Neil Critchley: Blackpool taking no chances with Kevin Stewart

Neil Critchley isn’t overly concerned by the knock Kevin Stewart picked up during Blackpool’s opening pre-season friendly of the summer.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 8:00 am

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The midfielder was brought off midway through the second half in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Southport at Haig Avenue.

While the 27-year-old was able to walk off the pitch without any trouble, Critchley says bringing Stewart off was the right thing to do, rather than allowing him to play on and risk aggravating the problem.

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Kevin Stewart went off with an injury at Haig Avenue

Pool’s head coach said: “One of the messages we always share in pre-season is that you don’t want to pick up unnecessary injuries, so if anyone feels anything they must report it straight away.

“You don’t want what might be a minor injury to become a serious injury.

“Kev is an experienced man, an experienced player. He felt something and he just felt straight away it was the best thing to do to come off, just as a precaution.

“We don’t know at the moment, but we’re hoping it’s not serious and it doesn’t keep him out for too long.

“As the players will testify, Kev is an unbelievable athlete and fitness is not a problem for him, so if anyone was going to miss a few days and not be troubled by it, then Kev would be that person.”

Stewart’s withdrawal, fewer than 20 minutes into the second half, came after the Seasiders had made changed their entire XI at half-time.

In such circumstances in pre-season games, match officials would normally allow a club to bring on a player who had already featured in the first half – something that happened at Southport last year, when Nathan Shaw returned to the fold to make up the numbers.

But that wasn’t the case on this occasion at Haig Avenue.

Critchley explained to The Gazette: “We were told beforehand that as soon as a player went off they wouldn’t be allowed to come back on.

“The fourth official did say if it was an injury that could be different but we had no problem.

“These games are a chance to practise.They are an extension of training in some respects.

“So why not practise playing with 10 men because it might happen this season, like it happened on a few occasions last season.

“We got quite good at it earlier on in the season and it was no issue on this occasion either.”

Despite playing for almost half an hour a man down, the Seasiders were still able to double their lead through Shayne Lavery.

The Northern Irishman, a summer signing from Linfield, scored Blackpool’s second of the game with a deft near-post header from a cross by another debutant, Josh Bowler.

Critchley’s side had earlier got off to the perfect start, when Demetri Mitchell powered home an emphatic finish from CJ Hamilton’s pull-back with just five minutes on the clock.

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