Blackpool will be looking to continue their run of consecutive victories as they face non-league side Eastbourne Borough in the FA Cup First Round. The Seasiders will be away from home at an empty ground after all Round One fixtures were banned from having spectators. Neil Critchley will potentially look to rotate his side ahead of fixtures against Peterborough and Doncaster to come. However, with an EFL Trophy fixture in midweek too, he may chose to keep the momentum going and go full strength.
We are going into this game in much higher spirits than when we initially drew Eastbourne a few weeks ago. I certainly am anyway. There are elements of our play that are coming together and we are looking more together as a collective unit, particularly in spells of play when our backs are against the wall. Critchley has quickly learned that he needs to adapt his play in order to cater for more physical and dogged oppositions in the league and will probably look to continue in that vein against a dogged non-league outfit looking for a huge upset.
Should we go full strength?
That’s the main question going into this game. It is a good opportunity to blood some younger players into the first team and give them chance to impress and it is also a good chance to give players, such as Bez Lubala, confidence and game time who haven’t had the best of starts to their Blackpool careers.
Having said that, I would go full strength. Had we no EFL trophy fixture in midweek then I would be looking at this differently with a view to bringing in a few players to mix things up. But I think the most important thing right now is creating those understandings and links in the first team side. We’ve got the makings of a good setup so pushing that aside to give players who haven’t done much to impress a chance seems silly.
The likes of Lubala, Teddy Howe and even youth starlet Rob Apter can all make an impact in the EFL Trophy against Leeds U21’s in midweek and offer Neil Critchley more options going into Peterborough. The one name I would throw in is Cameron Antwi and that is purely because MJ Williams is injured and I believe he has all the attributes to slot into that role and effectively perform his duties just as much as Grant Ward did against Wigan.
We have the same injuries concerns as before which narrow our squad depth to pick from as it is and I think playing a full strength side who, on their day, have the ability to really obliterate Eastbourne, will only bring another level of confidence going forward. We are very much a confidence team; we have a very young side who are quite mentally fragile so being able to put a few goals past a non-league side will do no harm at all. And it also brings with it a physical challenge to match up against hardened opponents, whilst also offering a challenge to break down a resilient back line who will sit deep for large spells of the game.
There is not really too much to say about this game in an analytical build-up perspective. We play the style of play stretching the ball into the wide areas and mixing up our direct approaches like we did against Wigan and this will be a comfortable afternoon. On the flip side, coming up against a low block in Eastbourne who will look to simply stay in the game as long as possible will bring a new type of challenge to the Blackpool frontline and it will be interesting to see how they cope. As much as this fixture isn’t the be all and end all of our season, it can quickly bring us all crashing back down if it goes wrong. The players will know they have to keep the momentum going and I expect them to feel an element of pressure on their shoulders.
One change for me from the side that played Wigan – Grant Ward is someone who is pretty much interchangeable, he does his job well but when he isn’t playing I don’t think ‘we’re missing Ward here’ in the same way we do Williams, Robson or Dougall.
Williams will be quite a loss to this side, he performs the intangible very effectively and allows Kenny Dougall the freedom to play. Antwi is someone who has looked very technically adept every time I have seen him, as much as Ian Chisnall likes to lazily speak of his physical presence as if that is his main asset, he is built in a Critchley mould. It will be a good chance to see how he performs in our setup. Another thing I will be looking out for is how Daniel Gretarsson fairs against another physical frontline, something he really struggled with against Wigan.
Sean’s team to face Eastbourne (4-4-2)
Sean’s Prediction: Eastbourne 0-3 Blackpool (Yates, Madine x2) Key Player: Gary Madine
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Image: Eastbourne Herald