Neil Critchley believes Blackpool's win against promotion rivals Sunderland will serve as a major psychological boost
Neil Critchley believes Blackpool’s pivotal 1-0 win against promotion rivals Sunderland is a major psychological boost for his side.
A second-half effort, which has gone down as an Ellis Simms goal, proved to be decisive as the Seasiders ground out a hugely significant three points.
In beating third-placed Sunderland, Blackpool are now five points clear of seventh-placed Charlton Athletic with just six games remaining.
“It’s only three points, but it’s a big three points - particularly with the manner we got them,” Critchley said.
“I thought it was two good teams on the pitch. We had the best chance in the first-half, they hit the post in the second-half and after we’ve scored we had to withstand quite a bit of pressure.
“Psychologically this is big for us though to keep a clean sheet, because there’s been a few games recently - Plymouth at home, Wimbledon at home - where we’ve conceded near the end of the game.
“Over the course of a 46-game league season you have to find different ways of winning, to scrap and battle it out and I thought our players did that extremely well today.
“Considering the quality of players they’ve got in the attacking line, our back four were superb. In Aiden McGeady, Charlie Wyke and Jordan Jones, you’re talking about top, top players in this league who shouldn’t really be playing in this division. They’ve got great attacking options to come off the bench as well.
“But I don’t remember Chris Maxwell having too much to do in the first-half. They’ve hit the post in the second-half and they’ve had some moments, some corners, some crosses, there was some pressure we had to withstand but our grit and our resilience from the defenders and the protection they got in front of them was fantastic.”
While the PA credited Blackpool’s goal to Simms, Luke Garbutt’s powerful cross appeared to hit Sunderland defender Bailey Wright on its way in.
When asked who scored, Critchley was as bewildered as the rest of us.
“I haven’t got a clue who scored! I’ve just asked the same question and I haven’t watched it back yet, so I don’t actually know,” Pool’s head coach said.
“Garbs crossed it but I don’t know whether it’s come off Ellis or Bailey Wright and it’s squirmed under the goalkeeper’s body and gone in.
“Ellis turned around in bewilderment and wasn’t sure if it hit him or not while Garbs ran off celebrating.
“I’m not sure, but to be honest I’m not particularly bothered.”
Pool came under a barrage of pressure late on from a Sunderland side who were desperate to close the gap to the automatic promotion places.
It could have been a bit more comfortable for the Seasiders late on had referee Tom Nield shown a second yellow to Callum McFadzean, who bizarrely escaped further punishment despite fouling Demetri Mitchell just outside the box
“That did leave me flummoxed but angry as well,” Critchley said.
“We said at half-time that the left-back had been booked so we thought Demi could get some success against him, so if we get the opportunity, give him the ball in a one-vs-one and go at him and cause him some problems.
“He did that, it was right near the penalty box and he’s going into the box in a really dangerous attacking situation.
“The boy dives in, clearly fouls him, so I can’t for the life of me think how he’s not booked him in that situation.
“They (Sunderland) do their job and manage it correctly by bringing him off straight away, but the referee doesn’t manage the situation properly.
“We’ve done our job and you’re relying on the referee to do his job. If you’re playing against 10 men, the game changes obviously.”
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