Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Blackpool 2
By Tim Hodges at the Amex Stadium at Falmer in Brighton
Albion threw away a seemingly comfortable two-goal lead at the Amex on Saturday afternoon.
One of Gus Poyet’s summer targets, Kevin Phillips, started up front for Blackpool.
Albion fielded the same starting XI that did so well at Cardiff, the only change was on the bench where Kazenga LuaLua replaced the again injured Will Hoskins.
Albion appeared to find the Seasiders tougher opposition than Cardiff and Pompey early on as Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Phillips marauded through centre of the pitch helped out by Chris Basham.
It was Taylor-Fletcher who had the first real chance just after the quarter hour mark but dragged his shot wide.
This seemed to wake Albion up and now it was Craig Noone who was running at the Blackpool defence giving Ian Evatt and Alex Baptiste a real headache.
Liam Bridcutt and Gary Dicker began to impose themselves on the match. Bridcutt tidies everything up so effectively and distributes the ball with brilliant accuracy.
But it was from a Dicker interception that Albion went in front. He sprayed the ball out to Noone after winning it from Barry Ferguson. Noone then beat Evatt for pace and skill and clipped it in to Craig Mackail-Smith just outside the six-yard box to nod the ball past Matt Gilks.
Mackail-Smith had a good shout for a penalty soon after but this was waved away by referee Philip Gibbs
Taylor-Fletcher got stuck in some more as the half drew to a close but to no real avail.
Albion came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half and had soon won a corner which Noone took and which eventually fell for Ashley Barnes who buried the ball to put Albion 2-0 in front.
Blackpool responded by replacing Matt Phillips, Ferguson and Billy Clarke with Craig Sutherland, Neal Eardly and Brett Ormerod. Albion though looked comfortable and began utilising their possession game.
Almost unnoticed, the Tangerines countered and Eardly played a fine ball out to Baptiste who crossed for Phillips to head past Casper Ankergren to give Blackpool some hope.
LuaLua then replaced Noone and almost immediately beat both Evatt and Basham, delivered a low curling cross that Barnes would have connected with had Sutherland not pulled him back but the referee gave nothing.
LuaLua then drove in another fine cross but Mackail-Smith blasted high and wide.
As Albion tried in vain to put the match to bed LuaLua again beat both his markers but his shot was held well by Gilks.
As time ticked by Blackpool went in search of an equaliser.
After a short period of attacking Albion, Blackpool won a corner and that man Phillips hooked a shot from the edge of the area high into the back of the net for 2-2.
Before the end a giant yellow helicopter presumably from the Shoreham show flew low over the stadium and a crew member appeared to wave an Albion scarf out of the open cargo door.
Albion appeared to have another good shout for a penalty in the five minutes of added time but again Mr Gibbs said no!
Albion: Ankergren; Calderon, Greer, Dunk, Painter; Bridcutt, Vincelot, Dicker; Noone, Mackail-Smith, Barnes. Subs: Brezovan, Navarro, Cook, Sparrow, LuaLua.
Blackpool: Gilks; Basham, Baptiste, Evatt, Crainey; Ferguson, Southern; Taylor-Fletcher; M Phillips, K Phillips, Clarke. Subs: Halstead, Eardley, Ormerod, Hill, Sutherland
Ref: Philip Gibbs (Solihull)
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