Exeter & Blackpool into play-off final after both ties finish 6-5 on agg
Blackpool reached the League Two play-off final as an injury-time own goal ended Luton’s promotion hopes at the end of a remarkable, see-sawing tie.
The Hatters, trailing 3-2 from the first leg, fell further behind when Nathan Delfouneso opened the scoring.
Kelvin Mellor’s own goal, Scott Cuthbert’s header and Danny Hylton’s penalty then hauled Luton in front.
But Armand Gnanduillet made it 5-5 on aggregate, before Stuart Moore’s own goal sent the visitors to Wembley.
Goalkeeper Moore’s misfortunate capped an incredible night of League Two play-off action, as Exeter City beat Carlisle United in the other semi-final – also 6-5 on aggregate and also courtesy of a 95th-minute winner.
The Grecians had looked to be coasting towards the final on Sunday, 28 May before the Cumbrians scored two late goals to level the tie.
But Jack Stacey’s spectacular long-range strike in stoppage time means Blackpool will face Exeter in the Wembley showpiece.
A night of comebacks at Kenilworth Road
Having only confirmed their place in the play-offs on the final day of the regular season, the Tangerines’ passage to the final appeared a straightforward one when Delfouneso put them 4-2 ahead on aggregate.
But Luton, roared on by a partisan home crowd, battled back and deservedly levelled the tie by half-time of the second leg through a Mellor own goal and Cuthbert’s well-placed header.
They completed the turnaround early in the second half in controversial circumstances – striker Hylton appeared to dive to win the penalty with which he made it 5-4 on aggregate, a chipped Panenka effort that went in off the bar.
Blackpool were not to be outdone, however, and the impressive Gnanduillet headed in to level matters and send the last-four match towards extra time.
But, as at St James Park, there was more drama to come when Jordan Cook tried to clear Mellor’s header off the line, but instead hit the back of Moore and the ball crept into the net to send Blackpool, who have dropped from the top tier to the fourth tier in the space of six years, into the final.
Luton Town manager Nathan Jones:
“I’m a bit shaken. We showed we are a good side but also that we are a naive side at times. We dominated and were excellent the way we played.
“I’m really proud of my team. We were in total control of the game and two little incidents cost us the game. Up until 75 minutes we were in total control.”
Blackpool manager Gary Bowyer:
“We gifted them two goals. But the courage these boys had to come back was brilliant.
“We knew if we could get to 3-2 they’d be nervy – as all teams are – but it was amazing the bravery they had to play still.
“It’s what you play football for, and you have to realise what these supporters have been through the last few years.
“We were 14th on 14 February and have gone on the run, we’ve come here to the favourites in the play-offs and won.”