Play-off final preview: Late fightback sees Blackpool and Lincoln City share four goals
Blackpool are bidding for a return to the Championship on Sunday when they meet Lincoln City in the League One promotion play-off final at Wembley.
The two sides only faced each other last month, sharing four goals at Sincil Bank as MATT SCRAFTON reported at the time.....
It goes without saying that drawing at a potential promotion rival is far from being the worst result in the world.
Most Blackpool fans might have even taken it before kick-off but, given the circumstances in how the Seasiders were pegged back, it’s fair to say it felt like a defeat.
There was a dejected mood among the players and even the coaching staff, who engaged in a lengthy debrief outside the changing room after full-time before Neil Critchley managed to compose himself to deliver a typically measured post-match interview.
For me, that’s a very good sign. This Blackpool side aren’t prepared to settle for draws, even if it’s against a side that has led the table for much of the season.
We all know you don’t always get what you deserve in football, but a point was the least Blackpool’s efforts merited at Sincil Bank.
In truth, we should be discussing a comprehensive victory that made it six wins in a row away from home.
Instead, because of their failure to kill the game off, the Seasiders were forced to settle for a draw that at least extends their unbeaten run to 14 games, the longest streak any side has enjoyed in League One this season.
If Blackpool are able to bounce back in style and beat Accrington Stanley at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday night, this draw will soon be forgotten about.
Indeed, in hindsight, it could well turn out to be an important point.
If there’s one lesson to be learned, it’s the need to put teams to bed when you have them at their mercy.
Generally speaking, the Seasiders have been much improved in that regard in recent weeks, especially when you compare it to earlier in the season.
Lincoln, who were badly beaten up, shouldn’t have even been given the opportunity to get off the ropes.
It’s hard to be too critical of Critchley’s men because, barring two isolated incidents, they were magnificent once again.
Their football was crisp, it was incisive and it was effective but, most impressively for me, it was intelligent.
At times they got the ball down and played it around the Imps, while at other stages in the game, they went a little longer and caused slightly different problems for the home side.
Pool squandered three good chances before they eventually edged their noses in front eight minutes before half-time.
Ellis Simms rifled one just wide of the post and into the side-netting with the aid of a deflection, Sullay Kaikai had a close-range free-kick well saved before Ollie Turton headed wide when he ought to have thumped home.
The home side, by comparison, only had one opportunity to speak of in the opening half.
It was a fairly good one though, as Conor McGrandles rounded Chris Maxwell before firing into the side-netting.
There was no doubt Blackpool were the side on top though and deservedly broke the deadlock in the 37th minute when Simms capitalised on some hesitancy in Lincoln’s backline to emphatically power home his fifth goal for the club.
Simms, ably supported by his strike partner Jerry Yates, was in magnificent form throughout and Lincoln simply had no answer for him.
The Everton loanee, who is still only 20, let’s remember, used his size and strength to good effect to bully Lincoln’s centre-halves while combining superbly with Yates, who looked unsurprisingly full of confidence and did everything right once again.
Everything right but score, that is.
Both Simms and Yates had their chances. The latter even managed to get in the way of one of Simms’ efforts.
The two played a starring role in Blackpool’s second, which was finished off thanks to a composed, sweeping effort from Kaikai.
A half-clearance of sorts from Kenny Dougall was driven by Simms into the path of Yates, who delivered a deft little flick which parted Lincoln’s defence like the Red Sea.
There was a good 10 to 15 yards of space for Kaikai to surge into and he was only too grateful to do exactly that before slotting beyond Alex Palmer.
As team goals go, and Pool have scored some sterling efforts in recent weeks, that was right up there.
The visitors continued to get their build-up play spot on but, as they went in search of a quick third and fourth, it was their final touch that was lacking.
Yates, who came into this game with six goals in his past four games, should really have added to that tally but he didn’t do a great deal wrong.
Lincoln weren’t exactly banging on the door but, having been given a fresh impetus with no fewer than five subs, the hosts reduced the deficit with a goal out of nothing.
Anthony Scully, one of the five to come off the bench, was the man to fire into the back of the empty net when Maxwell had been left floored after parrying a powerful cross away from goal.
Then, with just six minutes remaining, the Imps would produce a repeat of the late drama we saw between the teams at Bloomfield Road earlier in the season.
The dangerous Brennan Johnson latched onto a clever through ball before driving high into the roof of the Blackpool net. They were the first goals Blackpool had conceded on the road in almost nine hours of action.
Could the Seasiders have had a bit more luck with refereeing decisions? Perhaps.
Callum Morton was fortunate to survive with just a booking after a crunching challenge on Maxwell in the opening minute while Timothy Eyoma survived a handball shout in the dying stages of stoppage time.
Blackpool didn’t fail to win because of the referee, it was their failure to convert their numerous chances that was their downfall.
Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 per month for the first two months. Try us today by clicking here