Neil Critchley: Important lesson for Blackpool in quest to climb to Stoke City's level

Neil Critchley believes Blackpool’s cup tie against Championship side Stoke City gave them a taste of what hopefully lies ahead for the Seasiders.

By Matt Scrafton
Monday, 31st August 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Monday, 31st August 2020, 8:26 am

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Pool were cruelly knocked out of the Carabao Cup at the first-round stage on Saturday – their first competitive action of the new season.

Ollie Turton’s miss proved decisive as Critchley’s men bowed out of the competition 5-4 on penalties after 90 minutes of goalmouth action ended scoreless.

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Neil Critchley says his players got a taste of the physical demands of the Championship in Saturday's cup tie at Stoke City

Discussing the injury which saw Michael Nottingham replaced by Jordan Thorniley in the second half, Critchley said it was an example of the physical demands that can be expected higher up the food chain.

“He just felt his hamstring a little bit. I don’t think it’s too serious but he was struggling in the second half,” Pool’s head coach said.

“He played very well up until that point, but I think when you play against Championship players or players from a higher level, you see the physicality within their team and you see their running ability.

“That means our players have to match that, so they’re working that little bit harder. They have to run a bit quicker and run a bit further.

“There was a little bit of a spell in the second half when they started to get on top of us. But I thought we managed it very well and we finished the game really strongly, so I was really encouraged by that.”

The Seasiders were the better side for much of the game and created the better goalscoring opportunities, especially during the first half.

Winger CJ Hamilton, a summer recruit from Mansfield Town, was Blackpool’s main attacking threat down the right.

But while his display earned plenty of plaudits from Pool fans watching the iFollow stream, Critchley believes there is plenty more to come.

“He was a real threat in the first half. He was in some fantastic moments,” the Pool boss said.

“What we’ve now got to start doing with CJ is work on that end product, that final little piece of the jigsaw.

“That doesn’t necessarily have to be him finishing – it might be him laying it off for someone else to benefit from his good attacking play.

“But he was a real handful. He didn’t quite make the most of those opportunities and then we probably didn’t get the ball to him enough in the second half.

“We’ve talked about it among ourselves – when you look at the level we want to aspire to and the players want to aspire to, that physicality is so important.

“When you see their players and what they can produce physically, then we’ve got to try to identify players who are going to bring those qualities to the club and be with us on a journey – hopefully at some point – into this league. CJ is one of those who has that physical capability of playing in this league.”