Blackpool manager Neil Critchley was delighted with his side (Martin Rickett/PA)
05 March 2022

Neil Critchley hails Blackpool camaraderie after late win boosts play-off hopes

05 March 2022

Blackpool boss Neil Critchley paid tribute to his side’s camaraderie and hopes their late victory over Stoke can help catapult them into the Championship play-off places by the end of the season.

The travelling Tangerines, who ended an eight-match run without an away win dating back to October, were fortunate not to be behind before snatching an 86th-minute winner through Josh Bowler.

Stoke forward Nick Powell spurned a glorious chance for an opener when he blazed over from close range, while Josh Maja struck the post in a frustrating first half for the Potters.

After the interval, the home side continued to threaten with Tyrese Campbell dragging an effort wide, but their profligacy was eventually punished by Bowler’s strike.

The in-form winger marked his 23rd birthday with a sixth goal in eight games, sending the 2,184-strong away support into delirium and boosting Blackpool’s bid for a top-six finish.

Blackpool boss Critchley said: “We want to make the end of the season interesting for us and we’re not far off. We did it last season; I believe we’ll do it again and stay strong until the end of the season.

“If we can be somewhere near come the last two games, then we might make it an interesting season for ourselves.”

A second successive victory leaves Blackpool in 14th place in the Championship but only seven points off Middlesbrough and the top six.

Critchley added: “If you said to me at the start of the season that we’d be seven points outside the play-offs at this point, we’d have taken that. It would take a really good run, but we’ve been on a run once this season and hopefully this is the start of another one.

“Our supporters are enjoying the journey at the moment and being back in the Championship. It’s what football’s all about, following your team all over the country and getting behind your team and enjoying it with your mates and family and they’re certainly enjoying it.

“There’s a real togetherness right through the club at the moment, it’s a really positive place to be and long may that continue.”

Meanwhile for Stoke, a wastefulness in front of goal meant their winless run stretched to six games in all competitions, as their play-off ambitions were dealt a severe blow.

Despite gradually growing into the fixture and controlling a second period low on quality, the Potters could not find their way past a Blackpool defence who recorded a first clean sheet in eight league outings.

Frustrated Stoke boss Michael O’Neill said: “We didn’t play well, we were poor. We were outrun, outfought and we didn’t do the basics well. Overall, we can have no complaints and again we conceded a late goal, which is a pattern that’s repeating itself far too often.

“What we’ve come back with in points is nowhere near good enough. We’ve been poor at home; we were good at home for the first 12 games this season, but we’ve deteriorated.

“We may feel we have superior players but that wasn’t displayed on the pitch today. We’ve tried to build a team that we thought would get us to the next level and at times we’ve looked capable of that, but ultimately, we haven’t been able to sustain that.

“Sometimes a full-strength squad can be a good thing, but I look at some of the teams in the league that have less resources and they have a tight spirit and camaraderie which is engrained in a smaller squad. We have different expectations but we’re a long way from where our expectations are as a club.”

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