Blackpool sealed a return to the Championship after a six-year absence by beating Lincoln City in the League One play-off final at Wembley.
The Tangerines had a calamitous start when Ollie Turton put Brennan Johnson’s cross in his own net within 50 seconds.
Kenny Dougall levelled before half-time for Blackpool with an accurate low drive into the bottom left-hand corner.
After the break he fired home with a similar low strike from outside the box as Blackpool completed their comeback.
Victory for Blackpool means they return to the Championship for the first time after their relegation from the second tier in 2014-15.
They conceded the fewest goals in League One this season – yet came undone within seconds of kick-off after Turton slotted the ball into his own net.
That goal, however, came following a good first passage of play from Lincoln as they stretched Blackpool out having quickly worked the ball down the wing.
Blackpool goalkeeper Chris Maxwell failed to deal with Johnson’s cross, leading to Turton picking up the unenviable record of scoring the fastest League One play-off final goal and fastest own goal from the start of a club fixture at Wembley.
Unnerved by their start, Maxwell pulled off a fine save to tip Jorge Grant’s strike onto the bar midway through the first half, while Demetri Mitchell forced Lincoln keeper Alex Palmer into a quickfire stop at the other end just minutes later.
Blackpool levelled with 10 minutes to go until half-time when Dougall fired a low drive into the Lincoln net and celebrated immediately in front of their supporters behind the goal.
He fired in a similar strike to seal promotion early in the second period, with Lincoln unable to respond, as Blackpool won their sixth promotion through the English Football League play-offs.
Dougall’s double sends Blackpool up
When Blackpool were here on another sunny day in May 2010, the sky was the limit for the plucky Tangerines as they beat Cardiff City in that season’s Championship play-offs to seal a place in the Premier League.
Six years later, off-the-field matters involving their previous ownership overshadowed matters on the pitch, leading to two successive relegations and fourth-tier football for a club who had entertained the giants of English football at Bloomfield Road not long before.
Fans came together and the ‘Not A Penny More’ campaign kicked off, with supporters vowing not to attend the club’s matches.
When they won promotion from League Two at the first time of asking, again through the play-offs in 2017, there was a sparse amount of Blackpool fans at Wembley.
Once again, there was a reduced number of their supporters in attendance on Sunday, but this time for much different reasons.
After Simon Sadler took over the club from the Oyston family in 2019, the fans returned – whether physically or otherwise because of the pandemic – and under former Liverpool Under-23s coach Neil Critchley, the club have excelled on the pitch.
In the end it was Australian Dougall who pulled Blackpool up from their unwelcome start, his glory made all the sweeter considering he had been without a club and training on his own after his release from Barnsley last summer.
In the end he repaid Blackpool’s loyalty and in some style with a pair of excellent strikes to send his side back to the second tier and continue their rebuild.
The wait goes on for Lincoln
For a team which were playing outside the top four leagues as recently as 2016-17, Lincoln City have certainly kept up their momentum, yet were undone after Blackpool put in a fine comeback.
After their promotion as National League champions in that season, the Imps have never looked back and regrouped well after losing manager Danny Cowley to Huddersfield in 2019.
Cowley, with his brother Nicky, enjoyed incredible success with the club, leading them to an FA Cup quarter-final as a non-league club, promotions from National League to League One in three seasons and the EFL Trophy.
Michael Appleton stepped in soon after and, following a coronavirus-impacted 2020-21 campaign, eventually guided the club to a play-off place after a blistering start.
The club last played second-tier football 60 years ago and, after their dream opening at Wembley, they looked well placed to make their return by stunning a resilient Blackpool defence.
However, they could not match the Tangerines on the counter and, despite a number of chances in the second half, they were unable to find a response to Dougall’s double.
Blackpool boss Neil Critchley told BBC Radio Lancashire:
“How not to start a play-off final – we did it. I have to say the response from that [own goal] was magnificent and it sums up the character and resilience of this group.
“We stayed calm and we played our way back into the game thanks to a fantastic strike from Kenny.
“The next five or 10 minutes [after the own goal], the team settled me down with the way they played and there was a calmness about us, there was no panic.”
Lincoln manager Michael Appleton told BBC Radio Lincolnshire:
“Clearly we got off to a fantastic start [but] whether it was too quick and too good a start, who knows.
“We’ve competed quite well, we’ve been in the game, we’ve played OK but OK doesn’t win you finals and ultimately that’s what it comes down to.
“The better side on the day won the game – they earned the right to win the game, I’m not sure if we did.
“If I was to mark them [the players] over the season out of 10 it’d probably be nine – today somewhere between six-and-a-half and seven, and that’s the difference.”
- 26BallardBooked at 48mins
- 3HusbandBooked at 84mins
- 29GarbuttBooked at 8mins
- 15MitchellSubstituted forMadineat 69′minutes
- 12DougallBooked at 90mins
- 8AndersonSubstituted forWardat 79′minutes
- 32EmbletonSubstituted forHamiltonat 79′minutes
- 9YatesSubstituted forThornileyat 90′minutes
- 16WalshSubstituted forMontsmaat 88′minutes
- 23BridcuttBooked at 66mins
- 10GrantSubstituted forScullyat 80′minutes
- 9HopperSubstituted forMortonat 63′minutes
- Tony Harrington
Match ends, Blackpool 2, Lincoln City 1.
Second Half ends, Blackpool 2, Lincoln City 1.
Liam Bridcutt (Lincoln City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by CJ Hamilton (Blackpool).
Attempt missed. Regan Poole (Lincoln City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high following a set piece situation.
Kenneth Dougall (Blackpool) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Conor McGrandles (Lincoln City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Kenneth Dougall (Blackpool).
Corner, Lincoln City. Conceded by Danny Ballard.
Substitution, Blackpool. Jordan Thorniley replaces Jerry Yates.
Offside, Lincoln City. Timothy Eyoma tries a through ball, but Lewis Montsma is caught offside.
Substitution, Lincoln City. Lewis Montsma replaces Joe Walsh.
Attempt missed. Morgan Rogers (Lincoln City) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Anthony Scully.
Attempt missed. Brennan Johnson (Lincoln City) left footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left.
Attempt missed. Callum Morton (Lincoln City) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Brennan Johnson with a cross.
James Husband (Blackpool) is shown the yellow card.
Callum Morton (Lincoln City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by James Husband (Blackpool).
Foul by Callum Morton (Lincoln City).
Danny Ballard (Blackpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.