Blackpool succumbed to a late Middlesbrough winner in last night’s 2-1 home loss.
However, manager Neil Critchley was effusive in his praise for the midfield performance of Callum Connolly.
Naturally a centre back, Connolly, 24 played in a three-man midfield as Blackpool set up in a 3-5-2 formation.
Connolly was praised as one of the best players on the pitch for his performance against Middlesbrough, credited with bringing the ball forward quite often for the team.
He showcased talent for the role that he hasn’t done before when called upon in that position.
“He had one that went wide and had one that got deflected and trickled the wrong side of the goalkeeper, that was in if it’s six inches the other way,” said Critchley, via Lancs Live.
“”He had a header that he flicked on and it hit the post. That is Callum, he can do that for you.”
He played with a great intensity from the start of the game and throughout the 90 minutes.
“He hasn’t trained for a week, he’s not done anything so to step in and play 90 minutes like that shows you everything about him as a person and what he gives you,” Critchley continued.
“His outstanding attribute is his professionalism and his character, he’s unbelievable.”
However, it was ultimately a disappointing night for Critchley’s side. Despite a 91st minute equaliser, a 93rd minute goal from Duncan Watmore secured the three points for the visitors.
This result leaves Blackpool in 13th place in the Championship, now nine points off Middlesbrough in fifth and six points off the playoff positions.
Given the uncertainty around squad selection, having an asset like Connolly who can step up in a different position when required is a massive boost to the team.
Gaining experience in that position is vital for Connolly’s progress, if he is to be considered an option in midfield.
That he played well enough for his manager to single him out is also a testament to the work he has put in to step up into this position and his performance likely means it won’t be the last we see of Connolly in midfield.