Blackpool 1-0 Bristol Rovers: Seasiders to face Oxford United in League One play-offs after final day win sees them finish in third place

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Ellis Simms scored within three minutes of coming off the bench as Blackpool beat Bristol Rovers on the final day to finish in third place in the League One table.
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Blackpool v Bristol Rovers as it happened

Ellis Simms scored within three minutes of coming off the bench as Blackpool beat Bristol Rovers on the final day to finish in third place in the League One table.

The Everton loanee slammed home to ensure the Seasiders will head into the play-offs full of confidence and momentum on the back of four straight wins and four consecutive clean sheets.

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Ellis Simms was Blackpool's match winner for the second game runningEllis Simms was Blackpool's match winner for the second game running
Ellis Simms was Blackpool's match winner for the second game running

Neil Critchley’s men will face Oxford United in the semi-finals after Karl Robinson’s men beat Burton Albion to leapfrog Portsmouth to the final spot.

Thanks to their final day win, Blackpool finish the campaign on 80 points - the first time they’ve reached that points tally in 14 years.

The last time they did it was back in 2007 under Simon Grayson, when the Seasiders also finished in third before being promoted via the play-offs.

The breaking news from the team news an hour before kick-off was the presence of a certain Gary Madine on the team sheet.

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The striker, who has been out with a niggling groin injury since January, was named among the substitutes.

It comes as a major boost to the Seasiders ahead of their play-off campaign, as it was feared the 30-year-old - who is out of contract at the end of the season - might never kick a ball for the club again.

With Pool booking their place in the play-offs in midweek with a game to spare, Critchley opted to ring the changes - making six in total.

Brad Holmes was named up front to make his first professional start, while Stuart Moore was also handed his debut in goal.

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Marvin Ekpiteta, Kevin Stewart, Keshi Anderson and Demetri Mitchell also came into the side.

Chris Maxwell, Dan Ballard, Ollie Turton, Luke Garbutt, Ellis Simms and the club’s top goalscorer Jerry Yates were the six to make way.

Daniel Gretarsson, Matty Virtue, Ethan Robson, Grant Ward, Sullay Kaikai and CJ Hamilton all remain sidelined, while Bez Lubala remains unavailable due to a ‘club matter’.

Joey Barton’s Bristol Rovers, who also had nothing to play for after having their relegation confirmed a couple of weeks ago, handed a debut to 17-year-old goalkeeper Jed Ward.

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His counterpart Moore, who was also making his first start, was given an early scare as a deep cross from the right beat him, but thankfully Jordan Gabriel was there to scramble clear.

Pool retaliated with a chance of their own, as Jordan Thorniley lashed over on the volley after Elliot Embleton’s cross had fallen kindly for the defender.

The visitors, who came into this game on the back of a four-game losing streak, ought to have broken the deadlock after 10 minutes.

It came after Pablo Martinez’s low cross had beaten Marvin Ekpiteta and fallen to the feet of Alex Rodman, whose close-range effort deflected just over when the Bristol Rovers man really ought to have scored.

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Keshi Anderson, making his first start since the start of January, then tested young keeper Ward with a low, stringing effort which was palmed into the path of Demetri Mitchell, who fired over after having no time to readjust his feet.

Anderson had the ball in the back of the net a few moments later after chipping the ball beyond Ward, but it was ruled out for a foul on a Bristol Rovers player in the build-up.

The midfielder remained Blackpool’s most potent attacking threat in the first-half, curling just over the bar from the edge of the box after being set up by skipper for the day James Husband.

Pool were almost awarded a penalty on the half-hour mark when Holmes was tripped right on the edge of the box, but the referee signalled for a free-kick instead, which Anderson fired comfortably over.

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Anderson was involved yet again as he nodded a diagonal ball into the path of the onrushing Husband, who shot straight at Ward after fluffing his lines with his initial effort.

The chances continued to come Blackpool’s way, as Embleton’s goalbound effort from Husband’s pullback was well blocked.

Pool wasted another golden chance to edge their noses in front on the stroke of half-time when Jordan Gabriel embarked on a mazy run down the right, before pulling the ball back into the path of Anderson whose powerful first-time effort was superbly saved by Ward.

Moore, who looked a little nervy whenever he was closed down in possession of the ball, almost gifted the away side a goal at the start of the second-half.

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It came after the keeper had miscontrolled a backpass after being forced into the mistake by David Tutonda.

The ball fell into the path of Alex Rodman who went to ground, but the referee waved away Bristol Rovers’ penalty appeals.

The usual service soon resumed with Pool gaining the upper-hand again, Embleton having a low drive saved by the legs of Ward before Demetri Mitchell sent a dipping effort into the side-netting.

Embleton, who was starting to become increasingly influential, tried his luck from further out with a lovely curling effort which agonisingly missed the upright by a matter of inches.

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The visitors began to throw caution to the wind and caused the Seasiders a few problems.

They would have taken the lead if it wasn’t for a superb reaction stop from Moore, who saved with his legs after David Tutonda’s wayward effort had taken a huge deflection.

Rodman was then left completely unmarked as Bristol Rovers worked the ball short from the resulting corner, but he could only head wide.

At the other end, Holmes was dreaming of a first professional goal when he pounced upon Harries’ poor passback to keeper Ward, but a recovering defender was able to desperately scramble clear.

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Holmes picked up a knock during that collision and Critchley took no chances, bringing off the young striker and replacing him with Ellis Simms. Ollie Turton also replaced Keshi Anderson, which saw Jordan Gabriel move forward to right wing and Mitchell switch over to the left flank.

Simms made an instant impact, scoring within three minutes of coming on.

The striker, who scored both goals during Pool’s midweek 2-0 win against Doncaster Rovers, slammed home in emphatic style after Mitchell had chipped a pinpoint cross into his path.

Luke McCormick brought a good save out of Moore after embarking on a mazy run, just after Madine had come off the bench to make a timely return.

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Blackpool saw off Bristol Rovers’ late advances to hold onto their fourth straight win, setting them up perfectly for their trip to the Kassam Stadium.


Blackpool: Moore, Gabriel, Ekpiteta, Thorniley, Husband, Dougall, Stewart, Mitchell, Embleton (Madine), Anderson (Turton), Holmes (Simms)

Subs not used: Fojticek, Ballard, Antwi, Shaw

Bristol Rovers: Ward, Williams (Walker), Harries (Little), Baldwin, Leahy, Tutonda (Daly), Martinez, McCormick, Hargreaves (Mehew), Westbrooke (Liddle), Rodman

Subs not used: Day, Oztumer

Referee: Charles Breakspear

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