'It's nice to be back': Neil Critchley delivers his verdict on Blackpool's win against Southport in opening pre-season friendly

Neil Critchley was pleased to blow off the cobwebs in Blackpool’s first pre-season friendly of the summer against Southport.

Saturday, 10th July 2021, 6:20 pm
Updated Saturday, 10th July 2021, 10:36 pm

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The Seasiders claimed a 2-0 win against their National League North opponents at Haig Avenue.

It was Blackpool’s first taste of action since their League One play-off final triumph at Wembley at the end of May, just 41 days ago.

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“It’s nice to be back - it doesn’t feel that long ago we were at Wembley!

“We’ve had a good week of training, our first week back at the training pitch and this is the end of a tough week, but an enjoyable one.

“It was a chance for the supporters to come out in the sunshine - eventually! - and they were able to see some of the new players as well.

“We knew when we were in the play-offs that we had two different sorts of schedules in place and that if we got to the play-off final we’d have a shorter break and then we’d have a shorter pre-season.

Neil Critchley applauds the Blackpool fans prior to kick-off

“With that shorter break, the players don’t lose their fitness as much. They’ve all come back in really good condition which means you can get straight back into the football.

“I wanted to see a number of things from today. I wanted us to carry off from how we ended last season and I said to the players before the game that every time they step out onto the pitch it’s a chance to practice who we want to be as a team.

“We did a good job of that last season but we know it’s going to be tougher this season.

“It was also a chance to integrate the new players into how we want to play and look at a couple of different options and partnerships on the pitch as we work towards the first game of the season.”

Demetri Mitchell got the Seasiders off to the perfect start, steering home in emphatic fashion after racing onto CJ Hamilton’s pullback.

Critchley’s men had to remain patient though and, fresh from making 11 changes at the half-time break, they eventually doubled their lead through Shayne Lavery, netting on his Pool debut.

“Strikers love hitting the back of the net, don’t they?,” Critchley added.

“I think we saw with Shayne that he’s really positive and he comes alive around the box.

“He had an opportunity just before he scored when he got across the opponent at the near post with a really good run and the goalkeeper tipped it around the far post. It was a lovely bit of movement.

“For the goal, he’s in the right place at the right time to just deflect it in. Sometimes it’s just instinctive with Shayne.

“Sometimes you wonder how the ball gravitates towards him but that’s what strikers do and he’s got that lovely knack of being in the right place at the right time.”

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