Blackpool 3-3 Oxford United: A game that encapsulated what football is about ends with Wembley beckoning the Seasiders
(Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport/ Getty Images)

Oxford United ended their season with a heroic defeat at a bouncing Bloomfield Road on Friday night. 

There were glimmers of hope throughout the game that United could regain grip on the tie, after trailing 3-0 from the first leg. An early goal from Matty Taylor was quickly buried into the sands of Blackpool's beaches when the 12th man roared the Tangerines to an emphatic playoff win.

A Rob Atkinson header was guided into the back of the net in the opening minutes of the second half, but Jerry Yates bit back almost instaneously, cementing their commanding lead. 

Olamide Shodipo would score yet again in the 74th minute, underpinning the resilience that has been woven into the fabric of Karl Robinson's team, but it proved not enough to keep their promotion dreams alive. 

  • The match

Karl Robinson's United came into the fixture already trailing by three goals and, although the U's have displayed an undying spirit, picking up crucial comeback wins against league rivals throughout the campaign, nobody would have condemned them if they were to become solitaires to their own lofty ambitions.

However, despite being dealt the task to weather early scares from direct attacks and an unmarked header from Ellis Simms, it was Robinson's men who took the lead on the night.

The home side were incapable of keeping their nerve following Oxford's first setpiece of the game. A tantalising cross was looped into an area that saw Blackpool players stuck on their sixes and sevens, and with Matty Taylor always looking to pounce, the local hero for Oxford slid in his eighteenth of the season.

Embed from Getty Images

But, if there's any incentive that provided the advantage for Blackpool, it was a Bloomfield Road that was full to the brim with passion and energy.

Neil Critchley's pragmatic game management in his first senior managerial role could be likened to the qualities of a Premier League manager, while his home stadium could've easily been mistaken for a European night at Anfield.

And it wasn't long before the deafening roar of the 12th man played a role in Blackpool's resurgence. Elliott Embleton's speculative effort on the 10-minute mark sent the tangerine tainted stadium into raptures, and it wasn't long before Kenny Dougall added another to their lead, giving them a commanding lead within the first 15 minutes. 

Dougall flicked the ball past Jack Stevens, with the finish being shaped by a courageous assist from a diving header at the back post.

The game was unfolding as a remarkable advertisement for League One football, as the tempo refused to stagnate.

Mark Sykes and James Henry threatened the Seasider's lead in the late stages of the half, while both teams continued to play high-octane football. But neither side were able to capitalise on chances amidst the chaos, so halftime fell at 2-1. 

Embed from Getty Images

The second half started like the first, with Oxford getting an early goal to give the visitors a spark of hope at the end of the tunnel, which was flickering. 

Rob Atkinson equalized after cashing in on a lax in concentration within the first five minutes after the break. Being a key figure in United's late promotion push, the young defender guided a header beyond Maxwell. 

However, Blackpool boasts the best playoff record in the history of the English League system, and every time United came knocking on the door, they had a swift answer.

In one of the most absorbing encounters of the season, Jerry Yates scored just moments after Oxford's leveller to bury the game, transporting his Blackpool team over the hills and far away, as a march down Wembley Way beckoned imperishably louder.

Embed from Getty Images

Blackpool's place in the final was all but confirmed, but it wouldn't dent United's drive to grab something from the night. The two late introductions to the game, Daniel Agyei and Olamide Shodipo combined to score a third goal for the U's, with the latter profiting from the cross.

For the remainder of the game, it could have easily ended as a basketball score. Both teams had their chances, and it was remarkably unpredictable how the game would end. 

Jack Stevens kept his team in the contest, while Shodipo and his attacking counterparts forced Blackpool into disrepair at the other end. But their season ended in dissapointment, as Blackpool saw the game out.  

Put your FA Cup final to one side, because tonight's game was the epitome of what football is about. Sadly, for Karl Robinson's resilient U's, they could score the goals, but they couldn't defend them.

VAVEL Logo