'It's a big result and a big performance': Neil Critchley delights in Blackpool's HUGE three points against Sunderland
Neil Critchley lavished his Blackpool players with praise after they secured an invaluable 1-0 win against promotion rivals Sunderland.
Sullay Kaikai’s second-half thunderbolt sealed a league double over the Black Cats, having also beaten them 1-0 at Bloomfield Road just 10 days ago.
The victory, combined with results going their way elsewhere, leaves Pool in fifth, three points ahead of seventh-placed Oxford United with a game in hand to play.
“It’s a big result. A big performance as well,” Critchley said.
“We changed the shape of the team. There were some personnel changes as well and the way the players executed the plan was top, top drawer.
“In the first-half we had control of the game which we wanted because we thought at home they usually control the game. That change helped.
“What an unbelievable strike it was to win the game as well. It’s a good job the net was there otherwise the ball would still be travelling. It’s a goal of the season contender without a doubt.
“We’ve had to withstand a lot of pressure towards the end. We had to put our bodies on the line and Chris Maxwell has had to make some saves, but you’re going to face that against a good team like Sunderland.
“It’s a magnificent three points for us.”
Pool have become accustomed to playing 4-4-2 in recent months, but Critchley and his staff mixed things up and opted to go with three at the back.
It was a change that paid dividends, allowing Pool to gain more control of the ball while keeping the home side at arm’s length.
“I’ve always said and I’ve been consistent that I’ll pick the best team in the best formation for individual games,” Critchley said.
“When we analysed the Sunderland game at home, we had to withstand a lot of pressure in that game. We felt if we came here and did the same then on this pitch, with these players it would be an extremely difficult task.
“It’s difficult anyway, but I felt the change definitely helped in the first-half because we had a lot of possession, we controlled the game and it allowed us to get a foothold, which meant we grew in confidence.
“They changed their shape in the second-half quite a few times and they obviously bring on a lot of attacking players. They pin you back and we’ve had to survive near the end.
“But the fine line that I talk about has gone against us in the last two games, but tonight it’s gone for us and that’s the story of this division.”
Pool had to face a late onslaught in the dying stages, but the Seasiders somehow managed to keep Sunderland out through a combination of miraculous saves from Chris Maxwell and magnificent last-ditch blocks.
“There were so many incidents towards the end of the game, I’ll have to see them all back,” Critchley said.
“Maxi pulled one off the line and he made another good save. From where I was there were a lot of bodies in the way and we made some blocks.
“But that was near the end. We actually restricted them to very few chances until the end.
“We had some good opportunities on the counter-attack to finish the game off and we didn’t do that. 1-0 could have become 2-0 and then it would have become a little bit more comfortable.”
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