Blackpool prepare for Hartlepool United FA Cup trip despite further Covid cases

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Blackpool FC have recorded more Covid cases in the squad this week but will again do their utmost to ensure tomorrow’s FA Cup tie at Hartlepool United goes ahead.

 

So says head coach Neil Critchley, adding that he did not envisage “wholesale changes” to his side for their visit to the League Two club due to a personnel shortage and Blackpool’s desire to win the tie.

Speaking yesterday morning about the prospects for the 12.30pm kick-off in the North-East, the Pool boss told The Gazette: “I’d like to think so (that the game will be on) but I don’t want to say for certain because anything can happen in the next 48 hours.”

Covid has again affected Critchley’s plans this week but he admits they appear to have got off lightly compared to some clubs.

Luke Garbutt is back in training with Blackpool

Luke Garbutt is back in training with Blackpool

He said: “We had Covid over Christmas and we lost two this week.

“But, touch wood, we haven’t had an outbreak like last year, when we lost six players the day before the FA Cup game against Brighton.

“Our Covid issues seem to come in ones or twos and every few days.

“We also seem to contain it better than most. Maybe it’s the sea air!

“We’ve had Luke Garbutt (who hasn’t played in over two months) back in training after illness – not Covid – but we will have a couple missing after Covid issues this week, so we’ll see what happens in the next 48 hours.”

Blackpool are priding themselves on keeping matches on whatever their adversity.

They are one of only four Championship clubs to have played three times since Christmas – and only Pool and QPR played those three in the space of seven days.

Critchley added: “We do want to play and will do everything we can to play.

“We have not called a game off in two years of this pandemic and not many clubs can say that. It’s just what we do.”

The FA Cup affords teams the luxury of fielding five substitutes from a bench of nine, though that may be of little benefit to a club battling to make up the numbers.

It’s why Critchley doesn’t envisage too many changes to his starting XI as his options will again be limited.

“It won’t be a case of wholesale changes,” he added, “though Ryan Wintle has gone back to Cardiff this week, we’ve lost Sonny Carey to injury and we have more Covid cases.

“So the situation means there won’t be wholesale changes but I also want us to win and get through.

“It could be a case of young players on the bench. Luke Mariette and Rob Apter (now on loan at Chester) have been to games recently to be around the dressing room and see how we prepare. That’s good for their development.

“With nine substitutes, that could mean one or two get to travel and – who knows? – they could have an opportunity to get on the pitch.”