Aussies Abroad: Kenny Dougall brace fires Blackpool into the Championship
Kenny Dougall stole the show at Wembley with two superb strikes in the League One Play-Off Final as his Blackpool FC came from behind to defeat Lincoln 2-1 and secure promotion to the Championship next season.
The Australian midfielder, who will jet off to the Middle East in the coming days to link up with the Socceroos ahead of their long-awaited return to FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, stood up for the Seasiders as they took the tough route back to the English second tier for the first time since 2015.
Dougall's double saw him rise as an unlikely hero, with his third and fourth goals of the season backing up his strike in last week's Semi-Final to cap off the highest-scoring season of his career so far.
However it all appeared in doubt after Blackpool endured a nightmare start - conceding a horror own-goal inside a minute - which was to be turned around as Dougall drove home two well-taken efforts on either side of half time.
The first saw him pick up the ball on the edge of the area and curl a powerful left-footed strike into the bottom corner to ensure Blackpool would enter the break on level terms.
By the 53rd minute, the Aussie had turned the match on its head as he yet again found himself with a sight on goal from outside of the box, this time taking it on his right - to the same result.
The side coached by former Liverpool U-23's boss Neil Critchley held on to spark jubilant scenes at full time, with Dougall's goalscoring heroics earning him the official Man of the Match award.
The result capped off a memorable first season at the club for Dougall, who joined from Barnsley in October 2020. Prior to that, the Brisbane-born defensive midfielder made over 80 appearances for Dutch club Sparta Rotterdam.
Approaching this season League One Play-Offs, Dougall had only scored three goals since 2014: a tally he managed to match during the League One season's two most significant games.
Dougall is sure to head into next week's fixtures with confidence sky-high, having found the goalscoring form of his life when his club outfit needed it most.
He has previously appeared for the Australia U-23's and was an unused substitute for the Socceroos during their last FIFA World Cup Qualifier back in November 2019, meaning the 28-year-old will have his sights firmly set on an international debut come June.
“To get called up for the national team is special,” Dougall said mid-week. “I’ve got a chance to win a cap. I’m still uncapped, but I’ve been called up a few times. Hopefully I can get on the pitch and earn a cap because that will be special.
“We haven’t had a game as a national team for 18 months so it will be great for all the boys selected to finally put on the shirt and represent the country again.”
In other Aussies Abroad news, Nikita Rukavytsya tucked home his 23rd goal of the season, capping off a golden campaign with Maccabi Haifa's first Israeli Championship in a decade.