ONLY Ian Holloway could watch his team power their way to a Wembley play-off final … then give them a ticking off.
The manager is always in the search of perfection, so it goes without saying that he wasn’t happy with throwing away a two-goal lead in Wednesday’s semi-final second leg at St Andrew’s.
After goals by Stephen Dobbie and Matt Phillips had put the Seasiders into a seemingly unassailable 3-0 aggregate lead, Birmingham struck back through Nikola Zigic and Curtis Davies.
It meant the last 17 minutes were nervy to say the least, with Birmingham requiring just one more goal to take the tie into extra-time.
Some last-ditch defending ensured Pool held out, but Holloway made sure he let his players know how he felt afterwards. The manager said: “I was walking around after the final whistle asking what the score was because I just had to make sure.
“It looked like Birmingham were going to score another goal and to hold out like we did was great.
“We got so many things wrong in that last 20 minutes, and that is why I had a go at them after the game.
“They forgot everything but I’ll forgive them, I suppose!”
Holloway felt the key to standing firm in the face of Birmingham’s ferocious second-half onslaught was the effort of every single member of his team.
“I am not picking anybody out individually. That was a magnificent effort from them all,” he said.
“We did so much right and then got so much wrong. I am very lucky to be standing here and saying we’re going to Wembley.
“It was an immense effort by Birmingham. That was some atmosphere. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up and I haven’t even got any there! That is how difficult their fans made it.
“But I have to praise my lads so much. It is all about them implementing what we are talking about, and a few weeks ago we couldn’t keep out set-pieces. We certainly can now.
“The turnaround has been quite immense over the last couple of months. Now let’s try to beat a side that is proven to be the third-best in the Championship by quite a way. Bring on West Ham.”