Blackpool 2-1 Lincoln City: Kenny Dougall the Wembley hero as Seasiders clinch promotion back to the Championship
Kenny Dougall was the unlikely Wembley hero as Blackpool came from behind to beat Lincoln City and secure promotion to the Championship.
The Seasiders recovered from a horror start, when they fell behind after just 48 seconds following Ollie Turton’s freak own goal.
But Neil Critchley’s men produced a magnificent response, eventually levelling through Dougall before half-time.
From this point onwards, the Seasiders had an impressive level of control in the game, edging their noses in front through Dougall’s second of the game.
Pool saw out the remainder of the Wembley showpiece with minimal fuss, clinching a return to England’s second tier after a six-year absence.
The Seasiders, the play-off kings, now have an amazing six promotions from the nine play-off campaigns they’ve taken part in.
The Seasiders were dealt a major blow prior to kick-off when news emerged that in-form striker Ellis Simms missed out.
The striker, who had scored five times in his last four appearances, was sidelined with a knock he picked up in training.
It meant Jerry Yates led the line on his own, with attacking trio Demetri Mitchell, Elliot Embleton and Keshi Anderson playing just off him.
There was better news elsewhere though, as Dan Ballard was fit enough to start in central defence after overcoming his injury scare.
There was also a major boost with the emergence of CJ Hamilton on the substitutes’ bench, the winger returning sooner than expected having injured his metatarsal in March.
Grant Ward was also fit enough to be named among the substitutes on his return from a calf strain, but there was still no place for Sullay Kaikai, who injured his hamstring in the recent win against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Daniel Gretarsson (shoulder) and Matty Virtue (ACL) both missed out with longer term injuries, while Bez Lubala remains unavailable due to a ‘club matter’.
Lincoln, meanwhile, named their strongest available line-up with defender Joe Walsh fit enough to start despite concerns.
The Imps only arrived at Wembley just after 2pm after their team bus was stuck in London traffic on the way to the stadium.
The nightmare preparation certainly didn’t hamper their start though, as the Seasiders got off to the worst start possible.
Dangerman Brennan Johnson was given too much time and space by Luke Garbutt and his low cross was turned into the back of his own net by Ollie Turton.
The right-back had attempted to side-foot the ball away from the six-yard box, but Turton couldn’t quite manouvre his feet in time to make the clearance.
Barely 50 seconds were on the clock but Critchley’s men were left utterly shell-shocked, conceding a goal that was so out of character.
The Imps got in down the right again through Johnson, but this time James Husband was there to clear Blackpool’s lines.
The men in tangerine simply couldn’t get to grips with Johnson in the early stages, Garbutt forced to resort to cynical tactics to hack down the on-loan Nottingham Forest man, picking up a booking in the process.
Pool took a while to get going after their early setback, but they finally began to assert some control, seeing more of the ball and patiently building up their attacks.
Blackpool had to wait until the 20th minute for their first shot in anger, as Garbutt attempted to atone for his poor early defending - but his curling 30-yard free-kick was straight at Palmer in the Lincoln goal.
The Imps, while happy to sit back on their lead and soak up Pool’s pressure, remained a major threat when they attacked.
They came close to doubling their lead on 25 minutes when Jorge Grant’s curler clipped the top of the crossbar, after the referee missed what appeared to be a blatant handball in the build-up.
The Seasiders retialited with a half chance of their own, as Demetri Mitchell headed over at full stretch from Elliot Embleton’s cross.
A minute later, Mitchell was denied by a fine save from Palmer after the increasingly influential winger had latched onto Jerry Yates’ pullback.
With 10 minutes to go until the interval, the Seasiders finally drew themselves level - and Yates was instrumental once again.
The lone striker did superbly to win the ball high up the pitch from Grant, which allowed Embleton to lay the ball off to Kenny Dougall.
The Aussie took a touch to settle himself before lashing home on his weaker left foot. Que scenes of bedlam in the Blackpool end of Wembley.
With momentum now on their side, Pool ended the half well on top, as they forced mistake after mistake out of their opponents.
Embleton had a low drive well saved by Palmer, before the Lincoln keeper did well to handle Mitchell’s downward header.
Chris Maxwell took a risk playing the ball out through a crowded centre of the park at the start of the second-half, but it almost paid dividends.
The ball reached Dougall, who came through a challenge unscathed before threading a through-ball that almost reached Yates, only for Lincoln to clear their lines.
The Seasiders remained well on top at this point, but all they were lacking was that final bit of care in the final third to edge ahead.
On 54 minutes, that all changed.
A ball in from the right took the slightest nick off Turton, which resulted in the ball falling at the feet of Yates.
With his back to goal, Yates showed great unselfishness to lay the ball off to Dougall, who slammed home his and his side’s second of the game to put Blackpool in front.
While Pool had control of the game, they still had to be mindful because Lincoln still posed a threat - especially through Johnson.
The winger got in behind Blackpool’s backline just before the hour mark, but Dan Ballard did well to step across and intercept.
Johnson then pulled the ball back into a crowded six-yard box after a bit of panic among the Blackpool ranks, but thankfully it fell to Mitchell who managed to clear his lines.
Try as they might, Lincoln failed to make any headway in the latter stages, as they found themselves being frustrated by the defensive shape and organisation of the Seasiders.
At the other end, Yates squandered a priceless chance to put daylight in-between the two sides as he chipped over the oncoming keeper, but wide of goal after latching onto a clever flick-on from substitute Gary Madine.
The striker came close himself a few moments later when he headed just wide from Garbutt’s free-kick, but it was a difficult chance with no power on the delivery.
The onslaught eventually came from Lincoln in the dying stages, which ensured a nerve-biting end to the game for the Seasiders.
Morgan Rogers fired wide from range, before a deep cross fell kindly for Lewis Montsma, but the substitute fired wastefully over - much to the relief of the 4,000 Seasiders.
The final whistle was greeted by raucous celebrations from the Blackpool end, the Seasiders celebrating a richly deserved promotion back to the Championship.
Blackpool: Maxwell, Turton, Ballard, Husband, Garbutt, Dougall, Stewart, Mitchell (Madine), Embleton (Hamilton), Anderson (Ward), Yates (Thorniley)
Subs not used: Moore, Ekpiteta, Gabriel
Lincoln: Palmer, Poole, Walsh (Montsma), Eyoma, Edun, Bridcutt, McGrandles, Grant (Scully), Johnson, Rogers, Hopper (Morton)
Subs not used: Long, Bramall, Sanders, Anderson
Referee: Tony Harrington
Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here