Neil Critchley predicts close play-off clashes for Blackpool against Oxford
Play-off ties are notoriously tight, cagey encounters and Neil Critchley doesn’t expect that to be any different this year.
Pool will then host Karl Robinson’s side in the decisive second leg at Bloomfield Road the following Friday (7.45pm).
Blackpool were 2-0 winners at the Kassam in March, having been held to a goalless draw on home turf in December.
Critchley’s men head into the play-offs with momentum thanks to four straight wins without conceding a goal.
But the U’s are also flying, having won six of their final seven games of the campaign, scoring 24 goals along the way.
Oxford will be aiming to go one better than last season, when they were beaten by Wycombe Wanderers in the play-off final.
Critchley said: “They have some momentum, they’re a team in form, they’re a good team with good players, a good manager and had experience of the play-offs last season.
“We’ve had two very close games against them but our record is good.
“You could say they will be looking to avenge the defeat we handed to them recently down at their place.
“If you look at the points tally between the teams from sixth to third, there’s nothing in it and I expect the play-off games to be very tight between all four of the teams.”
Blackpool’s final-day victory against Bristol Rovers secured third place, having reached 80 points for the first time since 2007, when the Seasiders secured promotion to the Championship via the play-offs under Simon Grayson.
It is a magnificent achievement given Pool’s disastrous start, losing six of their opening nine games.
Critchley added:“It’s been great, it’s incredible what the players have done.
“I keep talking about the start but we made a lot of changes. There was a transition to the team and it took us a little bit of time to gel.
“We had some really bad luck in those first few games as well. But with the run we’ve been on, and the togetherness and spirit we’ve shown, I can’t fault the players. They’re a joy to work with.
“To get to 80 points is a great achievement but we want to do more now.
“If it’s 80 points but we don’t get to Wembley and don’t get promoted, then it will be, ‘Yeah, it’s okay’, but it won’t feel as good.”
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