Campbell puts promised land in sight for Blackpool
Nottingham Forest 3 Blackpool 4 (Blackpool win 6-4 on aggregate)
Blackpool, who languished in the fourth tier as recently as 2001, stand within one win of regaining the top-flight status they last enjoyed 40 years ago. A hat-trick by DJ Campbell, who is on loan from play-off rivals Leicester City, crushed Nottingham Forest to earn Ian Holloway's side the chance to paint Wembley tangerine in the Championship final on 22 May.
Their opponents will be Cardiff or Leicester, the club who fired Holloway as manager when he led them out of the division at the wrong end two years ago. Blackpool finished sixth, three places behind Forest, but it counted for nothing as Campbell ran amok in the second half, his goals coming during a stunning 23-minute spell in which another loan attacker, Swansea's Stephen Dobbie, also scored.
Campbell is on loan from Leicester and will not be able to play against his parent club in the final if they overturn their first-leg deficit in Wales tonight. Blackpool, having established themselves as the more fluid side after conceding an early goal to Robert Earnshaw, will fear no one after ravaging Forest's impressive defensive record.
Billy Davies' team had won 14 of their previous 15 home fixtures and last conceded a goal here 793 minutes ago. Picked apart by the perpetual motion of David Vaughan and precision of Charlie Adam's passing, they had no answer to the mobility and ruthlessness of Campbell.
"DJ looks good in our colours, but can we afford him?" Holloway said. "Our place seems to suit him but he's still contracted for Leicester next season. They quite rightly put a little clause in saying he can't play against them."
Holloway had "felt like a burglar" when Blackpool won here earlier in the season, but there was no robbery this time. "I said we'd have to play the best we've ever played – and we did," Holloway added. "I'm very proud because I knew how tough it was going to be. It was a fantastic game that I'd have paid to watch myself. I enjoyed every second, even when Forest scored."
Davies magnanimously said the outcome proved what he has long said – that Forest's young team were "not ready" for the Premier League. "All credit to Blackpool," he said. "They've got more experience and nous than us."
Earnshaw swiftly levelled the aggregate scores, but Campbell exploited keeper Lee Camp's misjudgement to restore Blackpool's overall lead after half-time. Forest went 2-1 up through Earnshaw's 17th goal of the season only for Campbell to respond swiftly after a one-two with Dobbie, who stretched the advantage with a shot that deflected in off Wes Morgan.
Campbell, converting the rebound after Camp saved from Dobbie, put Blackpool's 2,000 followers in dreamland. Dele Adebola's stoppage-time tap-in was no consolation for Forest.
Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Camp; Gunter, Morgan, Wilson, Perch (McGoldrick, 82); Tyson, Majewski, McKenna (Anderson, 78), Cohen; Blackstock (Adebola, 78), Earnshaw. Substitutes not used Smith (gk), Chambers, McGugan, Adebola, Boyd.
Blackpool (4-3-3): Gilks; Coleman, Baptiste, Evatt, Crainey; Southern, Adam (Edwards, 90), Vaughan; Campbell, Ormerod (Dobbie, 69), Taylor-Fletcher (Burgess, 77). Substitutes not used Rachubka (gk), Clarke, Euell, Bannan.
Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).
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