Gill: A Game We Have to Win
Friday, 5th Feb 2021 14:19
First-team coach Matt Gill admits Saturday’s home game against Blackpool is a match the Blue have to win as they aim to end a dismal run of form at Portman Road.
Town, who are 11th in League One, have lost six of their last seven on their own turf, beating only rock bottom Burton Albion.
The Blues have never lost seven in eight at Portman Road in the league, while Blackpool are yet to record a win on their travels to Suffolk.
Saturday's game, Town's 24th league fixture of the season, marks the Blues entering the season's second half, having taken 36 points from the first 23, 16 of that total in their first six matches.
Asked whether Saturday’s match is a game the Blues simply have to win, Gill responded: “That’s right. Obviously we go into the game off the back of poor results at home.
“We are definitely looking to change that and tomorrow is the next opportunity to do so.”
Town recorded their biggest win of the season in the away game at Bloomfield Road, 4-1, with Blackpool making a slow start to the season in which they won only one of their first seven league games.
They had a better spell during late October, November and early December before falling away again, but won their last two, a 5-0 win away at Wigan, then a 2-0 home victory over Northampton on Tuesday. They are unbeaten in their last three in the league having previously drawn 1-1 away against leaders Hull City.
The Seasiders are now one place and two points behind Town and Gill believes they’ve changed since the Blues' visit to the North-West.
Looking back at that 4-1 win, in which Town netted all four of their shots on target, Gill said: “It’s probably the most ruthless we’ve been in the final third and I think that we’re going to come across a Blackpool team that will probably play a slightly different style to what they did then.
“But I’d say on that day we were very ruthless in our finishing in the final third and that’s obviously something we’re looking to be in the second half of the season.
“Obviously, they had a tricky start to the season. I know [manager] Neil [Critchley] quite well and I’ve been lucky enough to watch him work while he was [U23s coach] at Liverpool.
“I think they have changed their style of play slightly. They play slightly differently to what they did when we played them before, so it will be a real challenge for us but one we’re looking forward to.”
Gill was briefly assistant manager at Tranmere in 2014 and it following this spell that he spent time at Liverpool.
“So I was up at Tranmere, left Tranmere and went into Liverpool for a day and was lucky enough to meet Neil and watch him work, which was good.
Having made two loan signings on Monday, striker Troy Parrott and right-back Luke Matheson, in addition to earlier recruits, Josh Harrop, who is yet to make his debut, and Luke Thomas, manager Paul Lambert may look at making one or two changes, particularly with the Blues in action at Peterborough again on Tuesday.
Tomas Holy seems set to continue in goal with Matheson appearing likely to make his debut at right-back.
At left-back, Myles Kenlock could keep his place having impressed at Crewe last week with Stephen Ward perhaps coming back into the team at London Road.
Skipper Luke Chambers would appear likely to revert to the centre of the defence probably alongside Mark McGuinness with Luke Woolfenden dropping to the bench.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell and Flynn Downes seem set to continue as does Alan Judge ahead of them with Gill having said Harrop is not yet ready to make a start.
Thomas and Gwion Edwards will probably again start in the wide roles, while Parrott could well be handed his debut at the centre of the front three, although Aaron Drinan will hope for a start having scored his first competitive goal for the Blues from the bench at Crewe.
James Norwood was also a sub at Gresty Road and again seems likely to be on the bench as Town look to ease the striker back into regular action without aggravating his troublesome hamstring.
For Blackpool, defender Daniel Gretarsson, striker Keshi Anderson and winger CJ Hamilton remain sidelined, all due to hamstring problems, while new loan signing midfielder Elliot Embleton, who came on as a sub for Sunderland in the Blues’ last home match, could make his Tangerines debut.
Ex-Town midfielder Grant Ward has been out since mid-January, also due to a hamstring problem, but is understood to be close to a return.
Former Blues loanee Luke Garbutt has missed the last two with an abductor problem but is expected to be available for the trip to Suffolk.
Missing from Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over the Cobblers was striker Gary Madine, who had a minor groin problem.
But Madine is expected to be OK to face the Blues, and Critchley was also hopeful Bez Lubala (ankle) and Ethan Robson would be fine for Saturday.
Embleton was one of three January additions at Blackpool, along with centre-forward Ellis Simms on loan from Everton and former Hull City and Liverpool midfielder Kevin Stewart.
Seasiders’ boss Critchley is anticipating a decent game: “It should be a really good football match. They’ve got some excellent players and are well coached, and we felt the full force of that in the match at Bloomfield Road earlier in the season.
“They’re not quite in the same moment as they were back then, but that’s not to say they won’t get back there soon. We know what a tough task we have this weekend.”
Historically, Town have won 13 games between the sides (12 in the league), 10 have been drawn (10) and Blackpool have won six (five).
The Blues have lost only once in their last eight games against the Tangerines - winning five of them - following their 6-0 thrashing at Bloomfield Road in August 2012.
In October at Bloomfield Road, Edwards scored twice and skipper Chambers and Teddy Bishop once as Town beat Blackpool 4-1 to return to the top of the League One table.
Chambers gave the Blues the lead with a brilliant strike on 16, Edwards made it two in the 37th minute before Bishop added the third just before the break.
Madine pulled one back for the Tangerines on the hour but Edwards sealed it with his second with 10 minutes remaining.
The teams last met at Portman Road in November 2019 when Town’s post-international break frustrations continued after they were held to a 2-2 draw.
The Blues went in front on eight via Edwards, who evidently enjoys facing tomorrow's opponents, but the Tangerines levelled through Joe Nuttall on 22.
Blackpool took the lead from a disputed penalty converted by Jay Spearing eight minutes after the restart but Garbutt equalised for Town, also from the spot, on 58.
Former Blues loanee Garbutt joined Blackpool on a free transfer in September last year having left Everton earlier in the summer.
The left-back or wide midfielder spent last season with Town making 29 starts and one sub appearance, scoring six goals.
The Blues did look into signing the former England U21 international on a permanent basis but were unable to pursue their interest for financial reasons.
Ex-Town midfielder Ward joined the Tangerines in December 2019 having been released by the Blues in the previous summer.
Ward, who made 75 starts and 23 sub appearances for Town after signing from Spurs in August 2016, spent the first half of last season with the Blues recovering from the ruptured ACL he suffered at QPR on Boxing Day 2018.
The Blackpool squad also includes former Town loan winger Liam Feeney, who made seven starts and two sub appearances, scoring twice, in a spell at Portman Road in the second half of the 2015/16 season, however the 34-year-old is currently out on loan at Tranmere.
Saturday’s referee is John Busby from Oxfordshire, who has shown 55 yellow cards and five red in 20 games so far this season.
His last Town match was the 2-0 home victory over Rochdale at Portman Road in September in which he booked Jon Nolan and two visiting players.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 2-1 win at Tranmere in January last year when he showed yellow cards to Emyr Huws and Will Norris as well as three home players.
Busby was also in charge of the Blues’ 2-0 defeat to Rotherham at Portman Road in October last year when he booked Gwion Edwards and three Millers.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Matheson, Ward, Kenlock, Chambers (c), McGuinness, Woolfenden, Dozzell, Downes, Nolan, Judge, Huws, Harrop, Lankester, Thomas, Sears, Edwards, Parrott, Norwood, Drinan.
Photo: Matchday Images
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