Gary Bowyer is expecting another tight game when his Blackpool charges take on Luton Town in tonight’s decisive second leg of their play-off semi-final.
Few onlookers had anticipated the end-to-end nature of the first leg, which saw Blackpool run out 3-2 winners courtesy of Mark Cullen’s hat-trick in what was a breathless affair at Bloomfield Road.
But the Hatters had more than enough chances of their own and the Pool boss expects a similar sort of game at Kenilworth Road tonight.
“It’s going to be another tight game because it’s two good sides on show,” he said. “We’ve just got to apply ourselves as well as we did on Sunday.
“When you look at the Championship play-offs and the first legs in League One, which were all very tight, the high-scoring League Two games might have surprised a few people – me included.
“That’s the beauty and the excitement of the play-offs.
“We’ve worked on areas to improve on from Sunday’s game and we’re looking forward to it now. Hopefully we can execute the game-plan we’ve set out.
“Like we always do, we’ve looked at things we did well as well as looking at things we can improve on.”
The Seasiders have been boosted by the recent form of Cullen, whose hat-trick on Sunday means he has now netted nine times in his last 13 outings.
“It was a wonderful hat-trick,” Bowyer added. “It’s always good to score a hat-trick, especially when you’re the striker.
“He’s a bubbly character anyway, so there’s not been that much difference with him in training this week.
“His link-up play was very good on Sunday and we’ll need him do that again on Thursday.
“In terms of getting among the goals, sometimes it just comes down to that little bit of luck. Once you get up and running it’s about momentum and he’s got that right now.
“Both camps will have looked at areas to improve and areas to exploit, and if they decide to mark Mark Cullen tighter, it might free up some space for somebody else.”
Cullen won’t need any extra motivation to get his name on the scoresheet again, but it’s likely he will be even more pumped up than usual when he takes on his former club for the fourth time this season.
Bowyer said: “He’s like any player – they want to do well against their former team.
“He gave them good service and they got a good transfer fee for him, so he’ll be going down there to do what he did on Sunday again.”
With Pool holding a slender one-goal lead, Bowyer is well aware that his side’s fate could be decided by extra-time and a potential penalty shootout.
That would make for an interesting proposition for the Seasiders, given that Bowyer’s men have missed eight times from the spot this season.
The Pool boss said: “With what we’ve had this season, it’s always something we’re working on in training because we’re trying to find that consistent penalty taker,.
“Fortunately we’ve found that now in Mark Cullen. He’s playing with a hell of a lot of confidence and we’re delighted with that.”
And Bowyer ended with a mention for another key ‘performer’ tonight: “The fans were terrific on Sunday and they have been all season with the level of noise they make. We’ll need that again.”