On Blackpool’s previous visit to this vast stadium, thousands of disenchanted supporters stayed away in protest at the toxic regime running the club but victory here, to seal a welcome return to the Championship after six years away, capped a resounding feelgood tale. They have flourished under fresh ownership and the local-boy-done-good Simon Sadler was among those serenaded at full-time after a stirring comeback win over Lincoln.
This arena may have turned a shade of tangerine but the match-winner, Kenny Dougall, the first Australian to score in a club game at Wembley, has bleach-blond highlights. The midfielder became first Blackpool player to score more than once in a match at this arena since Stan Mortensen scored a hat-trick in the 1953 Cup final.
It was that date that apathetic supporters nodded to when they invaded the Bloomfield Road pitch six years ago, when Blackpool last tasted life in the second tier, a kind of last resort against the bungled ownership of the Oyston family. The deafening noise emanating from the Blackpool end at the final whistle represented a different era.
When Dougall doubled his and Blackpool’s tally, a tangerine army flooded down the stairwells behind the Lincoln goal, among them a gentleman wearing a luminous orange suit, tie, bucket hat, and brogues. Dougall’s first goal stemmed from Lincoln’s Jorge Grant overplaying 30 yards from his own goal. Elliot Embleton slipped in his teammate after having a shot of his own repelled and Dougall cleverly shifted his feet before finding the corner.
Nine minutes after the interval Blackpool were in dreamland, a state of euphoria they had not felt since the heady days in the Premier League following promotion under Ian Holloway, among those in the stands here. Jerry Yates unselfishly occupied two Lincoln defenders after controlling Demetri Mitchell’s cross and located Dougall lurking inside the D. Dougall arrowed an almost identical strike to his opener in to send the Seasiders wild.
Lincoln were sick and, to make matters worse, they had got off to a flyer too. The electric Brennan Johnson, on loan from Nottingham Forest, streamed down the right flank and his teasing cross was converted past Chris Maxwell, the Blackpool goalkeeper, by the defender Ollie Turton. Grant rattled the woodwork with a smart effort approaching the half-hour but Blackpool turned the tide and twisted the knife after they found an equaliser.