Dan Ballard a risk at Swindon after Northern Ireland duty says Blackpool boss Neil Critchley

Blackpool boss Neil Critchley admits it would be a ‘risk’ to start Dan Ballard at Swindon Town today, less than 48 hours after featuring for Northern Ireland.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 8:00 am

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The Arsenal loanee earned his seventh senior cap on Wednesday, playing 74 minutes of their goalless draw with Bulgaria.

The centre-back also started Sunday’s friendly with the USA, conceding a harsh penalty for a challenge on Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic.

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Dan Ballard (left) in action for Northern Ireland against the USA, the first of two international starts in four days for the Blackpool defender

With James Husband and Marvin Ekpiteta both injured, Pool fans are hoping Ballard will be available for today’s 3pm kick-off.

But Critchley suggested the 21-year-old is unlikely to feature from the start at the County Ground.

Pool’s head coach said: “I watched the game on Wednesday and I spoke to him before to wish him luck.

“Obviously I wanted him to play well and win the game but also I wanted him to come through with no problems, no injuries.

“I believe the substitution when he came off was a tactical one as they went from a back three to a back four.

“As far as I’m aware he’s okay, which will be a bonus for us if he comes back from international duty with a clean bill of health.

“But I think it would be a risk starting on Friday after playing on Wednesday. He also played on Sunday.

“He played around 80 minutes on Sunday and then a few days later he’s playing 74 minutes in a World Cup qualifier. To go again on Friday is three games inside a week.

“You’ve got to take into account the emotional side of being involved for Northern Ireland because they’re big games for him. I’m sure the adrenaline would have been really high for him.

“He’s a young lad, who is still learning about how to deal with those kind of games and how to cope and recover with his body. I think it would be a big ask to go again on Friday.”

Elsewhere, Ekpiteta, Husband and Gary Madine are all making good progress in their recovery from injury but today’s game might come too soon.

Critchley also revealed Bez Lubala is currently unavailable due to a “club matter”, having been left out of Blackpool’s match-day squads in recent weeks.

“Bez isn’t available at the moment,” Critchley told The Gazette. “It’s a club matter and I can’t elaborate on that I’m afraid, that’s it.”

Asked by The Gazette if the issue would keep Lubala out for the remainder of the season, Critchley replied: “I can’t say, unfortunately. It’s just a club matter.

“I can’t elaborate but he’s not going to be available.”

Blackpool enter the Easter weekend having dropped out of the top six following Gillingham’s 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic on Wednesday.

The Gills have played four more League One matches than Pool, who have 11 still to play in little over five weeks.

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