Cullen and Vassell give Blackpool double strike boost

Mark Cullen
Mark Cullen
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Long-term absentee Mark Cullen has returned to training, handing Blackpool a huge boost ahead of their final 13 games of the season.

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The 25-year-old has been sidelined for more than five months after undergoing surgery on his hamstring in October.

Manager Gary Bowyer revealed the striker has returned to the training pitch this week and is set to play in a friendly in the next week or two to step up his recovery.

Bowyer said: “This is Mark’s first week with us in training, so that’s been really good for us.

“His enthusiasm has been fantastic and we’ve missed that on the training ground on a day-to-day basis.

“He’s progressing nicely and hopefully he’ll pick it up again next week. We might look to get a game in for him the week after.

“We certainly hope we’ve got to the root of the problem. That’s why he’s been out for so long.

“When a player has any operation there is caution but the way he has progressed so far has been terrific.”

The Seasiders have struggled for goals at times in the absence of Cullen and strike partner Kyle Vassell, who has also missed large chunks of the season.

Having returned from a hamstring injury of his own last month, Vassell has missed Blackpool’s last two games as he continues to be nursed back.

But Vassell has also trained this week and is likely to be named in Pool’s squad for tomorrow’s trip to Portsmouth

Bowyer added: “Kyle is also doing well and he comes back into contention for Saturday’s game.

“We’ve had to keep monitoring him and keep being sensible with him because it’s important he plays as much as he possibly can in these remaining 13 games.

“He’s somebody we’ve just nursed back because he’s been out a while. Now, hopefully, that’s him for the run-in. He plays a big part in these remaining games.

“Jim McAlister is still out but he’s doing all right. He’s like a bear with a sore head but he’s making decent enough progress.

“He’s got another appointment soon with the specialist, which hopefully will give him the all clear to step it up again.

“The only other one missing this weekend is Callum Cooke with a heel problem.”

The Seasiders head to the south coast on Saturday looking to extend their four-game unbeaten run.

Having gained four points from two tough fixtures against Wigan Athletic and Peterborough United over the past week, Pool are three points and four places above the League One drop zone.