The League Two play off final tales place at Wembley on Sunday afternoon, with Blackpool and Exeter set to do battle for the right to play in League One next season. Many finals at Wembley suffer from being tight affairs, but if the play off semi finals are anything to go by, we should be in for a treat.
The Tangerines beat Luton 6-5 on aggregate over the two legs, scoring the winner deep into injury-time in the second leg. Mark Cullen’s hat trick had given Blackpool a 3-2 advantage in the first leg at Bloomfield Road, but the Hatters fought back in the second leg to lead 5-4 with fifteen minutes remaining. However, a 76th minute equaliser and a 95th minute winner saw the North West club book their tickets to Wembley.
Exeter made their way to the final in similarly dramatic fashion, also winning 6-5 on aggregate in their semi final against Scunthorpe. The Grecians had taken a 3-1 lead against Keith Curle’s Scunthorpe side in the first leg, but were pegged back to a 3-3 draw. At 5-4 up in the final moments of the second leg Exeter looked to be on the way, but O’Sullivan popped up with the equaliser for the Irons. With the game set to head into extra time and the clock on 95 minutes, Jack Stacey struck his first ever goal for Exeter to send the Grecians to Wembley.
The Blackpool Supporter’s Trust has confirmed that fans will not attend the final at Wembley, in protest at the ownership of the club by the Oyston family. The club have dropped from the Premier League to the fourth tier in the space of just six seasons, and the majority of fans are refusing to buy season tickets in a bid to force the owners to sell the club. reports suggest that only around 5,000 fans will attend in support of Blackpool – Exeter by contrast have sold 15,000 tickets.
Blackpool manager Gary Bowyer says he is pleased with the progress he’s made since joining the club – the Seasiders had suffered back-to-back relegation’s prior to his joining. He also believes the squad has a number of players capable of laying at a higher level.
Exeter’s story this season has been one of a remarkable turnaround that Grecians’ forward David Wheeler describes as ‘poetic’. Having suffered a 3-2 defeat to Carlisle in November, the Devon club fell to the bottom of the table with 17 games of the season played. Paul Tisdale has overseen an amazing turnaround which has seen them surge up the table to qualify for the play offs, and beat Carlisle in the semi final. They spent more time in the relegation zone than any other teams except for Newport and Leyton Orient, yet find themselves on the cusp of promotion to League One.
Tisdale has said that despite early season criticism, him and his players are ready to finish the season on a high.
The Tangerines have won five of their last eight meetings with Exeter, and this season secured a 2-2 draw away and a 2-0 victory at home. This is also their 7th play off final, and they’ve won four of them. Equal with Crystal Palace as the most successful play off winning side. Boss Gary Bowyer has no injury concerns to contend with, and although the fans are staying away, his players have enough quality to make the difference.
One player in particular that will be under the spotlight is Mark Cullen, and he is a fair punt at +200 with 32Red and Betway to score at any time during the 90 minutes at Wembley. Tipped to play at a much higher level, Cullen has scored or assisted 13 goals in his last 14 games for the club, including contributing to five goals over the play off semi final.
Exeter will have the backing of three times as many fans and that could make a huge difference. This will be their first experience of a league play off final having qualifed for the first time in their history, but they do have recent experience of conference play off finals at Wembley. The defeat in the 2007 conference final and the victory in the 2008 renewal were also both under current manager Paul Tisdale. He has doubts over Matt Jay and Robbie Simpson, which could mean naming the same starting line up as that which won the semi final.
Blackpool to beat Exeter
Sunday 28th May, 15:00 GMT
Mark Cullen to score at any time
Sunday 28th May, 15:00 GMT