Blackpool defied the odds once more and secured promotion to League One with an outstanding performance at Wembley Stadium, as Brad Potts and Mark Cullen fired The Seasiders to victory over Exeter City.
Gary Bowyer’s men, who have shown courage in bucket loads this season, enjoyed the perfect start at the national stadium as Cullen set up Potts to caress home the opener to spark scenes of wild celebration in the tangerine end.
They did lose their skipper on the day, Tom Aldred, through injury in the first-half and suffered another set back when David Wheeler lobbed Sam Slocombe to level matters before the break.
And it was left for Cullen to win the game, making the most of great play by Kyle Vassell and Potts by prodding in from close range and firing Blackpool back to League One at the first time of asking.
Bowyer would have gone to bed on Saturday night dreaming of an early goal and his boys produced the goods just three minutes in at the national stadium. Jack Payne’s ball into the channel picked out Mark Cullen, who had the awareness to pick out Potts to do the rest, caressing the ball into the corner for 1-0.
Blackpool’s confidence was growing and after Ollie Watkins had been snuffed out by Kelvin Mellor, Colin Daniel almost picked out Cullen with a teasing cross on the break.
However, in Watkins, Exeter had a real goal threat and Wheeler’s header found the striker on 10 minutes, but after turning Aldred, Slocombe produced a brilliant one-handed save to keep his side in front.
Exeter were enjoying the lion’s share of possession by this time, but Pool remained solid, forcing Lloyd James to shoot wide from distance.
However, The Seasiders were dealt a blow on the half-hour mark as their skipper for the day, Aldred, was forced off in some distress, having previously gone down injured, meaning Bright Osayi-Samuel took to the field and Bowyer reverted to a 4-4-2 formation.
And The Grecians found their equaliser not long after, as Craig Woodman’s free-kick caught Pool napping, allowing Wheeler to nip in ahead of Daniel and loft his effort over Slocombe and into the net.
Pool responded well after the goal and were the better side in injury time, but Neil Danns couldn’t control his effort when blazing over the bar. At the other end Ryan Harley fired over for Exeter as the two sides went in level at the break.
Half-Time: Blackpool 1 Exeter City 1
Blackpool looked lively after the break and Osayi-Samuel began running at the Exeter defence and ended by curling well wide of Christy Pym’s goal. Next, a searching ball from Payne freed Vassell, who stung the palms of Pym with a left-footed effort.
All the action was coming in the Exeter area and Danns’ cross caused more problems soon after, however Cullen couldn’t connect. Next it was Osayi-Samuel’s turn to threaten and his clever piece of skill fashioned an opening, only for Jordan Moore-Taylor to block his effort.
Mellor then earned Blackpool a corner and headed wide from Payne’s delivery on the hour-mark. That was Payne’s last contribution, as he made way for Ian Black soon after. Next, Potts’ cross teased a flick out of Vassell, and Pierce Sweeney, facing his own goal, will have been relieved to see Pym smother the ricochet.
So when their second goal arrived, it was thoroughly deserved. Vassell’s flicked header set Potts away and the midfielder showed tremendous power to get inside the area and square for Cullen to prod over the line on the stretch.
Their dominance continued after the goal and Osayi-Samuel set up Danns to fire over soon after. With 15 minutes remaining Cullen made way for Jordan Flores.
As the end neared Exeter’s pressure began to mount and substitute Reuben Reid fired wide, before Watkins headed over under pressure from Will Aimson.
Blackpool's resolve would hold until the final whistle, meaning Pool were promoted back to League One.
Full-time score: Blackpool 2 Exeter City 1