Exeter City 2-3 Blackpool: Joe Dodoo, Mark Cullen and Harry Pritchard net as Seasiders progress in FA Cup
A much-changed Blackpool side progressed to the second round of the FA Cup with a narrow victory on the road at League Two Exeter City.
In what was the first meeting between the two sides since Pool’s League Two play-off final triumph at Wembley last year, Terry McPhillips’ men avoided a repeat of last season’s first round when they were beaten by lower league opposition in Boreham Wood.
Today’s game looked to be as good as over after a storming opening 25 minutes, with goals from Joe Dodoo, Mark Cullen and Harry Pritchard putting Blackpool three ahead.
But the hosts pulled one back with 20 minutes to go through Jordan Tillson, who tapped home on the rebound after Christoffer Mafoumbi had saved a penalty.
A second from Tristan Abrahams in the final minute of normal time set up a nervy four minutes of stoppage time, but the Seasiders managed to cling on and put their name into the hat for the second round draw, which is made on Monday.
Pool made wholesale changes for the cup clash, two of them enforced with Marc Bola and Jay Spearing nursing slight knocks.
The duo were two of five players to drop out of the first team from Tuesday night’s 1-0 win at Gillingham, with Michael Nottingham, Chris Taylor and Nathan Delfouneso also dropping to the bench.
Ryan McLaughlin, Jordan Thompson, Harry Pritchard, John O’Sullivan and Joe Dodoo were the five to be handed starts.
Mark Howard and Donervon Daniels missed out again through injury, while Paudie O’Connor and Armand Gnanduillet remained suspended.
Steve Davies was named on the subs bench for the first time since signing for the club in October. In Spearing's absence, Curtis Tilt took the captain's armband.
With just 90 seconds on the clock, Blackpool were ahead. It came via a superb team move, starting at the back with Ben Heneghan sending a diagonal ball out to Harry Pritchard out on the left.
The midfielder lobbed a cross to John O’Sullivan at the back post who nodded back across goal to Joe Dodoo, who sent a low header beyond Exeter keeper James Hamon and into the bottom corner.
Despite their early blow, Exeter went in search of an instant response and nearly got one on five minutes, as midfielder Jordan Tillson blazed over the bar when well placed on the edge of the Blackpool box.
Dodoo came close to grabbing a second on 13 minutes when the ball fell for him in the Exeter box, only to see his curling effort charged down by a defender.
At the other end, Christoffer Mafoumbi continued his fine form from the midweek win at Gillingham by making a smart stop low down to deny Jonathan Forte, who had got in behind the Blackpool defence.
With barely 20 minutes on the clock, Blackpool were two goals ahead. The second came via a Jordan Thompson corner, which was diverted into the back of the net from a crowded six-yard box, with Mark Cullen claiming the goal.
It got even better for Blackpool as they made it three on 24 minutes, Harry Pritchard bundling home at the back post after Dodoo had dragged his shot into the midfielder’s path.
Following the third, Blackpool were happy to sit back on their commanding lead and were patient in possession, playing some lovely one and two-touch interchanging football.
The first half ended with Exeter’s Luke Croll sending his deflected header just wide of the Blackpool upright in time added on.
The Seasiders went in search of more goals at the start of the second period, with Callum Guy and O’Sullivan both going close in quick succession.
The resulting corner fell to Guy on the edge of the box and the midfielder sent a vicious effort rocketing towards goal, only to see Hamon tip his shot wide.
The hosts began to mount some pressure on the Blackpool goal, with Mafoumbi called into action on the hour mark to parry away Nicky Law’s free kick before Jayden Stockley flicked a header over the bar.
The Grecians did eventually pull one back with 20 minutes to go after McLaughlin conceded a penalty after bringing Archie Collins down in the box.
Pierce Sweeney’s spot kick was actually saved by Mafoumbi but Tillson tapped into the back of the net on the rebound.
Pool, for the second game running, managed the final minutes of the game well, keeping Exeter at arm’s length at all times.
Exeter's had a chance to set up a nervy finish on 87 minutes, when space opened up for Stockley but the striker opted to shoot instead of pass and his tame effort was easily claimed by Mafoumbi.
But two minutes later his strike partner Tristan Abrahams did find the back of the net to make it 3-2, with his effort deflecting up and over Mafoumbi.
The home side ralled in the four minutes of stoppage time in search of a late equaliser to send the game to a replay, but Pool managed to hold on.
Exeter: Hamon, Sweeney (Oates), Woodman, O'Shea, Tilson, Law, Croll, Taylor, Collins, Forte (Abrahams), Stockley
Subs not used: Weale, Martin, Jay, Dean
Blackpool: Mafoumbi, McLaughlin (Delfouneso), Heneghan, Tilt, Turton, Guy, Thompson, Pritchard, O'Sullivan (Nottingham), Dodoo, Cullen (Feeney)
Subs not used: Boney, Avon, Taylor, Davies
Referee: Lee Collins
Attendance: 3,188 (113 Blackpool)