Blackpool v Lincoln City
League One Play-Off Final
Sunday 30th May, kick-off 15:00
Live on Sky Sports
Critchley the tower of strength
All hail Neil Critchley. The former Liverpool coach was written off by me at the start of the season, so credit must go to the Blackpool board when things were not working. Crtichley asked for patience and time and it paid off. He led the team to third in the table with 80 points - just nine behind Hull City the champions - and their budget dwarfs that of the Seasiders. He would be my manager of the year by some way.
They were superb from the end of January and hardly put a foot wrong with 13 wins and just three losses.
Both of these finalists have outperformed the expectations. If Blackpool win, it would mark a return to the second tier of English football for the first time since 2015 when they were relegated. The Tower will be lit up to honour their achievement.
Their road to Wembley was a goalfest against Oxford - winning 6-3 on aggregate. The return leg at Bloomfield Road was a crazy 3-3 in which I got everything wrong, but the damage was done to Oxford at the Kassam with a professional 3-0 success.
This is Blackpool's eighth Football League play-off final appearance, at least three more than any other team. They have won promotion five times via the play-offs, also the most of any side.
The counter-attacking masters
The past couple of weeks have been dramatic to say the least for Lincoln. They booked their play-off final spot thanks to a marvellous second half display at the Stadium Of Light. The Black Cats threw everything they could muster at Michael Appleton's side, and raced into a two goal advantage backed by a vocal crowd. But Appleton, who is normally so pensive and quiet, asked for a big second 45 and he got it.
Conor McGrandles and Joe Walsh changed the game, and the second-half was one of their best of the season in terms of occasion and pressure.
Lincoln's campaign was built on 77 points, but their mainstay was the away form of 13 wins and just four losses. They are the best counter-attacking team in the league.
Appleton's men are looking to reach the second tier of English football for the first time in 60 years, last playing at that level in 1960-61. They could be the first ever team to win promotion from the non-league, fourth tier and third tier in the space of five seasons, having won the National League in 2016-17 and League Two in 2018-19.
Taking into account the pair of League One matches between Blackpool and Lincoln this season produced nine goals - a 3-2 win for the Imps at Bloomfield Road and a 2-2 draw at Sincil Bank, the layers could be out to get the Seasiders on those two results as the shorter of the two in the betting at 2.447/5. It's just about in laying range. No bigger than 2.56/4 is my remit.
However - the team finishing third in the table has been promoted 13 times in the history of the English third tier play-offs, the best tally of any position. In the last two seasons the third-place team has won the League One play-off final - Charlton Athletic in 2018-19 and Wycombe Wanderers in 2019-20.And we all remember how Wycombe totally blew away Oxford 12 months ago.
Blackpool showed how much of a goal threat they carried in their games against Oxford, but Lincoln are ever so dangerous breaking from their two banks with so much pace out wide and those threats will have to be nullified by Critchley.
My preference is to play on Lincoln at 3.211/5 as I don't think there is much between the two teams and the second-half display at Sunderland showed their character and ability to handle the pressure.
With both games in the regular season both hitting Over 2.5, I am surprised that bet is trading much the bigger of the two at 2.265/4, with the Under priced up a prohibitive 1.715/7. Indeed we could go even braver and play on some Correct Score markets considering the 3-2 and 2-2.
Blackpool striker Jerry Yates has been directly involved in 31 goals in 53 appearances this season (23 goals, 8 assists). He has scored three and assisted three in his last four League One matches, netting the Tangerines' third goal in their 3-3 draw with Oxford United in the second leg of the semi-final. Backing Yates as first goalscorer on the Sportsbook at 7/2 and the Blackpool win nets a double price of 7.08.
Lincoln striker Tom Hopper scored in both legs of the play-offs against Sunderland - he hasn't scored in three consecutive Football League matches since August 2016 for Scunthorpe United. We can back Hopper to bag the first goal at 7/2 on the Sportsbook.
Enjoy the game.