Neil Critchley: Top teams bring best out of 'great' Blackpool group

Neil Critchley admits it’s difficult to pinpoint why Blackpool’s record against the top teams in the Championship is so good.

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Huddersfield Town are the only club in the top six to have beaten Critchley’s side in the league this season.

It comes after Blackpool claimed a thoroughly deserved point away to free-scoring leaders Fulham last Saturday, having beaten them 1-0 at Bloomfield Road back in September.

CJ Hamilton is 'finding his rhythm' says Blackpool boss Neil Critchley

Asked what is behind Blackpool’s impressive record, head coach Critchley told The Gazette: “That’s a good question. We had a fantastic record against the top six teams last season as well, didn’t we? I don’t remember too many beating us, other than Lincoln.

“To take four points off Fulham is a big achievement. The way the players take on board everything we ask them to do and try to execute the plan .... they’re brilliant.

“They’re a great, great group to work with. They’re so humble, they ask questions and they give you absolutely everything physically.

“It was a big physical effort against Fulham, so it’s a point well deserved.”

Pool are yet to be beaten in the Championship in 2022, a record they will be looking to preserve when they host Bristol City tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what system Critchley adopts against the Robins, having switched to a 5-4-1 formation at Craven Cottage.

“That was because of Fulham,” he added. “We felt if we played 4-4-2 they would overload us in the middle of the pitch, get between the lines and cause us problems with their system and how good they are on the ball. We felt we needed that extra bit of security at the back.

But when you change a system, there are slight tweaks to certain areas of the pitch and the things you’re asking the players to do, and we didn’t get that right early in the game.

“That happened because of the goal, which is my fault, but Jordan Thorniley came in and was fantastic.

“He’s been playing really well at Oxford and he gives you that left-foot balance on that side of the pitch.

“And we knew we’d carry a threat with our front three. We knew we had to be well-organised, well-disciplined and we were. We carried a big, big threat on the counter.”

Another player singled out for praise was CJ Hamilton, who continued his recent improvement with another sterling display, providing the assist for Josh Bowler’s equaliser.

“I think CJ sort of summed up the team performance because he grew in confidence,” Critchley said.

“He had one or two moments in the first half when it didn’t quite happen for him and we have to remember he’s not had a lot of football for a year. It’s been stop-start for him and he’s much better when he’s in rhythm.

“You could see he was finding his rhythm during the game. He just showed that little bit of composure to slow down and pick Josh out for the goal.

“He’s a big threat and if we get a fit CJ Hamilton firing, like he was during the first part of last season, then he will be a big player for us.”

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