By Tim Hodges from the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 6 Blackpool 1
The Albion annihilated Blackpool at the Amex on Saturday afternoon (20 April) in front of a crowd of 28,499.
The Albion pinned Blackpool back in their own half from the outset with Will Buckley rampaging down the right wing as the Seagulls recorded their biggest league win since September 2000.
Albion keeper Tomasz Kuszczak didn’t get to touch the ball for the first six minutes, then just after Buckley had been hit in the face by a free kick from Alex Baptiste, the winger was sent away by Andrea Orlandi’s sweeping ball.
Buckley ran at the Blackpool defence and, just as it appeared he would cross in with his right boot, he hit a shot with the inside of his left which curled into the top left-hand corner of Blackpool’s goal taking a deflection from the underside of the crossbar.
Now Albion had the lead they appeared unlikely to lose it. Orlandi and David Lopez were combining well in midfield and, with Wayne Bridge on the overlap, Blackpool were being overrun and at times run over by the rampant Seagulls.
After 20 minutes or so, Orlandi swung in a corner, Inigo Calderon directed a header goal wards and Matthew Upson, so close to opening his account at Peterborough last Tuesday, had the simple task of tapping the ball home from the edge of the six-yard box to put Albion 2-0 in front.
A few minutes later, from another Orlandi corner, a Lopez shot was beaten away by Matt Gilks as Albion continued to press the Seasiders.
The only time that Blackpool threatened the chance was snuffed out by Bridge.
The Albion were in complete control and, with the returning Ashley Barnes up front in place of the seemingly rested Leo Ulloa, Albion had a narrower shape. Barnes almost got his head on another Buckley cross but Chris Basham flicked it away.
Then just before half time and from an initial pass from Bridge, Orlandi and Lopez played a neat old-fashioned one-two, with Lopez backheeling the return pass into Orlandi’s path, the former Swansea man then hit a low shot with the outside of his boot, low in to the bottom corner to put Albion 3-0 in front at the break.
Gary Taylor-Fletcher replaced Basham as the second half began but the Seagulls were relentless. Buckley popping up on the left crossed in for Orlandi who helped the ball on to Barnes and in turn he laid it back for the on-rushing Lopez who fired the ball high into the roof of the net to make it 4-0 to the Albion.
Stephen Crainey showed his frustration as the ball rebounded out of the goal by whacking it into the crowd while the Albion players and fans celebrated the rout.
A lone herring gull did two laps of the Amex as jubilant Albion fans chanted “Seagull! Seagull!” at the bemused creature.
Tom Ince and Ludovic Sylvestre tried to get Blackpool going and had a slice of luck as a cross from Matt Phillips was headed expertly passed Kuszczak by Albion midfielder Dean Hammond to make it 4-1.
For a while this gave Blackpool some hope and Kuszczak had to beat away a shot from Ince. As the visitors sent men forward, Talyor-Fletcher and Kuszczak collided in the area.
Although Kuszczak got to his feet, he took no further part in the match. The Albion keeper looked fairly groggy and was replaced by Casper Ankergren just past the hour mark.
Albion seemed content to soak up any pressure Blackpool could muster. Bruno Saltor and Kazenga LuaLua replaced Bridge and Buckley.
Not long after coming on LuaLua tormented the Blackpool defence with his twists and turns, at one point almost leaving the ball behind. The winger managed to squeeze the ball past the defence into the six-yard box for Barnes who hooked home Albion’s fifth.
Blackpool had no answers to this apart from the unwitting help Albion gave them. They couldn’t stop Albion nor penetrate them.
Liam Bridcutt was having an unnoticed stormer, winning almost every tackle and dictating the pace that determined Albion’s tempo.
Before the end LuaLua beat three defenders with one drop of the shoulder but fired straight at Gilks.
Then Bruno and Orlandi combined and the latter fired in a cross which Barnes steered home to complete the rout and cement the Seagulls’ position in the play-off places.
With six points to play for, Albion are four points clear of Leicester in seventh place, with both teams having the same goal difference. The Foxes though still have to play Nottingham Forest.
So a quirk of the fixture list means that the two teams who can still catch the Seagulls from outside the play-off places are playing each other and could effectively cancel each other out, on Saturday 4 May.
Albion: Kuszczak; Calderon, Greer, Upson, Bridge; Bridcutt, Hammond, Lopez; Buckley, Barnes, Orlandi. Subs: Ankergren, El-Abd, Bruno, Crofts, Vicente, LuaLua, Ulloa.
Blackpool: Gilks, Baptiste, Broadfoot, MacKenzie, Crainey; Ferguson, Basham; Sylvestre; Ince, Phillips, Delfouneso. Subs: Halstead, Eardley, Cathcart, Angel, Derbyshire, Eccleston, Taylor-Fletcher.
Referee: Tony Bates (Staffordshire)
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