Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This week's two Championship second leg playoff matches were absolute crackers. We've long held the belief in this blog that the Championship has the best overall action of the English leagues and these matches only added to that.

Two matches of non stop action, four worthy teams giving it their all, goals galore and more twists and drama than some teams generate in an entire season. It may be devoid of the really big and highly paid stars, but the Championship constantly serves up games that are worth watching.

Like many other neutrals, we've been rooting for Blackpool, partly due to them being the underdogs, unfashionable side and all that, and partly due to the East Fife connections. What a performance from Ian Holloway's lads.

Even going in to the second leg at the City Ground with a one goal deficit to make up, Nottingham Forest still remained the favourites to progress. When they tied the match up on aggregate early on, it looked bleak for the Tangerines but they showed tremendous spirit to fight back twice and go on and win the tie with ease by the end.

That eight minute spell when they rattled in three (and Forest had a great chance for one as well) was breathtaking football. DJ Campbell was inspired. His hat trick could easily have been double or more.

I'm delighted for Ian Holloway as well. One of the few great characters that remains in top level management in England. He's entertained us for years on the likes of Soccer AM, but now he's finally getting the chance to show people that he's a great manager as well, with his side entertaining us now on the pitch.

He could easily have had the Seasiders playing defensive stuff but went for it. A manager like him relaxes his players and when players have that weight lifted from them they respond like Blackpool did.

The other semi final, between Cardiff City and Leicester City, this evening had a lot to live up to and it didn't disappoint.

I had no idea how this one was going to end up. Pundits use the term "change in momentum" a lot, but if ever a game gave a visual display of this it was this one. There were some clear momentum shifts in this game. One goal, one save, one break in luck, the crossbar. They can all mean so much in football and they did tonight.

Once Cardiff had tied it up at three all on aggregate, it looked like there would only be one winner and it would be the Welsh side. Crashing two efforts off the bar in normal time saw Cardiff come agonisingly close to what would be our dream final from the four sides that had made the playoffs.

And that final was thankfully to come about after Cardiff triumphed 4-3 on penalties after a scoreless extra time. From Leicester's point of view, it's probably a good job that two of their players missed as Yann Kenmorgant's spot kick was the worst penalty I think I've ever seen in a big match shoot out.

Thankfully for Blackpool's DJ Campbell, Leicester are out. The Foxes loanee would have to have had to sit out the final if they'd made it through. Now he has a chance to fire Blackpool back into the big time.

And if they don't make it. We won't be too disappointed as it will be a Welsh side, with Scottish players, trying to make inroads into the English Premiership.

As for Blackpool, well they have peaked at the right time and are certainly the in-form team from the playoff contenders. Let's hope they can keep it going for one more game.

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