Blackpool 1, Norwich City 1
DAVID CUFFLEY Norwich City suffered the loss of Dion Dublin through injury and striker Chris Brown to a sending off on their way to earning an FA Cup fourth round replay from a cracking tie at Blackpool this afternoon.
Norwich City suffered the loss of Dion Dublin through injury and striker Chris Brown to a sending off on their way to earning an FA Cup fourth round replay from a cracking tie at Blackpool this afternoon.
The Canaries took the lead in first half stoppage time when Darren Huckerby scored his sixth goal of the season.
But Blackpool set the tone for a hugely entertaining second half when defender Ian Evatt headed the equaliser after 52 minutes from a David Fox free-kick.
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Dublin went off soon afterwards with his left leg strapped and both sides had chances to seal victory in an end to end contest.
Brown was denied by Blackpool keeper Rhys Evans when he might have done better, and he later departed to a second yellow card for deliberate handball.
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In the end, Norwich had to be grateful to on-loan goalkeeper David Marshall for making two vital saves to keep them in the competition, first from substitute Ben Burgess and then in stoppage time from defender Kaspars Gorkss.
The two sides must now do it all again in a replay at Carrow Road on Tuesday, February 13.
City took on Blackpool showing three changes to the starting line-up from the 3-1 home defeat by Plymouth a fortnight ago.
Goalkeeper David Marshall, on loan from Celtic to the end of the season, made his debut for the Canaries in preference to fellow Scotland international Paul Gallacher, who was relegated to the bench.
Striker Chris Brown, who played 25 minutes as a substitute against Plymouth, was brought in for his first start, while there was a recall for Carl Robinson in midfield.
Out from the Plymouth game went defender Jason Shackell, sidelined by an injury to his left ankle, and forward Paul McVeigh, who was back on the bench.
City's line-up of substitutes was completed by Robert Eagle, Peter Thorne and 18-year-old Chris Martin, with Andy Hughes reported to have been ruled out by a dead leg.
Blackpool, beaten just once in their last 11 matches in all competitions, kept the side who won 1-0 at Leyton Orient last Saturday and the same five substitutes.
Included in their line-up was former City winger Adrian Forbes, playing against his old club for the first time since leaving Carrow Road in 2001.
The Bloomfield Road stadium provided a strange backdrop for the match, with modern stands along one side and behind one goal. City's 1,800 travelling fans were accommodated in a temporary stand along one touchline and behind the other goal.
City kicked off, wearing their change strip of white shirts and green shorts, but the hosts won the first free-kick five yards outside their own area when Brown was penalised for pushing.
As City pushed forward again, Etuhu tried to find Croft with a diagonal pass but Gorkss came across to clear at the expense of a throw.
With three minutes gone, Forbes got into the action, exchanging passes with Barker and his cross found the head of Morrell, but the striker's header was well off target.
As Norwich hit back, Safri drilled a free-kick into the Blackpool area but it cannoned off Dublin and Blackpool were able to clear.
Colin, Robinson and Croft were involved in the next move, which ended with the fullback sending in a useful centre which Robinson met with his head but goalkeeper Evans was able to gather it under pressure.
The home crowd were in good voice in the early stages and Forbes was looking to give them something to shout about, but his next cross towards the near post was cut out by Marshall.
A promising Norwich move across the edge of the area broke down when Croft's final ball was intercepted and Blackpool broke quickly but, as Barker crossed from the right, Vernon was penalised for handling.
At the other end, Etuhu picked out Brown, who turned the ball across the face of the goal and Gorkss had to be alert to hack it clear.
With 11 minutes gone, Hoolahan showed good footwork and sent in a dangerous centre which Dublin had to head clear. The danger was not over, however, and an error by Robinson gave Southern a shooting chance and his effort from outside the box gave Marshall his first serious work of the afternoon.
Blackpool carved out the best opening yet after 14 minutes when Morrell set up Vernon for a shot from a tight angle and Marshall had to make a vital block low at the near post.
Blackpool forced two corners in quick succession as they kept up the pressure and for the first time, Norwich were living a little dangerously.
In the next City attack, Colin delivered a useful cross which forced Evans to punch clear but only as far as Safri who slipped the ball sideways to Etuhu, but the big midfielder sent his effort high and wide into the home crowd, who had been giving him a rough reception, presumably because of his connection with local rivals Preston.
There were loud appeals for a penalty by the home crowd when Morrell played a one-two with Vernon and seemed to think he had been shoved to the ground by Colin, but referee Foy waved play on, much to the annoyance of the home fans.
City were swiftly on the counterattack and Croft set up Brown for a shot on the turn from a tight angle which was only narrowly wide and represented the visitors' best effort yet.
Midway through the half, Evans made an important save to prevent City taking the lead. Drury's throw-in was helped into the area by Huckerby, where Croft laid it back to Robinson, who produced a right foot shot from around 12-yards which the keeper moved to his left to parry.
Blackpool wasted a good dead ball opportunity when Dublin fouled Morrell just outside the Norwich area, but Fox tried an elaborate routine and the ball was given away. City broke quickly through Huckerby and he centred from the left across the face of the goal with nobody there to apply the finishing touch.
Manager Grant signalled a change in formation when Croft switched to the left flank, with Robinson pushed wider on the right and Huckerby now occupying a more central role alongside Brown.
Safri tried his luck from long range but fired just wide of the target.
Forbes decided to let fly from long range in Blackpool's next raid on Norwich territory, but his left foot half-volley was wide of Marshall's right hand post.
An excellent run by Hoolahan set up Forbes again moments later but the winger's cross was easily gathered by Marshall.
The Canaries finally won their first corner after more than half an hour when Barker cut out Huckerby's centre. Safri's flag kick found Doherty, but the defender's downward header bounced wide.
Croft's trickery earned City another corner and this time Safri's kick was headed clear by Jackson but Blackpool struggled to get the ball away and Doherty was challenging again when Drury crossed from the left but could not make full contact with his header and this time the ball was hacked away.
Drury fired a rare right foot shot wide of the target after joining the attack as City began to look more threatening.
Barker was doing some good work on the right of the Blackpool defence and after heading clear from a Colin centre, he did well to get back and rob Croft.
Play was held up for a minute when Morrell challenged Dublin and was penalised for a foul but appeared to come off worse and needed attention to his right shoulder. There was a further delay when Brown suffered a bang on the nose and was taken to the touchline for further attention while City carried on with 10 men.
Barker showed great determination to get passed Drury and get to the by-line before pulling back a low centre which Vernon met with a first time shot that flew just over the bar.
Norwich threatened again when a Safri cross was cleared only as far as Dublin, who tried to side-foot the ball through a crowd of players but found Evans right behind it.
With less than two minutes to go in the first half, City won a free-kick just outside the Blackpool area when Southern was adjudged to have fouled Brown. Safri's dead ball effort struck a defender in the wall and looped out of play for a corner, but when the same player took the flag-kick, the hosts cleared easily and broke quickly.
The two minutes of time added on at the end of the first half brought the first two yellow cards of the match.
Hoolahan was first to be booked for diving when he went down in the Norwich area under challenge from Safri and then Colin was cautioned for a foul on Barker.
But the added time also brought the opening goal when Huckerby scored for the sixth time this season. A long kick from Marshall seemed to catch the home defence unawares and as Forbes tried to clear, he was closed down by Huckerby and with Evatt unable to clear, Huckerby beat Evans with a low right foot shot just inside the keeper's right hand post to spark great celebrations among the visiting fans.
There was a distinct chill in the January air by the time the second half began on a dry but gusty afternoon in Lancashire, but City's fans, sitting out in the open, were unlikely to complain if they could hang onto their lead and book a place in the last 16 of the competition.
There was an early scare for the visitors when a Barker cross was allowed to run across the edge of the six-yard box, but there was no Blackpool forward in sight to take advantage.
Four minutes into the half, Croft's determination won him a corner and when Safri took the kick short to Huckerby, he swung in a dangerous cross which was headed clear by Evatt.
Huckerby continuing to operate in a more central attacking role, then flashed a left foot shot just off target as City looked to extend their lead.
Seven minutes into the half Blackpool drew level through a goal from central defender Evatt. City conceded a free-kick about 10-yards outside the area when Southern was fouled and when Fox floated the ball in, Evatt rose unchallenged to score with a downward header.
Blackpool had their tails up now and a foul by Dublin on Forbes left the former Norwich man needing treatment. From five-yards outside the City area, Hoolahan took the free-kick left footed and Marshall had to dive to his left to make a vital save. While this was going on Dublin was off the field having treatment, having taken a knock in his challenge on Forbes. The temperature was rising and Grant was involved in some lively exchanges with the fourth official in his technical area.
The home crowd were irate once again when Hoolahan's path to goal was impeded by Colin, but the referee saw no infringement.
It was clear Dublin would not be able to continue and, 12 minutes into the half, McVeigh was sent on in his place with Robinson dropping into the centre of defence. Dublin, with his left leg strapped, hobbled off round the touchline to a sympathetic round of applause from the crowd.
Brown was next to be shown the yellow card for a foul on goal scorer Evatt and with the action beginning to hot up, Robinson came very close to turning in a Safri corner at the near post as City tried to regain the upper hand.
Huckerby did superbly to rob Southern as City burst forward again and he presented Brown with a golden opportunity to open his Norwich account, but he took the ball a yard too far and Evans managed to smother his shot. Brown was sharp enough to collect the rebound and set up Huckerby, but his follow up effort was blocked and the chance was gone.
Marshall had to race out quickly at the other end when a through ball from Forbes threatened problems from City and it was now becoming an end-to-end cup tie.
Brown managed to get in a header from a Drury cross but it lacked power and Evans had it easily covered.
With 66 minutes gone Blackpool made a double change, sending on Parker and Burgess in place of Vernon and Forbes.
The first contribution from Burgess was a poor one, however, when he blazed a good chance high over the bar.
A strong challenge by Fox on McVeigh, followed by an excellent through ball from the same player, set Parker clear on the left for Blackpool and it took an excellent interception from Robinson to keep out the substitute's cross.
With just 18 minutes to go it was anybody's game, but there was a slight delay in proceedings when Safri needed treatment for a foul by Southern, who was shown the yellow card for the challenge.
With just a quarter of an hour to go, Robinson produced another marvellous challenge on Parker to deny the Blackpool man a clear run at goal and moments later, it took an excellent save by Marshall to keep the scores level. Burgess met a cross from Parker with a first time shot that looked destined to give Blackpool the lead, but the keeper turned it away brilliantly.
Croft, operating on the left, delivered a useful cross with 10 minutes left, which was flicked on by McVeigh and was only just too strong for Brown to retrieve at the far post.
City were reduced to 10 men with eight minutes to go when Brown was guilty of deliberate handball as he tried to control a through ball from Doherty. He was shown a second yellow card, then the red and, to the cheers of the home crowd, the visitors were left to battle on a man short.
The referee was busy with the cards by now and showed the yellow to Jackson for a foul on Huckerby.
There was yet another yellow card shown with five minutes left when the referee judged that Drury had dived in the Blackpool area, though it seemed difficult to stay on his feet.
Grant made another change as the minutes ticked away when Thorne replaced Croft and he joined Huckerby in attack. Thorne's first touch was a useful one as it sent McVeigh speeding away on the left and he picked out Huckerby with an excellent diagonal ball, but City's goal scorer met it with a volley which was high and wide.
As the game entered the final minute there was an amazing scramble in the Norwich area when Parker looked to have got the better of Doherty and the ball rolled goalward before Drury hacked it clear.
Blackpool made their final change on the stroke of 90 minutes when Jorgenson replaced Fox.
In the last of the four minutes of time added on, Marshall produced an excellent one handed save to keep out a header from Gorkss and then Burgess flashed a header over the top from the resulting corner.