Bowyer's joy for Jim but Blackpool boss rues Cullen blow

Mark Cullen on his only Bloomfield Road appearance this season against MK Dons
Mark Cullen on his only Bloomfield Road appearance this season against MK Dons

Jim McAlister has been given the all clear to return but Blackpool team-mate Mark Cullen is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

McAlister is back on the grass, having been out of action since his February leg-break, but Wembley play-off hero Cullen faces a further two to three months out of action after an operation on his hamstring injury. The striker pulled up when through on goal in the 3-3 draw at Doncaster in August.

He was in contention for a comeback at Southend a fortnight ago but pulled up after the last kick of the final training session before that clash and underwent an operation during the international break.

Bowyer said Cullen and McAlister are his only injury concerns ahead of tomorrow’s return to League One action at Walsall, and the Pool boss insisted McAlister will not be rushed back after so long out.

Bowyer said: “Mixed news this week. We have had the brilliant news that Jim McAlister has been given the all clear and stepped it up. If you ask Jim, he is probably free to play Friday and Saturday and Sunday –that is his attitude.

“Just because he has been given the all clear we still have to be sensible with him. He has taken his time, been patient. It has been frustrating for him but he has been given the green light and we are delighted for him. But that was met with a blow that on Saturday Mark Cullen had an operation on his hamstring.

“That has been a real blow for the player first and foremost but also for ourselves because we will miss how he is on the pitch and what he brings to the team.We have to make sure we do as much as we can for him.”

And Bowyer says with no possibility of delving into the loan market or snapping up a free agent forward that Cullen’s bad news is a chance for others in his team to step-up.

Armand Gnanduillet, who like Cullen has been sidelined since August, is now back in training and summer signing Max Clayton bagged his first goal in the Seasiders’ last game, their 2-1 Checkatrade Trophy win over Accrington last Tuesday.

And Bowyer says Clayton gives the Seasiders some more flexibility ahead of their trip to Walsall.

He said: “(With Mark) We had taken the extra week ironically with him, we hadn’t pushed him but it is a blow but because of the rules we can’t delve into the loan market and bring somebody in to replace that type.

“That said I’m delighted Max Clayton got his first goal last week at Accrington that gives him a bit more of a boost, we have got Armand coming back as well, he has trained this week, we are alright in that area.

“I don’t think at this moment in time there is not an opportunity to bring someone in from the free agent window but it presents an opportunity for someone and they have to make sure that they grab it.

“In pre-season Max did show glimpses of what he is capable of.

“Just before the start of the season we just changed the shape a little bit and went 4-3-3 as a result of that he has found the game time limited.

“What he has done is he has knuckled down and kept working hard and you saw that against Accrington.

“His goal was a great goal playing in a different position that he is just learning a little bit, with him being able to do that it has given us the opportunity to be a bit more flexible.”