Blackpool made the return to Bloomfield Road for our third pre-season game, hosting David Dunn’s Barrow this afternoon. 21 players featured in total, with one sub made at half-time followed by 9 on the hour mark, only Nathan Shaw lasting the full 90 minutes. Ben Garrity, Calum Mcdonald and Joe Nuttall all missed out through injury.
Line up: Maxwell, Turton, Nottingham, Thorniley, Shaw, Robson, Ward, Sarkic, Hamilton, Kaikai, Madine
21 players featured in total for Blackpool, with one sub made at half-time followed by 9 on the hour mark, only Nathan Shaw lasting the full 90 minutes. Ben Garrity, Calum Mcdonald and Joe Nuttall all missed out through injury.
The opening exchanges were fairly slow-paced as you’d expect for a pre-season friendly, with Pool looking comfortable at the back and settled in midfield, without really causing any damage up front.
Barrow knocked the ball around with confidence in the opening exchanges and controlled possession, with Blackpool increasingly playing a pressing game on their back line.
The first half-chance for the Seasiders came from Grant Ward, who received the ball on the edge of the box and tried to bend into the corner with his left foot, but it unfortunately went just wide of the post.
Nathan Shaw looked composed at left-back and delivered a couple of tasty deliveries in on the overlap, so will hopefully be an option on the left side in addition to Calum McDonald and James Husband. Michael Nottingham also looked comfortable on the right side of centre-back, next to Jordan Thorniley, and should play a part next season as an option, though hopefully there will be at least one new defender coming in this week.
Ethan Robson played deeper than Sarkic and looked composed on the ball, without really creating much, but he did keep things ticking and looked tidy in possession. He also made some impressive challenges in a deeper role than expected.
CJ Hamilton looked to be the creative spark that we’ve been missing since the days of Tom Ince and Matty Phillips. He took on two players, making his way into the box but unfortunately couldn’t finish past the keeper. Definitely a promising sign and he looks like a key starter for us going into the season.
Oliver Sarkic looks like he’ll be the set-piece specialist for us this season, and it was his corner which was met by Jordan Thorniley to head an impressive header back towards the far corner from the back post, giving Pool the lead on 38 mins.
That’s how it stayed until half-time, though Chris Maxwell was sprung into action just before the break as the back line was caught napping, and the captain on the day pulled out a strong right-handed save from a one-on-one to keep us in front.
Overall, it was a steady first half where nobody really put a foot wrong – Grant Ward lost the ball a couple of times which he will be disappointed with, but it was mainly Gary Madine who looked off the pace and didn’t really get going in the first half. He did win a couple of aerial duels but generally doesn’t seem to fit with Neil Critchley’s system as suitably as Jerry Yates. It may take a goal to get him going.
Stand outs from the first half: Maxwell, Thorniley, Nottingham, Shaw, Robson, Hamilton
Off the pace: Madine
Line up: One change, James Husband replacing Jordan Thorniley
Hamilton continued to cause Barrow’s back line problems in the second half and did have another half-chance in the opening exchanges after the break. His direct, pacy play on the right looked particularly threatening all afternoon.
Neil Danns, who had two short spells at Bloomfield Road, entered the fray for the visitors, before the changes were rung by Critchley.
A further 9 changes were made: Sims, Howe, Ekpiteta, Virtue, Antwi, Anderson, Devitt, Yates, Feeney.
There were a couple of errors in defence, with Marvin Ekpiteta who gifted Port Vale a goal at the weekend again at fault and fortunate not to be punished this time. Teddy Howe wasn’t so lucky and in failing to clear his lines, was dispossessed by Dior Angus who equalised for the visitors on 70 mins.
Keshi Anderson made a difference in linking up from midfield to attack and looked lively, while Cameron Antwi also looked confident on the ball.
Jamie Devitt had his first chance in tangerine, with his header from Liam Feeney’s cross coming back off the keeper before Jerry Yates headed over from the rebound.
Howe then made up for his earlier mistake, sliding the ball into Matty Virtue who was allowed the freedom of the penalty area to put the ball past the keeper and restore Pool’s lead with ten minutes to play. Virtue was a standout performer for Pool last season and under Critchley, for whom he’s played for before at youth level while at Liverpool, could be in for an impressive season.
In truth, there wasn’t much going on towards the final whistle and it was a comfortable victory for the Seasiders who stepped up their fitness levels with a third win in three pre-season games.
Next up are Everton who will surely provide a tougher test, though they only returned to training yesterday and will hopefully be further behind in the fitness stakes at the weekend to give us a further boost.
Neil Critchley said in his post-match interview that he was pleased with the performance, but also to have won a third pre-season game and started to build a winning mentality in the warm-up games as the side looks to gel with the various signings.
He also explained that the versatility of Shaw, Husband and Ollie Turton would be useful to our squad this season given their versatility, as the club is battling with the restrictions of the wage cap of £2.5m which was introduced last week, and means that Pool will need to focus on signing players who are capable of playing in more than one position where possible.
It’s expected that at least one new face will be through the door by that point in Everton’s Beni Baningime, though there is also believed to be at least one more defender lined up this week too.
Overall winners: Thorniley, Shaw, Nottingham, Sarkic, Hamilton
Improvements needed from: Madine, Howe, Ekpiteta
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