Author Topic: When it comes to play-off success, no team in the country can hold a candle to Blackpool. Eleven suc  (Read 4 times)


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When it comes to play-off success, no team in the country can hold a candle to Blackpool. Eleven such matches the Tangerines have now played, and while this was the first they have failed to win outright, a draw was enough to ensure they will be West Ham United's opponents at Wembley on Saturday week. They could not have been pushed any harder though. With half an hour remaining Birmingham City were three goals down on aggregate and seemingly on the way to certain defeat. Having over-achieved all season, Chris Hughton's side were never going to give up the ghost, and in an almost desperately frantic finale pulled two goals back and gave everything they had in search of the vital third. It did not come, which means this was almost certainly Hughton's last game as manager of the Blues. The former Newcastle coach, who pulled off a minor miracle in guiding City into the play-offs, is believed to be the preferred Fußballtrikots Kinder Bayern München choice of West Bromwich Albion ahead of Claudio Ranieri to replace the departing Roy Hodgson. With Wolves said to be ready to approach whichever manager's season ended last night, it was not surprising that the Birmingham director Peter Pannu's programme notes gave the impression the financially straitened Blues expect Hughton to move on come what may. Whether the Blackpool manager, Ian Holloway, would be inclined to entertain an approach from elsewhere will remain untested, at least until after the final. His reaction was one of simple relief. "It looked like we'd done our job, but what a comeback. Our game plan went out of the window and we just hung on," he admitted. "We were on our last legs emotionally, and if they'd got a third and it had gone to extra time, I couldn't have seen us living with it." Hughton was characteristically generous in defeat. "They were the better team over the two legs but we showed what we have showed all season, which is great character. It's not a fitting time to talk about speculation regarding my future. I'm very proud our players put in the performance that we did, and I'm as devastated as they are because we got so close." Circumstances dictated Birmingham were always going to be more adventurous than they had been at Bloomfield Road. Holloway's Blackpool were never going to sit back and defend their slender advantage, and Tom Ince nearly doubled it straight away, first when he forced the City goalkeeper Colin Doyle to save, and then when he was pulled back by David Murphy in the act of shooting. Had he gone down, instead of getting in a shot which Doyle again blocked, the referee Chris Foy might have been more inclined to award the spot-kick. The atmosphere generated by St Andrew's first sell-out of the season was contributing to the game being played at a unsustainable pace. Marlon King, given a yard Fußballtrikots Kinder Manchester City of space at the far post, side-footed a volley against the Blackpool bar, but just as the half seemed likely to remain goalless, Blackpool took the lead. Ince's corner was headed up in the air by Curtis Davies and the ball found its way to Stephen Dobbie, whose low shot squeezed under Doyle and inside the unfortunate goalkeeper's near post. Holloway was still not inclined to make changes to his attacking formation, and his bravery paid immediate dividends after the break. Matt Phillips timed his run to perfection to bring down Angel Martínez' long ball and squeeze his shot in off Doyle's far post. Still no Birmingham heads dropped, and shortly after the hour, they gave their supporters hope when Chris Burke's pass put Nikola Zigic clear. The big Serbian finished calmly, but there was nothing calm about the crowd's reaction when with 17 minutes remaining, Davies rose above a crowded penalty area to head Jordon Mutch's corner powerfully past Gilks.
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