention.
Robinson’s men sit two points adrift of the play-offs, while Pool are five points away from sixth-placed Charlton, having played four games fewer.
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