Tuesday 16 January 2018

Hughton's woe as Blackpool cling on

(Blackpool win 3-2 on agg)

Birmingham 2 Blackpool 2

Blackpool sealed a showdown with West Ham in the Championship play-off final after an absorbing semi-final second leg at St Andrew's last night.

Leading 1-0 from the first leg, the Tangerines took firm control of the tie with goals minutes either side of half-time from Stephen Dobbie and Matt Phillips.

Nikola Zigic gave the Blues a glimmer of hope before skipper Curtis Davies headed the equaliser on the night -- but the hosts could not find a crucial winner which would have levelled the tie on aggregate and taken the contest into extra-time. So, their 62nd match of a long season proved the last.

Blackpool now meet the Hammers at Wembley on May 19, with the most lucrative match in football gifting the winners an immediate return to the Premier League.

Both Blackpool and Birmingham, and respective managers Ian Holloway and Chris Hughton, had performed superbly in reaching the play-offs, having rebuilt their ranks following relegation from the top flight 12 months ago.

But additional credit must now go to Holloway for guiding his side to the showpiece final for the second time in three seasons, although they will have to improve upon 4-0 and 4-1 defeats to West Ham during the regular league season.

Blues fans chanted 'there's only one Chris Hughton' at the final whistle, with speculation linking the former Ireland international to the vacancy at West Brom.

Irish Independent

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