Having defeated Oxford and Sunderland, respectively, Blackpool and Lincoln face off at Wembley on Sunday with a spot in the Championship up for grabs.
Ahead of the League One play-off final, WhoScored.com run through their combined XI of the two finalists.
Goalkeeper: Alex Palmer (Lincoln) – 6.73 rating
Alex Palmer missed the first leg 2-0 win over Sunderland, but returned between the sticks for the loss at the Stadium of Light. Nevertheless, he will hope to keep his place in the starting XI at Wembley. The Lincoln shot stopper (6.73) features in this combined XI in place of Chris Maxwell (6.71). The Blackpool man (22) may have kept more clean sheets than Palmer (19), but the latter has been the busier of the two goalkeepers this term, ranking fourth for saves (123) in League One.
Centre-back: Danny Ballard (Blackpool) – 7.23 rating
Arsenal fans will have been impressed at what they have seen of youngster Danny Ballard at Blackpool, with the 21-year-old returning a WhoScored.com rating of 7.23 for the Tangerines. Ballard’s proactive approach to defending – an average of 5.2 clearances per game ranks fourth in England’s third tier – has helped Blackpool concede just 40 goals in 2020/21; only Hull (38) have shipped fewer.
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Centre-back: Lewis Montsma (Lincoln) – 6.99 rating
The second of six Lincoln representatives, Lewis Montsma joins Ballard in this three-man defence. The Dutchman has scored an impressive six league goals for the Imps this season, more than any other centre-back, and Lincoln fans will be hoping he can come up with the goods at Wembley this weekend.
Centre-back: Marvin Ekpiteta (Blackpool) – 6.89 rating
Rounding off the backline is Blackpool’s Marvin Ekpiteta. Three of the 24-year-old’s last four league outings have come from the bench, but he has been a solid performer when needed in 2020/21. An aerial success rate of 65.6 per cent goes some way to reinforcing a WhoScored.com strength of ‘aerial duels’ and, if Blackpool need to defend against a direct approach in the play-off final, then Ekpiteta could be a handy option once more, either from the get go or off the bench.
Right midfield: Brennan Johnson (Lincoln) – 6.92 rating
Brennan Johnson has enjoyed a prolific loan spell with Lincoln, netting 11 times for the Imps to help them to a play-off finish. With an additional five assists to his name, the 20-year-old is making the most of his chance at regular game time away from parent club Nottingham Forest. Having netted against Blackpool already this season, Johnson will seek to cap an excellent 2020/21 with promotion to the Championship.
Central midfield: Jorge Grant (Lincoln) – 7.31 rating
With a WhoScored.com rating of 7.31, Jorge Grant is the highest-rated player of the two sides. Grant did enough to feature in the League One team of the season as he netted 13 times. Nine assists is enough to rank among the top 10 players and he is unfortunate not to have more with 85 key passes the second best return in the division.
Central midfield: Liam Bridcutt (Lincoln) – 6.95 rating
Joining Grant in the middle of the park is Lincoln teammate Liam Bridcutt. The Scot has experience in aiding a side in their promotion quest having helped Brighton win promotion from League One 10 years ago. The battling 32-year-old ranks high for tackles per 90 (3) in League One this season and this tenacity off the ball will be crucial at Wembley.
Left midfield: Luke Garbutt (Blackpool) – 7.00 rating
Back on the Blackpool beat to round off the midfield, Luke Garbutt features on the left side of this combined XI having earned a WhoScored.com rating of 7.00 in 2020/21. Garbutt has had a direct hand in six goals this season, scoring four, and he should have more to show than his two assists having chipped in with an average 1.6 key passes per 90, a solid return from left-back.
Right wing: Sullay Kaikai (Blackpool) – 6.85 rating
A hamstring injury has kept Sullay Kaikai out of action for the best part of a month and Blackpool boss Neil Critchley will be hopeful he can return to the first-team fold for Sunday’s final. The 25-year-old has chipped in with some commendable goal contributions this season, having scored seven times and provided eight assists. Kaikai ended the campaign strongly as he had a direct hand in eight goals in his last 11 outings, so his availability would be welcomed with opened arms.
Striker: Jerry Yates (Blackpool) – 6.91 rating
Of the eight assists Kaikai has to his name this season, three have come for Jerry Yates to score. The 24-year-old has hit the back of the net a total of 21 times for Blackpool this season – the third best return in the league – and has had a direct hand in six goals in his last four appearances, netting three times. Yates is yet to score against Lincoln this season – third time lucky?
Left wing: Morgan Rogers (Lincoln) – 7.20 rating
Lincoln have the youngest average squad age in League One this season and when a player of Morgan Rogers’ potential impresses, it’s difficult not to place faith in the youth. The 18-year-old winger has scored six times in his breakout campaign and it is his fearless approach with the ball at his feet that has won him a legion of admirers. Indeed, 2.2 successful dribbles per 90 is the fifth best average in League One in 2020/21 in what has been a superb season for Rogers, noted in his WhoScored.com rating of 7.20.
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