Wanderers’ grip on the Bristol Street Motors Trophy was finally removed in the agony of a penalty shoot-out, writes Pete Oliver.
The Whites took their defence of the cup they won in such memorable circumstances last season right to the end of their quarter-final clash at Bloomfield Road.
But after a goalless 90 minutes it came down to a shoot-out which the Seasiders won in a sudden-death scenario as Zac Ashworth was the unlucky man to miss the decisive spot-kick.
Joel Coleman had done his best to keep Ian Evatt’s men on course for a possible place in the last four with a clean sheet and then two excellent saves when it came down to penalties.
But with Dion Charles and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson also seeing their efforts saved, the Tangerines did just enough to sneak through and extend Wanderers’ Blackpool hoodoo.
The Whites haven’t won at Bloomfield Road since 1977 and couldn’t end that run after failing to make the most of a dominant first half.
Evatt’s side had all the best chances of the opening 45 minutes on his return to the club he helped win promotion to the Premier League as a player.
Cameron Jerome could have put the visitors ahead inside two minutes after running onto a flick-on by Bodvarsson but saw his effort saved by Richard O’Donnell.
The Blackpool keeper also did well to keep out a deflected effort from George Thomason, while Eoin Toal saw a shot blocked on the line.
Wanderers had to make an enforced change at the break as captain Ricardo Almeida Santos gave way to a calf problem and with new loan men Calvin Ramsay and Nathanael Ogbeta eased in with an hour apiece, there was an unfamiliar look to the Whites’ finishing line-up.
But having weathered some pressure and survived a couple of close calls as Matt Pennington poked an effort wide and CJ Hamilton also missed the target, Wanderers finished strongly against their League One rivals.
Dion Charles went close to a last-minute winner with a shot on the turn from Kyle Dempsey’s cross which was saved by O’Donnell.
And he then became a key man in the shoot-out as his two saves from Charles and Bodvarsson and Ashworth’s miss proved decisive despite the heroics of Coleman, who kept out efforts from Ollie Norburn and Jordan Gabriel and all but saved from Karamoko Dembele as the finest of margins ultimately proved costly.
It was a tough way for the run to end after Aaron Morley, Carlos Mendes Gomes, George Thomason and Josh Dacres Cogley had converted from 12 yards.
But the message at the end from players and the superb travelling support was crystal clear – it’s now full throttle in the race for promotion.
Wanderers: Coleman; Toal, Almeida Santos (Dacres-Cogley HT), Iredale; Morley; Ramsay (Dempsey 62), Mendes Gomes, Thomason, Ogbeta (Ashworth 62); Bodvarsson, Jerome (Charles 75). Substitutes: Baxter, Sheehan, Adeboyejo.
Booked: Almeida Santos, Thomason
Blackpool: O’Donnell; Pennington, Casey, Connolly; Norburn; Gabriel, Carey (Hamilton 69), Virtue, Lyons; Dembele, Lavery (Kouassi 69). Substitutes: Grimshaw, Husband, Oakley-Boothe, Miles, Moore.
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge
Attendance: 5,649 (2,141 away)