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Town 2-2 Blackpool
Town 2-2 Blackpool
Saturday, 14th Jan 2012 17:05

Blackpool came from two goals behind to peg the Blues back to a 2-2 draw at Portman Road. Town looked to have had the game won via a first half own goal by Angel Martinez and a Tommy Smith header after the break, but subs Elliot Grandin and Kevin Phillips claimed a point for the Seasiders.

Luke Hyam was named in a league starting XI for the first time during the Paul Jewell era in more youthful side with an average age of 24.5. Skipper Grant Leadbitter dropped out with his hip injury, while Daryl Murphy was also missing from the 16, presumably also with an injury, with Josh Carson starting.

The Blues started in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Lee Martin between central midfield pair Andy Drury and Luke Hyam and striker Jason Scotland, with Josh Carson on the left and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on the right.

Jimmy Bullard, who is still suffering the effects of his recent illness, was on the bench along with Michael Chopra.

Town started brightly with stand-in skipper Ibrahima Sonko heading a long throw over, then after good work from Emmanuel-Thomas, Martin crossed just too far in front of Scotland.

Aaron Cresswell picked up the game’s first yellow card for pulling back a breaking Lomana LuaLua after Emmanuel-Thomas had slammed a freekick into the former Colchester man.

Town went in front in the 10th minute when Scotland sent Martin, who was in a free role drifting from flank to flank, away down the left and, with the Trinidadian having made his way to the edge of the six-yard box, Seasiders defender Angel Martinez diverted the ball past his own keeper.

After the poor luck with the penalty decision at Birmingham in the week, the Blues deserved the fortunate break and were worthy the lead on the balance of the opening few minutes with Martin having been the most dangerous player.

Blackpool’s first attempt on goal came on 20, debutant Danny Wilson heading Ludovic Sylvestre’s cross over after a corner had been cleared by Sonko. Moments later, own goal scorer Martinez shot over when left unmarked in the area. On 23 Hyam was yellow-carded, also for pulling back LuaLua.

The Blues came close to going further in front in the 25th minute when Carson chased on to a superb Cresswell ball down the left and chipped the needlessly advancing Blackpool keeper Mark Howard. Unfortunately for the Northern Irishman, the ball just bounced the wrong side of the post.

Cresswell curled a freekick into Howard’s arms on 28, then Hyam went close to his first Blues goal with a sharp shot from the edge of the box which flew narrowly over.

Town were having much the better of it with the Tangerines looking less than solid at the back. The visitors’ main danger was LuaLua when breaking at pace. On 33 Martin and Carson got in one another’s way just outside the box after a slick move also involving Cresswell and the former Manchester United man’s shot bobbled harmlessly wide.

Blackpool should have got back on terms in the 38th minute when Stephen Crainey crossed from the left and an unmarked LuaLua scuffed wide. It was a lucky escape for the Blues.

A superb mazy Emmanuel-Thomas run almost ended in the ball falling for Martin on 40 with Town still the more dominant side, despite the scare at the other end.

There was applause around Portman Road at the whistle after Town’s best 45 minutes of home football for some while.

The Blues, who had dominated possession 65-35, had showed bite and energy in midfield, inventiveness going forward and might have been further in front had the ball dropped more kindly for them in the Blackpool area.

Ian Holloway’s men had been unconvincing, LuaLua having failed to take advantage of Town’s one significant defensive lapse.

Martin curled an early second half shot to Howard after being teed up by the impressive Drury, then hit the sidenetting from close range after good work from Scotland with the Blues continuing where they left off before the break.

On 53 Gary Taylor-Fletcher replaced LuaLua, who had pulled his hamstring a minute or so earlier, then in the 57th minute Kevin Phillips, a perennial thorn in Town’s side, took over from own goal man Martinez.

A Carlos Edwards piledriver was spilled by Howard on 59 and from the resultant corner, the Blues increased their lead. The ball was half-cleared out to Emmanuel-Thomas on the right, the ex-Arsenal man skipping his way into the box. His pass evaded Martin but Drury behind him chipped across the area and Tommy Smith headed home his first goal of the season.

After Hyam had miskicked a shot to Howard, Matt Phillips had two chances to pull a goal back for his team. First, the 20-year-old was sent away one-on-one with McCarthy, the on-loan keeper doing superbly to claim at his feet. Moments later he blazed over when breaking in from the left.

But a Blackpool goal wasn’t too long in coming, Neal Eardley crossed from the left, Kevin Phillips’s header was blocked by McCarthy but sub Elliot Grandin slammed in from an inch out.

The visitors had looked more threatening since making their substitutions with Kevin Phillips’s movement an ever-present threat but the Blues weren’t far away from restoring their two-goal advantage when Carson’s edge of the area shot deflected into Howard’s arms off skipper Alex Baptiste. Soon after, the Northern Ireland international hit another shot which cannoned wide off Crainey.

Town continued to push, a corner flying dangerously across the Blackpool penalty area with Tamás Priskin and Jimmy Bullard taking over from Scotland, who had appeared to take a knock, and Carson. Martin moved to wide right, Emmanuel-Thomas to the left and Bullard to Martin’s previous role.

On 75 Gary Taylor-Fletcher claimed a penalty when exchanging passes on the edge of the area but it looked a clear dive. The visitors were by now having more of the ball and were at looking a constant threat with Kevin Phillips having lost little with age.

Town had a penalty appeal themselves in the 78th minute when a Bullard cross from the right appeared to strike a Blackpool arm. Two minutes later, Priskin saw a shot blocked as the Blues broke.

Moments later, the visitors were on terms. Kevin Phillips found himself space down the right and ran on to Grandin’s pass – possibly from an offside position – and beat McCarthy to the keeper’s left.

The goal was a big blow to the Blues but soon after the restart Priskin felt he should have been awarded a penalty when he was blocked as he went past Baptiste on the left.

Blackpool should have been 3-2 up in 82 when Kevin Phillips was again sent through on goal, McCarty blocking on this occasion. Three minutes later, Edwards got a toe in ahead of Matt Phillips with the Blues continually being caught defending with too high a line by Blackpool’s excellent movement.

Priskin hit a deflected shot to Howard with Town still threatening on occasion. Bullard wasted a short corner by finding keeper Howard with his cross.

Town might have won it in injury time when Cresswell’s superb cross from the left found Martin but the ball stuck under the winger’s foot and Howard claimed.

While the result was ultimately disappointing, the performance for much of the game was a vast improvement on recent home displays. Blackpool threw everything forward after going two behind and the Blues were unable to deal with Kevin Phillips’s movement in particular.

Despite failing to win yet another home game, the Portman Road crowd was appreciative of the players as they left the field.

Manager Paul Jewell will be pleased with the performance but not with the way his team conceded twice in rapid succession and may feel they ought to have taken more of their chances earlier on and right at the death.

Town (4-4-1-1): McCarthy, Edwards, Sonko, Smith, Cresswell, Martin, Drury, Hyam, Carson (Bullard 72), Emmanuel-Thomas, Scotland (Priskin 70). Unused: Lee-Barrett, Ainsley, Chopra.

Blackpool (4-3-3): Howard, Crainey, Wilson, Baptiste, Eardley, Basham, Martinez (K Phillips 57), Sylvestre, Ince (Grandin 62), M Phillips, LuaLua (Taylor-Fletcher 53). Unused: Evatt, Cathcart. Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey). Att: 16,497 (Blackpool: 533).

Photo: Action Images

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