Blackpool advances to playoff final
Blackpool survived a late onslaught to reach the final of the Championship playoff with a 3-2 aggregate victory over Birmingham after the second leg at St. Andrews had ended 2-2.
Goals by Stephen Dobbie and Matt Phillips had helped the visitors take a 2-0 lead just after half-time and a seemingly impregnable three-goal lead in the tie before Nikola Zigic and Curtis Davies levelled matters on the night and ensured a barnstorming finish.
Birmingham’s second goal meant a nervous final 17 minutes for the Seasiders who held on to book a second Wembley appearance in three seasons.
In a thrilling end-to-end contest, Tom Ince was unlucky not to be awarded an early penalty when he was pulled back by David Murphy.
At the other end Chris Burke curled inches wide, while Marlon King clipped the bar on 14.
Gary Taylor-Fletcher mis-directed a 24th minute header for Blackpool, when unmarked eight yards out, with visiting keeper Matt Gilks saving a low Nikola Zigic on 33.
But on the stroke of half time, the visitors took the lead when the Blues failed to clear an Ince corner and an unmarked Dobbie hooked home from just outside the six-yard box.
The second goal arrived with almost the opening salvo of the second half when Angel’s long-punt forward was collected by Phillips who beat the off-side trap before seeing his mis-hit effort roll in off a post.
But back came the hosts through Zigic on 64 when, despite appearing to be slightly offside as he collected Chris Burke’s pass, the Serbian clinically dispatched the ball past Gilks from 12 yards.
Gilks then saved well from King on 70 before Davies headed home Jordan Mutch’s 73rd minute corner to reduce Blackpool’s aggregate lead to a single goal.
Although Chris Hughton’s men battled hard to take the game into extra-time, the Tangerines held on to condemn the hosts to another season in the second flight and set-up a Wembley date with West Ham on Saturday, May 19.