Joe Nuttall earned the praise of Simon Grayson after the striker notched his long-overdue first league goal for Blackpool.
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The 22-year-old has endured a mixed start to his Seasiders career after making the move to Bloomfield Road for a sizeable figure from Blackburn Rovers during the summer.
Prior to Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Ipswich Town, Nuttall had only bagged one goal in all competitions – in September’s 5-1 EFL Trophy thrashing of Morecambe.
But he finally got off the mark in League One by scoring Pool’s first goal at Portman Road, lashing home from close range after his initial header had been blocked.
“I thought he was good,” Grayson said of the striker post-match.
“His workrate was good and his hold-up play was really good.
“We said with Armand Gnanduillet that if our number nine holds it up we’ve got players who can run off them and link the play.
“Joe did that well. It was great for him not only to play well but to get that goal, which will do his confidence the world of good.”
Nuttall was given a rare league start, his first since the draw at Accrington Stanley in mid-September, due to an injury to the club’s top scorer Gnanduillet.
The Frenchman was left out as a precaution after injuring his thigh in the 2-0 win over AFC Wimbledon the previous weekend.
The 12-goal forward could have been risked, Grayson admitted, but the Pool boss decided to err on the side of caution.
Gnanduillet is likely to be rested for Wednesday’s EFL Trophy second-round home clash against Scunthorpe United but he could come back into contention for Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Maidstone United.
Nuttall was the man to get the nod in his place, despite fellow striker Ryan Hardie notching a hat-trick in the reserve team’s 4-3 defeat by Huddersfield Town last week.
“I think Joe warranted the start,” Grayson told The Gazette. “He’s come here as one of our big signings and has done well recently when he’s come off the bench.
“He’s a physical presence and he’s a different type of player to Ryan.
“The hat-trick for Ryan in the reserve game will have done his confidence the world of good but it is the reserves, not a first-team game.
“But having centre-forwards scoring goals can only help and that competition for places is healthy.
“You saw against Ipswich that Jordan Thompson, who was only playing against Germany a few days ago (in Northern Ireland’s starting 11), couldn’t get into our team in League One.
“That’s how loyal I am with players. If the team has been doing well, I’ll stick by them. The lads understand that.
“It was interesting we were disappointed that Armand wasn’t fit and then on the other side we see James Norwood wasn’t fit (for Ipswich), so we were buzzing with that. But it is what it is.”