Luton 3-3 Blackpool (5-6 agg): Five things we learned

Kelvin Mellor heads towards goal for Blackpool's dramatic last-gasp winnerKelvin Mellor heads towards goal for Blackpool's dramatic last-gasp winner
Kelvin Mellor heads towards goal for Blackpool's dramatic last-gasp winner
Blackpool FC writer Matt Scrafton takes a look at the key talking points from the Seasiders' heart-stopping play-off semi-final win against Luton.

You couldn't have written that ending

If you're going to book your place in the play-off final, that's the way to do it. Talk about drama! Do Blackpool ever disappoint when they're in the play-offs? No wonder Sky Sports wanted it as their main game (sorry Exeter!). It was one of those classic matches where you experience every emotion possible during a 90-minute period. From elation and relief when Nathan Delfouneso opened the scoring to hand Blackpool a two-goal advantage in the tie, to panic and a sense of doom when the Hatters hit back to level the scores. There would have been anger when Danny Hylton blatantly dived to win himself a penalty which he arrogantly stuck away to give the Hatters the lead, but I'm not sure if words can do justice to the emotions that would have been felt when Armand Gnanduillet nodded home and Stuart Moore inadvertently forced the ball over his own line in the 95th and final minute of time. It's those sort of moments that remind us why we love football.

Pool never know when they're beaten

Heading into half time, with Luton 2-1 ahead on the night and the score 4-4 on aggregate, it appeared there was only going to be one winner. The Hatters had the Seasiders pinned against the ropes and they were ready to deliver the knockout punch. Pool were almost floored when the Hatters went ahead in the second period thanks to their controversial penalty, but they somehow picked themselves up, fought back heroically and won it in the dying seconds of the final round. That tells you everything you need to know about this Blackpool team. They have character and team spirit in abundance and that can only stand them in good stead at Wembley in the final. Going a goal down is never ideal but this Pool side never know when they're beaten, so they've always got a chance. Luton led 2-1 at half time in both legs and yet on both occasions Bowyer's men fought back to secure their place at Wembley. If they're losing against Exeter in the final, you'd be a fool to rule them out.

Substitutes changed the game

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

When Blackpool went 3-1 down on the night, Gary Bowyer reacted immediately by replacing Nathan Delfouneso with Armand Gnanduillet. The striker has been sidelined for the vast majority of the season and has even found it tough getting a spot on the bench, never mind any time on the pitch. But the Frenchman changed the game and the Luton backline just couldn't handle his physicality and sheer presence. He rose like a salmon to head past the flapping Luton keeper but could, and perhaps should have scored another at the death. But Pool's two other subs Ian Black and Bright Osayi-Samuel also played a key role. Osayi-Samuel stretched the Luton defence who looked completely terrified every time he came anywhere near them. Just like Gnanduillet, the teenager should have scored himself at the end when he skied over when well placed at the back post - not that it mattered in the end. Ian Black also played in the crucial corner kick which Kelvin Mellor headed towards goal, with the ball somehow squirming over the line to the delight of the men in tangerine.

Little sympathy for Luton

You have to feel sorry for the Luton fans for losing a game of this magnitude in this fashion. But the players and management team? Not for me, sorry. Nathan Jones is clearly an inexperienced, yet talented manager who is still finding his feet in the game but he's still got a lot to learn. First, his comments in the lead-up to the game left a lot to be desired and clearly acted as motivation for Gary Bowyer and his team. Jones claimed Bowyer tried to influence the referee in the first leg and was left furious when they conceded a penalty kick. He also focused his ire on Sky Sports for having the temerity to point out Scott Cuthbert's role in the awarding of the spot kick. Then there's Danny Hylton, who dived not once, not twice, not even three but FOUR times over the two legs to try and cheat his way to a penalty. It was third time lucky for the striker as Darren Deadman fell for his theatrical dive to point to the spot kick. Then there was the Luton fan who refused to give the ball back to Armand Gnanduillet in the dying moments. Well, it's fair to say justice was served at the death.

Blackpool are on their way to Wembley...again!

The focus now inevitably turns to the play-off final, where the Seasiders will take on Exeter City on Sunday, May 28 (3pm kick off). The Grecians' progression to the final mirrored Blackpool's thanks to a 6-5 aggregate win against Carlisle which came courtesy of an injury time winner. Pool had the edge over Exeter during their two league games, winning 2-0 at home before drawing 2-2 away - but that will count for little when the two teams walk out at Wembley. After all, who would have predicted Blackpool to beat Luton after failing to score in their two league defeats, only to run in six goals in their two play-off ties? The question on the lips of many will be: how many fans will turn out to watch? Those who have been steadfast in their boycotting this season have a decision to make - do they go and cheer their side on to a possible instant return to League One? Or do they stand firm and deny the Oystons any more money? It'll be fascinating to see what happens, but don't be surprised if there's a few surprises when it comes to ticket offers. It'll certainly be interesting.