The imperious play-off record Blackpool can take inspiration from in their battle against Oxford United, Sunderland and Lincoln City

Blackpool will be hoping to draw inspiration from the club’s already imperious play-off record when Neil Critchley’s side bid to clinch promotion to the Championship this month.

By Matt Scrafton
Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 11:00 am

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The Seasiders are only three games away from a return to the second tier after a six-year absence.

Critchley’s men face Oxford United over two legs in the semi-finals, with either Sunderland or Lincoln City awaiting in the Wembley final for the victor.

While the Seasiders haven’t won automatic promotion since 1985, they’re famously the most successful side in play-off history, with five promotions to their name from their eight campaigns.

They’re also the only team to win all three divisional play-off finals.

The club’s record is so strong, they’ve won 16 of the 23 play-off ties they’ve taken part in - an unprecedented success rate of almost 70 per cent.

Pool are unbeaten in their last 10 semi-final encounters and have lost just one of their last 15 play-off games - the Championship final defeat to West Ham, a game they really ought to have won.

Ian Holloway led the Seasiders to play-off glory in 2010

Blackpool’s rich play-off heritage began with heartbreak during the 1990/91 season, when they were beaten on penalties by Torquay United in the old Division Three final.

But Billy Ayre’s men bounced back in style the following season, this time coming out on top on spot kicks in the Wembley showpiece against Scunthorpe United.

After missing out on automatic promotion from the old Division Two during the 1995/96 campaign by a single point, the Seasiders - who were managed by a young Sam Allardyce at the time - fell at the semi-final hurdle for the only time in the club’s history.

How Pool managed to throw away a two-goal first leg lead remains a mystery to this day, the Seasiders succumbing to a 3-0 defeat to Bradford City in the decisive second leg on home turf.

The club got things back on track under Steve McMahon in 2001, as the Seasiders saw off Leyton Orient in the Division Three final after beating Hartlepool United home and away in the semis.

Six years later, Blackpool won 10 games in a row under Simon Grayson to clinch promotion to the Championship, beating Oldham Athletic in both legs of the semi-final before seeing off Yeovil Town in the final.

But the club’s most memorable and famous play-off triumph came in 2010, when Ian Holloway, Charlie Adam and co overcame all the odds to win promotion to the Premier League.

The Seasiders beat Nottingham Forest home and away in dramatic fashion in both legs of the semi-final, while a 3-2 victory over Cardiff City in the final confirmed the club’s unbelievable rise to the top flight.

After being relegated from the Premier League on the final day, Holloway’s side almost returned at the first attempt when they reached the Championship play-offs once again.

Pool beat Birmingham City at Bloomfield Road in the first leg of the semi-finals, while a 2-2 draw at St Andrew’s - which ended the club’s run of 10 straight play-off wins - got the job done.

The Seasiders performed superbly against West Ham in the final, but Ricardo Vaz Te struck an 87th-minute winner to break Pool’s hearts and, in the process, end the club’s run of 11 unbeaten play-off games.

Pool even managed to win a play-off without the vast majority of supporters in attendance, as Gary Bowyer led the club back to League One at the first attempt in the midst of the fan boycott against the club’s despised previous owners, the Oystons.

After sneaking into the top seven late on in the season, Pool beat Luton Town 3-2 at home before a highly dramatic 3-3 draw at Kenilworth Road sealed their spot in the final, where they were 2-1 winners against Exeter City.

Can the Seasiders produce a remarkable six play-off triumph? We won’t have long to find out.

Blackpool’s play-off record


Semi-final first leg - Scunthorpe United 1-1 Blackpool DRAW

Sem-final second leg - Blackpool 2-1 Scunthorpe United WIN

Final - Torquay United (p) 2-2 Blackpool LOSE


Semi-final first leg - Barnet 1-0 Blackpool LOSE

Semi-final second leg - Blackpool 2-0 Barnet WIN

Final - Blackpool (p) 1-1 Scunthorpe United WIN


Semi-final first leg - Bradford City 0-2 Blackpool WIN

Semi-final second leg - Blackpool 0-3 Bradford City LOSE


Semi-final first leg - Blackpool 2-0 Hartlepool United WIN

Semi-final second leg - Hartlepool United 1-3 Blackpool WIN

Final - Blackpool 4-2 Leyton Orient WIN


Semi-final first leg - Oldham Athletic 1-2 Blackpool WIN

Semi-final second leg - Blackpool 3-1 Oldham Athletic WIN

Final - Blackpool 2-0 Yeovil Town WIN


Semi-final first leg - Blackpool 2-1 Nottingham Forest WIN

Semi-final second leg - Nottingham Forest 3-4 Blackpool WIN

Final - Cardiff City 2-3 Blackpool WIN


Semi-final first leg - Blackpool 1-0 Birmingham City WIN

Semi-final second leg - Birmingham City 2-2 Blackpool DRAW

Final - Blackpool 1-2 West Ham LOSE


Semi-final first leg - Blackpool 3-2 Luton Town WIN

Semi-final second leg - Luton Town 3-3 Blackpool DRAW

Final - Blackpool 2-1 Exeter City WIN

Played - 23

Won - 16

Drawn - 3

Lost - 4

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