Norwich 3, Blackpool 2
CHRIS LAKEY Norwich 3, Blackpool 2: The Darren Huckerby roadshow rescued City from the FA Cup abyss last night - but it took an 18-year-old rookie to finally kill off the challenge from League One Blackpool.
Norwich 3, Blackpool 2
The Darren Huckerby roadshow rescued City from the FA Cup abyss last night - but it took an 18-year-old rookie to finally kill off the challenge from League One Blackpool.
Huckerby struck two glorious goals - making it six in his last six games - but it was the home-grown product who finally earned Norwich a date at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
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Michael Jackson had given Blackpool the lead, but it was a one-man show and never before will the post-match champagne have gone to a more deserving winner.
Huckerby had started up front alongside Chris Brown, but when Peter Grant changed things around on the hour mark, it worked a treat: Huckerby terrorised Blackpool and Martin added the icing ion the FA Cup cake.
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Grant dropped central defender Gary Doherty, recalling Jason Shackell after injury and playing him alongside Dion Dublin in the centre of City's defence. Lee Croft shifted to the left flank and Andy Hughes the right in a 4-4-2 line-up.
Blackpool boss Simon Grayson fielded much the same line-up as the one City faced in the north-west, the exceptions being Keigan Parker up front and Paul Tierney at left back in place of Kaspars Gorkss.
City started out where they had left off, heading forward, with Chris Brown the early target for Jurgen Colin down the right flank.o But Blackpool weathered the early minutes with few problems and it was midfielder Keith Southern who was the first to test a keeper, his shot from 25 yards following some good possession getting a touch for a corner.
Darren Huckerby was in trouble with referee Andre Marriner on seven minutes, his tackle on Paul Tierney in front of the Blackpool support earning him a yellow card. Marriner saw it as retaliatory after Tierny had dispossessed the City man.
Blackpool were clearly enjoying their evening in Norfolk, more likely the smooth playing surface which was enabling them plenty of scope to play the ball in a lively opening.
But Huckerby was treading a fine line with referee Marriner, and a couple of innocent fouls didn't improve the relationship.
City were finding life tougher and tougher against the visitors, although Lee Croft almost set Brown through in the area only for Shaun Barker to read the situation perfectly and clear.
Dickson Etuhu followed Huckerby in the referee's book on 17 minutes for a late tackle on Keigan Parker, which rather reflected the City midfielder's difficulty in keeping up with his opponents rather than any real malice.
Dublin joined the attack for a free kick and when Brown laid the ball back his shot from 15 yards was blocked by Ian Evatt.
City's best effort came on 22 minutes when a Hughes cross from the right strayed away from the danger area and fell kindly for the advancing Adam Drury. The City skipper hit it first time and Brown's attempt to divert it goalwards failed by just a couple of feet.
Brown was at the centre of City's best work early on and when he helped the ball on after some penalty area pinball, Etuhu scuffed a snap shot wide - and then failed to get decent contact on a free header from Huckerby's resulting corner.
It was the best chance of the game and should have given City the lead - but Brown found himself with reluctant support when he worked an opening on the right of the area, sent in a cross to an empty box, and then saw Michael Jackson knock it wide, but only just.
City were finding it more difficult to create opportunities, in stark contrast to their last two games, but Blackpool were less conspicuous as an attacking force - until Jackson popped up at the near post on 36 minutes to get in front of Brown and head home David Fox's corner.
Huckerby blasted a rising shot over within a minute, but it was a goal which really rocked City, especially with half-time looming.
Parker could have made it worse four minutes before the break, set free by Fox and reaching the area before sending a right foot shot narrowly wide.
City were a bag of nerves, losing possession along with any remaining initiative, with Blackpool looking more likely to find the back of the net.
Southern twice tried from distance as Hoolahan and Vernon teased the City defence, and it was the visitors who were clearly on the up for the half-time cuppa - Peter Grant more likely to be throwing the tea cups than handing them out.
There were a couple of early scares for Blackpool early on, Dublin's header from a Safri free kick diverted for a corner which the visitors cleared.
Blackpool lost striker Scott Vernon to injury, while Safri became the third name in Mr Marriner's book for his angry reaction after conceding a foul.
The FA Cup dream was very nearly over on 55 minutes, Hoolahan setting up Parker who shot straight at keeper David Marshall when he should have done better. Blackpool were enjoying more quality play, if not possession - as Huckerby's weak effort on 57 minutes proved.
Frustration was creeping in among the City fans too, but Grant lifted spirits when he brought on teenager Chris Martin for Colin on the hour mark.
That signalled a return to the left for Huckerby, with Croft back on the right and Hughes filling the right back slot.
It almost paid immediate dividends, Huckerby tearing into Blackpool down the left, sliding the ball into Martin whose shot took a touch from Etuhu and hit the upright.
Martin was inches from getting on to the end of Croft's low cross-shot as City forced the issue for the first time in the half.
Blackpool managed to slow the momentum when sub Ben Burgess headed just wide, but City were soon back at the other end, and again it was Huckerby proving the agitator.
And when Huckerby is in that sort of mood anything can happen - which it did on precisely
77 minutes and 21 seconds.
Nothing much looked to be on when Huckerby picked the ball up on the left, but he cut inside and sent a stunning right-footer into the top right-hand corner to re-ignite City's hopes.
The rain was coming down but Huckerby was in his element, with the crowd behind him and their hopes resting on his slim shoulders.
Martin had the ball in the net three minutes from time, heading home a Safri free-kick, but the referee blew for a foul, leaving extra-time almost inevitable.
Croft could have avoided that after Martin had done well on the left, but when the ball came his way he shot straight at the keeper.
Blackpool finished normal time going for the throat, which augured well for extra-time. Shackell's header from Safri's free-kick looked goalbound only for Burgess to hook it away, but then Huckerby struck again, five minutes into the first period. This time it was simplicity itself: Safri took a short free-kick to his left. Huckerby picked it up, took half a dozen paces, sold Forbes a dummy and planted it in the top right-hand corner.
A hat-trick looked on the cards until Ian Evatt intervened, but at the other end Burgess put the ball in the net, but Fox was pulled up for fouling Dublin. It was clearly not game over, as Blackpool, proved.
Parker's superb lob from 25 yards tipped over by Marshall before Fox sent over a corner, Jackson headed on and there was Barker to send it over the line with his knee, with 12 minutes to go.
But four minutes later, with Blackpool fans still celebrating, Martin struck. Drury sent in a speculative cross, Hoolahan for some reason headed goalwards. Brown couldn't squeeze it home - and Martin did the rest.
Penalties were off the menu again - but for how long? Had Croft been on target he would have provided the answer - as it was, it took another 10 minutes before Blackpool were finally put to bed.
Norwich: Marshall 6, Colin 6 (Martin 60, 7), Dublin 7, Shackell 6, Drury 6,
Hughes 6, Etuhu 5, Safri 6 (Doherty 111, 6), Croft 6, Brown 6, Huckerby 8.
Subs: Gallacher, McVeigh, Eagle.
Booking: Huckerby, 7, foul on Tierney; Etuhu, 17, foul on Parker; Safri, 51,
dissent; Marshall, 89, kicking ball away.
Blackpool: Evans, Barker, Evatt, Jackson, Tierney (Gorkss 70), Forbes
(Jorgensen 105), Fox, Southern, Hoolahan, Parker, Vernon (Burgess 49). Subs:
Bookings: Parker, 60, dissent; Southern, 63, foul on Safri; Barker, 104,
foul on Huckerby.
Referee: A Marriner.
EDP MoM: Darren Huckerby. Who else?
Time added on: 3 mins/ 3 mins.
Extra time: 1 min/ 1min
Shots On: Norwich 7, Blackpool 9.
Shots Off: Norwich 11, Blackpool 4.
Fouls conceded: Norwich 19, Blackpool 26.
Corners: Norwich 11, Blackpool 8
Offsides: Norwich 2, Blackpool 5.