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Play-off match report: Blackpool reach final despite Birmingham comeback

A late rally from Chris Hughton’s side was not enough to prevent them from going out on aggregate.

Ian Evatt celebrates his side's victory.
Ian Evatt celebrates his side's victory.

BLACKPOOL EDGED THEIR way into the Championship play-off final after a 2-2 draw with Birmingham at St Andrew’s sealed a 3-2 aggregate win.

Stephen Dobbie struck for the visitors on the stroke of half-time before Matt Phillips looked to have put the tie beyond Birmingham with a goal just after the restart.

But Chris Hughton’s men rallied back as goals from Nikola Zigic and Curtis Davies set up a tense finish.

Blackpool held their nerve to see out the draw, booking a date with West Ham United at Wembley on May 19 with promotion to the English Premier League at stake.

A frantic opening saw both teams create early chances, with Marlon King coming closest for Birmingham as he volleyed David Murphy’s cross onto the crossbar.

Blackpool started to exert their authority and wasted a good opportunity when Thomas Ince crossed to an unmarked Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who failed to hit the target with a tame header.

In similar fashion to the first leg, Blackpool took the lead moments before the half-time whistle.

Birmingham failed to clear an Ince corner and, after Alex Baptiste’s overhead kick was blocked, Dobbie was on hand to sweep home the opener past goalkeeper Colin Doyle.

The visitors picked up where they left off after the break and found themselves in a comfortable position in the tie in the 48th minute as Phillips pounced on Stephen Crainey’s lofted through pass to strike past Doyle.

Just as Blackpool appeared in command, Holloway’s men allowed Birmingham back into the tie on 64 minutes.

Blackpool failed to deal with a long pass down the right, and as play shifted towards the middle, Chris Burke threaded a pass through to Zigic, who coolly slotted past Matt Gilks.

Davies then powered in a header from a Jordon Mutch corner in the 73rd minute to bring Birmingham within a goal of forcing extra-time, but Blackpool held on in a tense finish.

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