Close, but no cigar

It all started on a Friday night in Hull. The game at the KC Stadium was the first of the season, it was also live on TV. The match was nothing to write home about until Gary Taylor Fletcher scored a goal from nowhere late in the second half to gift the Seasiders 3 points. It was a positive start, a nice away win on the first day of the season from a team that had just been relegated from the Premier League.

Ian Holloway did not hide his disappointment at relegation, these feelings were also expressed by a large number of the playing squad. Relegation hurts and Blackpool suffered a relegation hangover in the first few months of the season. Nevertheless we managed to pick up eleven points in our first six games and find ourselves sitting just outside the play-off places. From the middle of September we became ‘consistently inconsistent’, we would win a game in style then crumble to pieces to the next week, this went on for a couple of months but we still managed to get enough points to keep ourselves in check for a play-off place, once again we found ourselves on the fringes of the play-off places come the turn of the year.

An impressive FA Cup run potentially stopped the tangerines from successfully breaking into the play-off places but Everton put an end to the run in the middle February with a 2-0 defeat of Blackpool at Goodison Park. Blackpool could now focus on their league form which they did. A 4-1 loss at home to West Ham in which the Hammers goalkeeper Rob Green got sent off on 53 minutes when the score was 2-1 started a spell of games in which Blackpool gained only 6 points in 8 games. A televised game against leaders Southampton was just the kick up the backside Blackpool needed, Pool ran out 3-0 winners and gained a foothold in the play-off places.

After the 3-0 win against Saints Blackpool didn’t lose a game, they managed to pick up 9 points from 18 and qualify for the play-offs. Birmingham City were next up, in the previous two fixtures Blackpool had fallen foul to Nicola Zigic whose 87 minute equaliser deflated the Bloomfield Road crowd back in November.

The visit to St.Andrews on New Years Eve was a lesson in stopping your opponents from scoring. Chris Hughton lined his Blues team up to pin Blackpool back, Birmingham had plenty of chances in the game and ended up running out 3-0 winners. The play-offs are a different story though. Blackpool have a pretty good record in play-off games. Blackpool had won their previous 9 play-off games – a run that started on 13 May 2001 with a 2-0 victory over Hartlepool in the basement division at Bloomfield Road and Pool were to make it a magnificent 10 games without a loss. Blackpool ran out 1-0 winners but in reality it should have been more. Stephen Dobbie missed a host of chances and if it were not for Marlon King’s late effort hitting the outside of the post in the very last-minute of the game then Blackpool would have approached the 2nd leg at St. Andrews with a different style.

The 2nd leg was one of the most dramatic games of the season. Blackpool extended their 1-0 lead from the first leg when Stephen Dobbie shot from close range, Colin Doyle fumbled the ball into his own net. Blackpool led 1-0 on the night and 2-0 in the tie when half-time approached. Matty Phillips’ goal shortly after the break gave Blackpool a three-goal cushion, Blackpool fans were in dreamland, could we make it 2 play-off finals in 3 seasons? A spirited comeback was not enough for Birmingham to take the tie into extra-time and Blackpool booked their place at Wembley.

The Championship play-off final was one to behold, Blackpool bossed the game for large spells but thanks to missing a host of chances it was Carlton Cole and Ricardo Vaz Te who had the last say on Blackpool’s magical season. When all the smoke had gone, all the confetti cleared off the Wembley turf and all the fans had dispersed it was West Ham United who claimed the final spot in next seasons Premier League. It just wasn’t to be but boy did we have fun getting there, again.

The plaudits have to go to Ian Holloway and his assistant Steve Thompson for Blackpool’s second Championship play-off final in three seasons. After losing key players like DJ Campbell, David Vaughan and talisman Charlie Adam in the summer most Blackpool fans would have settled for a mid-table finish, that’s what makes our 5th place finish special.

Ian Holloway and his players were understandably deflated after the 2-1 loss against West Ham. Ollie has already lined up a meeting with chairman Karl Oyston to discuss next season’s budget and with a little financial backing I honestly think Blackpool can make a real go for automatic promotion. Club captain Barry Ferguson is already quoted as saying “Next season we are going straight up, it’s as simple as that” and Ian Holloway said via a phone message at the player of the year awards that “he’s sick of the play-offs and is going for automatic promotion next season. The intention is there so it’s now up to the chairman to back his manager.

Keeping hold of star players like Matty Phillips, subject of  £3m bids from Reading and Swansea, Tom Ince and manager Ian Holloway will be a key factor in our promotion bid next season. If we can keep hold of at least one of Phillips or Ince then the future is looking bright. Despite the season we’ve had, ending in heartache at Wembley I’m immensely proud of my team and I’m already looking forward to next season. Premier League football would have been nice but the Championship is a great league to play in. Here’s to next season.

Written by Adam Kinder, We Are Going Up’s Blackpool blogger

Adam tweets at @adam_kinder

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