Blackpool hero Cullen's career high
Mark Cullen described his hat-trick in the first leg of Blackpool's play-off semi-final against Luton Town as a highlight of his career.
The striker’s three goals handed the Seasiders a 3-2 lead going into Thursday night’s deciding second leg at Kenilworth Road.
Cullen, who played for Luton from 2013 to 2015 before arriving at Bloomfield Road, gave his side an early lead in what turned out to be a frantic, topsy-turvy affair in front of the TV cameras.
The visitors fought back and scored twice in the space of two minutes before Cullen added another two in the second half, his second an absolute cracker, to hand his side a slender advantage.
“It was a good night for me,” Cullen said. “We’ve managed to get a good result and I’ve got three goals, so I can’t complain.
“I thought it was a really good game throughout and to score goals is always pleasing, but to score three in one game, in a play-off game as well, is a big highlight in my career.
“But we’ve got to focus now and get ready for Thursday night.
“We’ve got to go down there and we’re under no illusions it’s going to be another tough game. We’ve got to be right at it again.”
The 25-year-old’s first goal may have come in slightly fortunate circumstances, when his low shot trickled over the line after a fumble by Luton goalkeeper Stuart Moore.
But his second was anything but fortunate – a shot which curled into the top corner from 25 yards.
The striker then showed impressive courage to step up to take a penalty for a foul on Tom Aldred and complete his hat-trick.
Cullen added: “Me and Vass (Kyle Vassell) tried a little link-up for the first goal and I think it’s ricocheted off a defender. It’s just fallen to me, and I’ve hit it hard and low towards goal.
“I think the keeper fumbled it a bit but it crept in.
“We said at half-time that if we keep going we could still win the game.
“We knew we would create more chances. I managed to curl one into the top corner, which was nice.
“I would have been on the penalty anyway, but to get my hat-trick from the spot was a nice way to do it.
“I missed my last one against Doncaster, so it took a bit of courage and I’m pleased it went in.”
Blackpool’s second leg at Kenilworth Road on Thursday kicks off at 7.45pm.
The other semi-final is also delicately poised after Carlisle recovered from 3-1 down to draw their home leg with Exeter 3-3.