A jubilant Gary Bowyer says Blackpool’s day at Wembley is a reward for all the hard work that has gone into turning the club around on the pitch this season.
The Seasiders edged a thrilling League Two play-off semi-final at Luton Town that was packed full of drama.
Bowyer’s side secured a 3-3 draw in the second leg at Kenilworth Road courtesy of a stoppage-time own goal which saw Pool win 6-5 on aggregate.
Now Blackpool are just one game away from an instant return to League One after two successive relegations, with Exeter City standing in their way at the national stadium on Sunday week after they came through another 6-5 aggregate nailbiter against Carlisle.
“There’s always drama at this club. It was unbelievable,” Bowyer said. “I’m just delighted for everybody involved with Blackpool.
“The players were terrific and the supporters have travelled down on a horrible night.
“With everything that’s gone off at the club in the last couple of years, it’s just great to be able to get to such an iconic place as Wembley.”
The Seasiders got off the best possible start when Nathan Delfouneso’s close-range finish made it 4-2 on aggregate.
But just as they did at Bloomfield Road on Sunday, the Hatters scored two quickfire goals to turn the tie around before half-time.
A highly controversial penalty saw the Hatters take the lead on aggregate but Armand Gnanduillet’s header levelled things up.
Extra-time and a possible penalty shoot-out were looming when a Blackpool corner in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time caused mayhem in the Luton box.
Kelvin Mellor headed goalwards and the ball eventually ended up in the back of the net off unfortunate keeper Stuart Moore. Bowyer added: “We made a fantastic start, with a great goal from Nathan Delfouneso finishing off Mark Cullen’s cross.
“But we let them back in the game by conceding too many fouls and our defending from the two set-plays wasn’t great.
“We spoke at half-time that we were in this exact position on Sunday and we saw it through then, so we had the experience.
“Unfortunately we gave a penalty away, although people tell me it was never a penalty.
“But the spirit in the camp is tremendous. Andy Taylor was feeling his hamstring, Brad Potts was on one leg and Tom Aldred was feeling his calf. But we knew if we got one goal it would set up a nervy finish, like the play-offs always do – and that’s exactly what happened.”
Man of match Potts said: “Words can’t describe how good it feels. It’s a one-off at Wembley and we know we can beat anyone on the day.”