The League Two playoff semi-finals brought about two equally enthralling encounters as Exeter City and Blackpool both booked their places in the final with last-minute wins.
Exeter welcomed Carlisle United following an exciting 3-3 draw in the first fixture. With the game up for grabs, Ollie Watkins set the tone early on following a lovely squared pass from David Wheeler. Watkins added a second with just over ten minutes remaining, with the match looking all but over.
However, Keith Curle’s side refused to give up and goals from Jason Kennedy and former Ireland under-21 international John O’Sullivan brought the semi-final level in the space of nine minutes. The game looked to be heading for extra-time but five past the 90, on-loan Reading midfielder Jack Stacey popped up with a dramatic winner to send Paul Tisdale’s side to within a game of League One.
— Talk Reading (@TalkReading) May 18, 2017
It is an extraordinary feat given the fact that Exeter were bottom of the league in November. The Irish contingent of Pierce Sweeney, Liam McAlinden and Ireland-eligible Ethan Ampadu can now look forward to the final against Blackpool, who also booked their place in the showdown with an equally dramatic win against Luton Town.
Mark Cullen’s hat-trick had given the Seasiders a 3-2 lead following their home first leg. This momentum continued as ex-Aston Villa player Nathan Delfouneso got the ball rolling to put the visitors 1-0 up and 4-2 ahead in the tie. Like Carlisle in the other game, Luton refused to give up and an own goal from Kelvin Mellor gave them an outside chance.
Captain Scott Curthbert then gave Luton the lead on the night before striker Danny Hylton dramatically put the Hatters in front overall. Unfortunately for Luton, Armand Granduillet tied things up with 15 minutes to go before on-loan Reading goalkeeper Stuart Moore agonisingly put the ball into the back of his own net in injury time to hand Blackpool a place in the final.
Bizarrely, Blackpool’s winner came at the exact same time as Stacey’s goal in the 95th minute. As already mentioned, the two men to put the ball in the net are both Reading loanees making the scenario even more pub quiz-esque.
Following on from the excitement, the two sides must dust themselves down for the Wembley showdown on May 28, with both clubs entering the match on a high.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena