League One and Two: Blackpool and Newport step towards Wembley play-off
Blackpool have one foot in the League One play-off final after Ellis Simms struck twice in a stunning 3-0 win at Oxford United.
The Seasiders scored twice in three minutes midway through the first half of the semi-final first leg, with Simms adding his second on the break late on. Blackpool are now in a very strong position with the second leg to come at Bloomfield Road on Friday.
The early quickfire double knocked the stuffing out of the U’s. Ollie Turton turned the ball in from four yards in the 23rd minute after Josh Ruffels inadvertently knocked a deep free-kick back into the box from the far post.
Karl Robinson’s team had not recovered from that blow when they found themselves two down after 26 minutes. Simms cut in from the right and flicked the ball over Rob Atkinson before firing home left-footed, the shot deflecting off Elliott Moore to leave goalkeeper Jack Stevens helpless.
Simms was clinical again in the 74th minute with his 10th goal in 23 games as the visitors counter-attacked at pace from their own half.
Blackpool’s manager Neil Critchley said: “If you’d have said to me before the game that we would score three goals and keep a clean sheet, I would have bitten your hand off. But it’s only half-time and Oxford have enough quality in their squad to come back. They were the third highest scorers in the division and they are certainly capable of scoring goals at our place.”
The U’s, who had qualified for the play-offs with a run of seven wins in their last nine games, were on the front foot from the start, encouraged by 3,200 socially-distanced fans back in the Kassam Stadium for the first time in months.
“The players are sad, but we will go into the next game fearless,” Oxford manager Karl Robinson said. “It is only half-time. Football’s an amazing sport and if we were to go through from this it will be the greatest achievement any football team has ever done.”
Matty Dolan’s wonder goal helped give Newport County a 2-0 first-leg win over Forest Green Rovers in their League two play-off.
Dolan hit the back of the net from 25 yards and Lewis Collins doubled the advantage to leave Mike Flynn’s side in pole position going into Sunday’s second leg.
Newport were full value for a victory which means they are on course for what would be a second play-off final at Wembley in the space of three years. In front of 900 returning fans at Rodney Parade, Newport were backed by a raucous Amber Army determined to enjoy their first match back for more than a year, even in wet weather.