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Blackpool v West Ham United Preview – Seasiders underdog for play-off final

Blackpool football manager Ian Holloway (C) leads his player in a sing song at their promotion party two years ago. (credit: ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images)
Blackpool are underdogs for their Championship play-off final clash with West Ham United on Saturday, May 19.

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Two years after stunning Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City to secure promotion to the Premier League, Blackpool remain on track to secure an instant return following a 2-2 draw at Birmingham City on Wednesday night.

The play-off loving Seasiders looked set to book their place at Wembley just as comfortably as final opponents West Ham when they opened a 3-0 aggregate lead at St Andrew's within 48 minutes, only for Nikola Zigic and Curtis Davies to set up a nervy finale.

Ian Holloway's side saw out the advantage though to enter a collision course with a West Ham side who have cantered to victory in their last three meetings, beating them 4-0 at the Boleyn Ground in October and 4-1 with ten men at Bloomfield Road in February.

That head-to-head supremacy and their 11-point superiority over the 46-game regular season sees Sam Allardyce's men rated 1.66 favourites. History favours them too, with seven of the last eight third-versus-sixth semi-final winners ending up in the Premier League.

However, there are several reasons why Blackpool will retain optimism of pulling off a 2.48 upset, including a current nine-match undefeated run in which they have shown an uncharacteristic defensive strength, keeping six clean sheets.

They aren't short of firepower either with top scorer Kevin Phillips two goals better off than West Ham's chief goal-getter Carlton Cole over the course of the campaign, despite primarily being used as an impact substitute.

Arguably even more significant is the presence of Stephen Dobbie. The Scottish striker has fired six times since arriving on loan from Swansea in March, including the all-important opener last night, and has triumphed in the last two Championship play-off finals.

While West Ham and Blackpool now enjoy nine days of excitement before one is condemned to the longest of summers, the misery is already underway for Birmingham, whose fourth-placed finish was fairly laudable given financial concerns and their European exertions.

Indeed, their performance this season has been deemed encouraging enough to see Chris Hughton linked with the impending vacancy at West Brom.
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Blackpool v West Ham United Preview – Seasiders underdog for play-off final

Blackpool are underdogs for their Championship play-off final clash with West Ham United on Saturday, May 19.

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