On this day in 2010, Blackpool beat Nottingham Forest in a thrilling play-off encounter to set up a Wembley final with Cardiff City, with a spot in the Premier League at stake...
Blackpool – the same Blackpool that were in League Two nine years earlier, the same Blackpool which looked destined to live in the shadow of Matthews and Mortensen for all eternity – are in the Championship play-off final.
They are 90 minutes away from slugging it out with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool. It is hard to take in, and yet it’s true.
The Seasiders will partake in the most important game in the club’s history (for, yes, it eclipses 1953 given what is at stake, especially financially).
Under no circumstances should we get too carried away, as it could all still fall flat at Wembley versus Cardiff.
Condolences to Forest, whose fans woke up this morning with the worst feeling a football fan can experience. Losing in the semi-final of a play-off is a nightmare – and this is the third time in three attempts their terrific club has suffered the indignity.
For Blackpool, the club with the second smallest budget and crowds in the division, and for that reason backed by neutrals everywhere last night – they now have a golden chance to live the dream of every football club outside of the elite few.
They are knocking on the door of the promised land, and boy did they make it to Wembley in style.
Forest hadn’t conceded at the City Ground in eight games and 12 hours prior to yesterday. Pool banged four past them and played supremely well, particularly in the second dream-like half.
Ian Holloway had promised all-out attack and stuck to his word. How refreshing to see a manager play with such positivity and he, perhaps more than anyone else, deserves this success.
After coming a cropper in his previous job at Leicester and being stuck in the footballing wilderness for a year, he has lit up Blackpool ever since swaggering into town last summer.
There aren’t words substantial enough to describe the job he’s done – it’s simply been truly magnificent.
Win at Wembley and Holloway will most likely get the freedom of the borough, and deservedly so.
Mind you, none of this ecstasy looked likely at about 8pm, as Alex Baptiste made what could be his first mistake of the season and Rob Earnshaw pounced.
The home fans went wild, and given that everyone in the Pool camp had spent the previous 24 hours talking about the importance of keeping it tight early on, the outlook seemed bleak.
But Pool displayed their character to recover impressively from the setback, Charlie Adam denied a stunning long-range goal by Lee Camp’s fingertips.
More than 60 per cent of possession belonged to Pool in the first period, and it was the same in the second – but crucially the Seasiders added goals.
There was a let-off just after the restart, Earnshaw latching onto Dexter Blackstock’s pass and netting, but being ruled offside by the narrowest of margins.
And then a huge moment 56 minutes in. Gary Taylor-Fletcher found DJ Campbell in space on the right side of the area and the frontman finished delightfully, clipping the ball over Camp.
That was it, Pool were on their way to Wembley. Ah, hang on a minute – Forest are no mugs, especially at home, and when the Seasiders failed to deal with a 66th-minute cross into the box, Earnshaw was on hand to blast home.
Back to biting the nails for the 2,000 fans of Pool persuasion huddled in the corner of the ground. But not for long.
On 71 minutes, Stephen Dobbie – 120 seconds after replacing Brett Ormerod – let fly from the edge of the box. The ball clipped Chris Cohen’s heels and deflected past Camp. And from then on the Seasiders were pretty much unstoppable.
Four minutes later, Campbell and Dobbie twice exchanged passes, and the former curled the ball in with his left foot.
Ben Burgess came on for Taylor-Fletcher and joined in the celebrations 10 minutes from time when Campbell completed his treble, tapping in after Dobbie’s shot had been parried.
Campbell almost claimed a fourth – his stoppage time solo effort striking the bar.
Forest snatched a consolation at the death – sub Dele Adebola stabbing in the loose ball – but it mattered not a jot.
An incredible 6-4 aggregate victory and Pool’s fourth win over Forest this season. Charlie Adam avoided getting booked and will lead the team out at Wembley.
Nights like these don’t happen often and should be enjoyed to the full. And judging by the amount of beer being carried aboard the coach at the end, the Seasiders squad will be doing just that.
Quite right, too. And then, after a couple of days painting the town red, it’s back to business. Wembley here we come. Has there ever been a better time to be a Blackpool supporter? Not for 57 years.
Forest: Camp, Perch (McGoldrick), Morgan, Wilson, Gunter, McKenna (Anderson), Majewski, Cohen, Blackstock (Adebola), Tyson, Earnshaw
Blackpool: Gilks, Coleman, Evatt, Baptiste, Crainey, Vaughan, Southern, Adam (Edwards), Taylor-Fletcher (Burgess), Campbell, Ormerod (Dobbie)