Neil Critchley outlines how Blackpool will get the best out of CJ Hamilton

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Neil Critchley expects Blackpool to see the best of CJ Hamilton when he’s fully back into his stride and playing on a more regular basis.
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The winger’s start against Millwall on Saturday was his first since August, as he came into the side for the injured Keshi Anderson.

The 26-year-old initially looked a little rusty and low on confidence in the first-half, possibly as a result of his disappointing cameo off the bench in the FA Cup defeat to Hartlepool United a fortnight ago.

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But Hamilton came alive in the second-half and played a major role in Blackpool’s winning goal, latching onto Gary Madine’s clever through-ball before being thwarted by the Millwall keeper, only for Shayne Lavery to dispatch emphatically on the rebound.

When asked about Hamilton’s performance after the game on Saturday, Critchley pointed out how game time has been limited for the winger and that must be taken into consideration.

The former Mansfield Town man only made 12 appearances in 2021 and has suffered some serious setbacks in the past 12 months or so, including a hamstring injury and two operations on a metatarsal problem.

“I’m delighted for CJ,” Critchley told The Gazette.

Hamilton's start against Millwall was his first for the Seasiders since AugustHamilton's start against Millwall was his first for the Seasiders since August
Hamilton's start against Millwall was his first for the Seasiders since August

“We’ve got to remember he’s not really played football for virtually a year now.

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“I still have nightmares of when he pulled his hamstring on Boxing Day in a training session here at Bloomfield Road last year.

“He came back maybe around March time, then he got his metatarsal injury and he suffered setback after setback.

“He’s had no rhythm because of that and CJ is always better when he’s playing in rhythm, because he needs confidence.

“Keshi getting injured gave him his chance and what he does, he did it against Millwall and he did it against Hartlepool, he always causes defences problems.

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“In big moments in games, a lot of the time CJ is involved in them and he was against Millwall because he had a massive hand in helping to score the winning goal.”

While Hamilton was in impressive form during the second-half on Saturday, the star of the show was Dujon Sterling.

The Chelsea loanee produced a near faultless display, even excelling at left-back when he was forced to move over to cover for the injured Luke Garbutt.

“He was outstanding, he was nearly perfect through the game,” Critchley said.

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“He was excellent at right-back and then we ask him to switch over to left-back and he just puts his hand up, jogs over and it’s like water off a duck’s back to him. He just carries on the same.

“His defending, his decision-making, his calmness on the ball, he was fantastic.

“He’s come over to the left side and they’ve brought on Oliver Burke, who is really quick, but Dujon has the athleticism to match him which is not an easy thing to do.

“But I thought his general play was fantastic.”

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