Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton trawls through the archives to take a look back at the Seasiders' heart-breaking late defeat in the Championship play-off final on May 19, 2012.
Ricardo Vaz Te’s galling late goal denied Blackpool a fairytale return to the Premier League in their Championship play-off final at Wembley.
The feeling three minutes from time when Vaz Te rifled the scruffiest of winners into the roof of the net was like being whacked in the stomach. Then poked in the eye. It was that bad.
Let’s get one thing clear. Blackpool, who were never quite at their best but creating at least four
clear-cut opportunities to score, did not deserve to lose in such a sickening manner.
A deflected cross from the left, Carlton Cole – who appeared to foul the superb Alex Baptiste in the build-up – bundling his way towards goal, Gilks getting a hand on it, and the ball kindly breaking to Vaz Te who – in fairness to him – kept his cool and lifted the ball into the roof of the net.
It was the moment the Seasiders’ entire season went up in smoke. A total of 46league games, two play-off matches, but nothing from the 49th all-important one at Wembley.
This is a feeling Blackpool fans have not experienced for 21 years. Not since 1991 have the Seasiders lost a play-off final, when they were beaten on penalties by Torquay United.
Since then, they have beaten Scunthorpe United, Leyton Orient, Yeovil Town and Cardiff City.
Alas, they couldn’t make it five out of five.
You can say, in some ways, that West Ham deserved their win. They finished 11 points ahead of Pool in the regular season and beat Ian Holloway’s men three times over the course of the season, twice convincingly.
Perhaps the defining moment happened not on Saturday at Wembley, but on Thursday morning at Bloomfield Road.
That was when Gary Taylor-Fletcher landed awkwardly after jumping to head a ball in the last few minutes of the final training session before the team boarded the bus for London.
His ankle was so swollen and sore that he was unable to start. It stopped Holloway from naming the same side which had beaten Birmingham over two legs.
The contest itself was an odd affair. Unlike at St Andrews in the semi-final, where they settled superbly, the Seasiders didn’t look quite themselves early on.
They didn’t pass the ball as they normally do, though much of this was down to West Ham’s set up.
That said, Pool still had much the better of the chances in those opening 45 minutes. Stephen Dobbie’s angle-blast was tipped on to the post somewhat fortuitously by Robert Green, while Matt Phillips wasted two great opportunities to score.
Those squandered chances seemed to knock Pool as West Ham took a stranglehold on proceedings for the remainder of the half and scored through Carlton Cole, 35 minutes in.
Tom Ince was tackled in the right-wing position and Matt Taylor broke forward. It looked like Angel Martinez had won back possession with a sliding tackle but the ball bounced back into Taylor’s path and he delivered a superb, curling centre beyond Ian Evatt and into Cole who finished well – blasting the ball past Gilks from point-blank range.
Deflation among 30,000 Blackpool fans, though their mood might have worsened had Vaz Te not shot wide shortly afterwards. It was the Seasiders struggling at this point – half-time couldn’t come quick enough.
But whatever the manager said at the interval made a difference as, within 120 seconds of the restart, Matt Phillips threaded a beauty of a ball into Ince and the winger finished right-footed on the volley.
It required faultless technique to get his shot on target, never mind past Green. A superb goal and a nice personal moment too – revenge for the constant barracking he got from the West Ham fans who still have it in for his dad Paul for leaving Upton Park 20-odd years ago.
The goal transformed Holloway’s men and they dominated for the next half hour.
Crucially, though, they couldn’t score while on top – Dobbie with his miskick from Neal Eardley’s pullback and Baptiste, after a lovely one-two with Kevin Phillips, and Matty Phillips having shots cleared off the line.
It cost the Seasiders dear as, after looking like they were hanging on for dear life for most of the half, the Hammers hit back late on.
Kevin Nolan’s stunning volley was tipped onto the bar by Gilks – a top class save – but then, with extra time fast approaching, Vaz Te popped up with a strike to destroy the day, nay, the summer, for Tangerines everywhere.
Blackpool: Gilks, Eardley, Baptiste, Evatt, Crainey, Ferguson, Martinez (Dicko), Dobbie (Bednar), Ince, M. Phillips, K. Phillips (Sylvestre)
West Ham: Green, Demel (Faubert), Reid, Tomkins, Taylor, O’Neil (McCartney), Noble, Nolan, Collison, Cole, Vaz Te