LONDON (Reuters) – West Ham United beat Blackpool 2-1 in a typically tense and scrappy Championship playoff final on Saturday thanks to an 87th-minute goal from Ricardo Vaz Te which put the Hammers back in the Premier League.
Ian Holloway’s Blackpool had much the better of the opening exchanges, with Matt Phillips missing two chances, but it was the London side who took the lead after Carlton Cole deftly controlled Matt Taylor’s pass and slotted the ball past Matt Gilks in the 34th minute.
Thomas Ince, son of former West Ham midfielder Paul and booed by the Hammers fans, equalised for Blackpool after getting on the end of a cross-field pass and squeezing past Winston Reid to guide the ball into the net.
Blackpool had the momentum, were keeping possession and soaking up West Ham pressure although they did have an escape when Gilks turned a fine Kevin Nolan volley on to the bar.
Stephen Dobbie, who won the playoff final last year with Swansea City, missed a great chance to put Blackpool ahead when he scuffed a shot wide with only Robert Green to beat.
However, with extra time looming Cole got in the way of Gilks and the loose ball fell to Vaz Te, who lashed the ball into the roof of the net to send the West Ham fans wild.
“Blackpool were equally as good as us today. But, our finishing power in the end, it’s about taking your chances,” WesHam manager Sam Allardyce told Sky Sports.
“No more so than in a game like today. There were lots of chances for both teams and we’ve managed to swing it just at the death. Funnily enough it’s 49 games and it’s the first time we’ve won a game in the last few minutes all season.”
Both sides were relegated from the Premier League last season and West Ham, with former Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers boss Sam Allardyce in charge had been favourites for automatic promotion.
Allardyce suffered criticism from West Ham fans during the season and they were pipped to the top two slots by Reading and Southampton, forcing them into the playoffs where they knocked out Cardiff City in the semi-finals.
“It was very difficult at the start to turn the club around with the relegation problem that we’ve had, but we’ve turned it around we came good right at the very end,” Allardyce said.
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