Blackpool 2-0 Doncaster Rovers: Everton loanee Ellis Simms bags a brace as excellent Seasiders book their place in League One play-offs

The excellent Ellis Simms bagged a double as Blackpool secured their place in the League One play-offs in style with a comfortable win over Doncaster Rovers.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 8:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 9:04 pm

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Blackpool v Doncaster Rovers as it happened

The excellent Ellis Simms bagged a double as Blackpool secured their place in the League One play-offs in style with a comfortable win over Doncaster Rovers.

The Everton loanee capped off a fine display with a goal in either half, as Neil Critchley’s men guaranteed a top six finish with a game to spare.

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Ellis Simms netted his sixth goal since joining on loan in January

The Seasiders, who now move up to third, only required a point from their final two games, but they got all three thanks to a comprehensive display against the South Yorkshire outfit.

Pool, who take on Joey Barton’s already relegated Bristol Rovers on the final day of the regular season on Sunday, will head into the play-offs in fine form having claimed three wins on the spin.

A top six finish is a fabulous achievement for a Blackpool side that remain without eight players and began the season in dreadful fashion, losing six of their opening nine games.

It now just remains to be seen who Blackpool will play in the play-off semi-finals, with Sunderland, Lincoln City and Portsmouth all a possibility.

Neil Critchley opted to make just one change from the weekend’s 3-0 win at Northampton Town, although it was an enforced one.

Ethan Robson was the man to miss out after picking up what appeared to be a groin injury on Saturday.

Jordan Gabriel came into the side to play at right wing-back, which pushed Ollie Turton into the centre of midfield alongside Kenny Dougall.

Sullay Kaikai missed out for the second game running after being taken out of the team at the last minute on Saturday, having felt his hamstring - a knock he suffered in last week’s win against Sunderland.

Kevin Stewart returned from his surprise absence on Saturday to take a spot on the bench, but Daniel Gretarsson, Matty Virtue, Grant Ward, CJ Hamilton and Gary Madine all remain sidelined.

Bez Lubala also remains unavailable due to a ‘club matter’.

Doncaster, who have nothing at stake in their final two games of the season, named an unchanged side from their weekend win at Rochdale.

The heavens opened just before kick-off, with both heavy rain and hail lashing down on the turf. That sparked fears this game would be postponed for a second time, having been called off for a waterlogged pitch back in February.

But those fears were quelled and the rain stopped just in time, making for a surface full of zip.

The away side had the game’s first opportunity, as defender Tom Anderson turned wide of the near post from Taylor Richards’ pullback.

In what was a lively start to the game, Luke Garbutt brought a good save out of Louis Jones who got across his goal to push the wing-back’s 30-yard free-kick away from goal.

The game soon settled doon, although the Seasiders had to be alert to snuff out some danger after Dan Ballard had conceded possession not far from Pool’s 18-yard box. The visitors worked the ball well to Richards following a quick one-two with Tyreece John-Jules, but the winger’s shot was well blocked.

At this point, the game entered into a bit of a lull and there appeared to be more action outside the ground, where a group of Pool fans had congregated to bang on the gates and make some noise behind the North Stand.

On the 20-minute mark, Jordan Gabriel found himself in a bit of space at the back post, fizzing a powerful, threatening ball towards goal which the visitors just managed to scramble behind.

Kenny Dougall, Elliot Embleton and Ellis Simms were all involved in a training ground routine from the following corner, which ended with Dougall’s shot being well blocked.

Two minutes later, the deadlock was broken and it was Blackpool who edged their noses in front.

Ellis Simms was the man to get the goal, slotting home after beating the offside trap to latch onto Jerry Yates’ smart flick-on.

It saw the Everton loanee go one-on-one with the keeper, who did get something on the striker’s shot, but it wasn’t enough to stop it from bouncing into the back of the empty net for Simms’ sixth goal since joining in January.

Blackpool’s lead was almost cancelled out immediately after falling asleep at the back, but Chris Maxwell did excellently to rush off his line and thwart Fejiri Okenabirhie, doing well to claim the ball right on the edge of his box and not carrying the ball over the line.

Tyreece John-Jules, Ballard’s Arsenal teammate, then curled over from just inside the Blackpool box after Ballard had been caught trying to win the ball too high up the pitch.

Doncaster were forced into an early change in the 34th minute when striker Okenabirhie was forced off with an injury, replaced by Omar Bogle - the man who James Husband fouled when he was sent off against Charlton Athletic after just a minute earlier in the season.

Pool looked like they were going to suffer an injury scare of their own when Husband went down holding his foot, but thankfully he was able to continue.

Critchley opted to make a change at the break, replacing Jordan Gabriel with Kevin Stewart, which saw Turton revert to right wing-back.

After Maxwell was forced into a couple of early stops as Doncaster made a bright start to the half, Pool responded with a bit of pressure of their own.

Elliot Embleton saw a 30-yard drive well claimed by Jones before Simms came inches away from adding his second, seeing his left-footed effort headed off the line by Joe Wright.

Simms continued to make himself a menace, holding the ball up superbly before Embleton curled over the bar.

Simms combined superbly with Yates once again to be set free down the left, only to be denied by a smart stop from Louis Jones.

With a fussy referee in charge, Critchley opted to take a safety first approach when both Husband and Stewart picked up bookings, replacing them with Marvin Ekpiteta and Keshi Anderson respectively.

It capped off a bizarre evening for Stewart, who only came on at the half-time break himself, lasting fewer than 20 minutes. But it came with one eye ahead of Pool’s play-off campaign.

The all-important second goal continued to elude Pool, as Jones thwarted Yates with a fine save down to his right after the 22-goal striker had latched onto Anderson’s clever through-ball.

Maxwell preserved Blackpool’s lead with another of his almost-trademark stops, flying across goal to claw Josh Sims’ header away from the top corner.

At the other end, Embleton had a golden chance to double Pool’s lead and make sure of the points when the ball fell to him eight yards out, but he fluffed his lines and dragged wide.

The excellent Jones made another excellent save to deny the Seasiders again, getting a strong hand to Garbutt’s rasping drive to tip it over the bar.

Pool continued to knock at the door, with Embleton’s dangerous ball across the face of the six-yard box somehow bobbling wide after taking a deflection.

Thankfully Blackpool’s pressure told in the 79th minute when Simms found his and his side’s second goal of the game.

It was a similar route to his first, the striker being set free down the left only to see his initial effort blocked by Jones, but he made no mistake on the follow-up by tapping home to the delight of the supporters standing outside, who had set off a smoke bomb just minutes earlier.

The celebrations were well underway at this point, with only a miracle stopping the Seasiders from securing their spot in the top six.

Pool saw out the remainder of the game in a professional manner, with the final whistle greeted with minimal fanfare - as if the job is only half done.

TEAMS

Blackpool: Maxwell, Gabriel (Stewart (Anderson)), Ballard, Thorniley, Husband (Ekpiteta), Garbutt, Turton, Dougall, Embleton, Simms (Holmes), Yates (Mitchell)

Subs not used: Moore, Shaw

Doncaster: Jones, Wright, Anderson, Butler, Horton, Smith, James (Greaves), Lokilo (Sims), Richards, John-Jules (Coppinger), Okenabirhie (Bogle)

Subs not used: Bottomley, Amos, Bostock

Referee: Robert Lewis

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