Blackpool's Championship memories: Birmingham City draw sets up a Wembley return

With Blackpool back in the Championship, we’re recalling the Seasiders’ previous stint in the second tier from 2011-15.

Friday, 14th January 2022, 3:00 pm

This week, it’s May 2012 when a 2-2 draw at Birmingham City set up another Wembley play-off final, as reported by STEVE CANAVAN…

Blow me, they’ve gone and done it again.

What the hell is going on with this club?

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Stephen Dobbie celebrates opening the scoring

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In the old days we knew where we were. A narrow defeat was considered a half-decent result, a draw was cause for five celebratory pints down the pub.

Fans used to look forward to a trip to Boundary Park. Huddersfield was a glamour clash – it was greeted with the same excitement as a two-week holiday to Greece.

Then in stepped Simon Grayson and things took a turn for the better, then he was followed by Ian Holloway and miracles happened.

Matt Phillips scored his 12th Blackpool goal of the season

The only downside – can’t believe I’m writing that on a day like this – was that Pool didn’t make it 11 consecutive wins in play-off matches, a run stretching back to Steve McMahon’s reign in 2001.

But, hey, we’ll let the lads off for that – this draw will do just fine.

We’ve had it quite good in recent years haven’t we?

Three promotions via the play-offs – from bottom division to top.

Blackpool supporters could ponder another trip to Wembley

After all the build-up, Pool almost made what might have been the worst start in play-off history.

With less than 20 seconds on the clock, the Seasiders failed to clear their lines and Chris Burke’s goalbound shot was blocked by Ian Evatt.

Tom Ince had the first real effort for the Tangerines and it was a good chance too.

Receiving the ball at his feet from Stephen Crainey’s beautiful 50-yard crossfield pass, Ince danced between David Murphy and Andros Townsend and had a clear sight of goal.

His left-footed effort was too close to Colin Doyle and the keeper saved.

Ince had another golden opportunity seven minutes in.

Again picked out by another wonderful raking pass – this time from Evatt – the 20-year-old beat Murphy and cut into the right side of the penalty area, but was again denied by Doyle.

As he ran through, Ince was being grabbed by Murphy and should have gone down – it would surely have been a penalty and a sending off for Birmingham’s left-back.

The good thing, though, was that Pool had clearly settled quickly and were having some success, bossing the early stages.

Alex Baptiste made an important last-ditch tackle on dangerman Burke as he raced into the area.

From the corner, Baptiste headed into his own six-yard box and the Seasiders had to scramble the ball clear.

Burke – 14 goals this season – missed by a yard or so with a curling left-footer from the edge of the box.

Already he was looking the home side’s most menacing figure.

A big let off came on 13 minutes when Marlon King sent Murphy’s left-wing centre crashing against the bar.

After hitting post and bar at Bloomfield Road, the striker must be thoroughly sick of the woodwork.

Then Gary Taylor-Fletcher headed Ince’s chip across goal, rather than at it.

He was trying to pick out Angel Martinez but it might have been better to be more selfish – he was all alone six yards out.

Nikola Zigic had a decent effort saved by Matt Gilks, then Crainey tried his luck from 25 yards but the ball fizzed wide.

Before the half was out, Pool got the goal they deserved – though no one realised for a long, weird moment.

It came straight from a corner. Ince whipped it in, it skimmed off a Birmingham head, Baptiste’s overhead kick was blocked and Stephen Dobbie fired a slightly tame shot goalward.

Embarrassingly for Doyle, it ended up in the net, the keeper beaten at his near post.

The Pool fans at the far end couldn’t see a thing and so, rather comically given the massive importance of the moment, no one reacted.

Dobbie had been celebrating on the far side for a good 15 seconds before the away contingent realised what had happened.

Suffice it to say, when they cottoned on, they were rather happy.

Two minutes into the second period, the night got a whole lot better.

With Pool surely expecting a Birmingham bombardment, the reverse happened.

Martinez chipped a lovely ball into Matt Phillips, who turned and sent a left-foot shot past Doyle and in off the post.

The away fans, amassed behind the goal, saw that one. Cue delirium.

Bizarrely, in a match with so much riding on it, an air of calm suddenly settled over the lads in tangerine.

The home side, as they had to, threw everyone forward and it almost paid off.

Birmingham got a lifeline thanks to a dubious decision by the linesman.

Burke’s pass through Blackpool’s back four was clever but Zigic was offside when he collected the pass and beat Gilks.

Holloway sensibly moved to tighten things up, replacing Ince with Keith Southern.

Seconds later, a golden chance for Birmingham but Guiranne N’Daw failed to convert, then Gilks made a terrific save with his legs at point-blank range from King.

Suddenly the home side had their tails up and disaster on 73 minutes when Curtis Davies rose above a sea of players to head home from a corner.

Pool panicked briefly. Birmingham were in the ascendency, and the Seasiders found themselves pinned back.

On came Nouha Dicko for Dobbie. A sensible move.

It gave the team an outlet ball – forget pretty passing football, they could hoof it and hope the speedy loan lad from Wigan got on the end of it.

It worked. Suddenly Pool looked a lot calmer and Birmingham lost their impetus.

Holloway’s men even came close to adding another goal, Dicko’s header hooked off the line by Zigic before the frontman glanced Barry Ferguson’s free-kick just wide.

The home crowd increasingly got frustrated, which suited the Seasiders down to the ground, and it stayed that way to the end.

So here we go again. Get those hotels booked and Wembley watch out.

It is about to turn tangerine again and all those saying West Ham will walk it are taking a risk.

Holloway and his incredible players never stick to the script. Saturday, May 19 – I can’t wait.

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