Norwich City 1, Blackpool 2
David Cuffley Norwich City slipped to their first home defeat for four months as they paid the price for a disastrous first half against Blackpool. Striker Stephen McPhee scored twice in the opening period the leave the Canaries with an uphill battle at the interval.
Norwich City slipped to their first home defeat for four months as they paid the price for a disastrous first half against Blackpool. Striker Stephen McPhee scored twice in the opening period the leave the Canaries with an uphill battle at the interval.
McPhee struck first after 15 minutes with a header from a cross by Gary Taylor-Fletcher, and he increased the lead six minutes before the break with a powerful shot from a pass by Wes Hoolahan.
City also had skipper Mark Fotheringham stretchered off before the break after a bang on the head, but they were handed a lifeline after 64 minutes when Jamie Cureton scored his 10th goal of the season from the penalty spot after a foul by Shaun Barker on Matty Pattison.
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But Blackpool held out to avenge their defeat at the hands of the Canaries back in November.
Skipper Mark Fotheringham and striker Dion Dublin both returned to the City side after one match bans, Fotheringham replacing Matty Pattison in midfield and Dublin partnering Jamie Cureton in attack with 19-year-old Ched Evans the other man to make way. Pattison and Evans were on the bench along with Spanish fullback Juan Velasco, defender Jason Shackell and goalkeeper Matthew Gilks.
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Blackpool were without veteran striker Paul Dickov, sidelined by a hamstring strain after scoring five goals in the previous five games. Andy Morrell was recalled in attack in place of Dickov as the only change to the team who beat Charlton 5-3 last week.
City kicked off, defending the Barclay goal but it was Blackpool, wearing their changed strip of white shirts and tangerine shorts, who won the first free-kick when Fotheringham fouled Morrell. Crainey took the kick, but only managed to find Otsemobor, who was able to clear.
There was a long delay while McPhee was treated for what looked like a hand injury after being tackled by Doherty. Play resumed with the visitors down to 10 men while McPhee was given further attention on the touchline. McPhee eventually returned to the action with white tape round the fingers of his left hand.
The Canaries won the first corner in the fifth minute when Huckerby's cross was cut out by Evatt. Huckerby played it short to Croft but the winger was forced wide and his cross was cut out by Gorkss.
The game had started in bright sunshine but in blustery conditions which were likely to have an effect on the contest.
Gibbs, getting involved for the first time, made his way deep into Blackpool territory and attempted a one-two with Huckerby, but Barker managed to get to the return pass before the youngster.
A neat turn by Morrell sent Taylor-Fletcher racing away on the right but his cross towards the six-yard box was headed away by Doherty.
There was a shock for the Canaries after a fairly quiet opening when Blackpool took the lead after 15 minutes. Hoolahan found Morrell some ten yards out and his first time shot was kept out by Marshall, but the ball found its way to Taylor-Fletcher and his cross towards the far post was met by McPhee, whose header went in off Marshall, who may have lost the ball in the bright sun.
The goal certainly lifted the visitors and a cross from Crainey posed more problems for Marshall before City could clear and moments later, Gorkss was only just over the top with a free header.
Norwich were looking shaky and Morrell got through again, only to be foiled by another Marshall save. As the keeper rushed to gather the ball to take a quick goal kick, he was bundled over by Morrell, who earned the first yellow card of the afternoon for his trouble.
City were pegged in their own half at this stage and Marshall had to come out to pick the ball off the toes of Hoolahan as he chased a pass by Morrell.
There was more alarm for Norwich when an attempted back pass by Dublin was caught horribly in the wind and the overworked Marshall had to rush out again to hammer the ball away.
Blackpool won a corner when Crainey's cross was sliced by Pearce in attempting to clear. Hoolahan took the flag kick which was met by a Taylor-Fletcher header, but he was too far out to really threaten and City managed to get the ball away.
City won their second corner when Otsemobor's throw was bundled out, but Huckerby's kick was easily cleared and Blackpool broke quickly, Taylor-Fletcher finding McPhee, who escaped the defender but pulled his shot just across the face of the goal.
With half an hour gone, Norwich had yet to manage an attempt on goal, either on or off target. They could easily have been more than one goal behind.
So far, nothing City tried was coming off and when Cureton tried to find Croft with a raking diagonal pass, it was cut out by Crainey, breaking up another attack.
Ten minutes before the break, they at least managed an attempt on goal, when Dublin headed wide from a Huckerby free-kick.
Two minutes later, the Canaries felt they should have had a penalty when Huckerby played a one-two with Cureton and was caught by Barker as he went for the return, but the referee waved play-on, much to the annoyance of the home crowd.
There was more controversy after 39 minutes when McPhee stretched Blackpool's lead. In the build up to the goal, Fotheringham suffered a clash of heads with Southern and went down in the centre circle - but the official allowed play to continue and Hoolahan threaded a pass through to McPhee, who beat Marshall with a powerful right foot shot.
Before play could resume, Fotheringham was carried off on a stretcher and Pattison came on as substitute.
There had been a four-minute hold up while Fotheringham received attention and he went off holding his head with both hands.
Just as five additional minutes was signalled by the fourth official, Morrell was flattened when he got in the way of a Doherty clearance, but he was soon back on his feet.
A first half was rather summed up when Bertrand allowed a pass from Pattison to roll under his foot and out for a throw in.
More than two minutes into stoppage time, Crainey wasted a free-kick, firing straight over the bar.
City then won a corner, taken by Huckerby which was cleared straight back to him and Cureton went over in the six-yard box as Huckerby knocked the ball back into the area, but the referee saw no infringement.
Cureton then flashed a shot wide after a neat touch from Dublin.
There were no further changes to either side at the interval but Cureton reappeared wearing the captain's armband, as he had in the previous home game against Barnsley.
Blackpool quickly won a corner, which was headed away by Gibbs but as the visitors retained possession, Taylor-Fletcher attempted a shot from just outside the area but it lacked power and was easily stopped by Marshall.
City won a free-kick when Huckerby was brought down by Southern, 15 yards into the Blackpool half. Bertrand took the kick, which was headed clear as far as Pattison, who sent a screaming left-foot shot just inches over the top to bring the crowd to life.
A determined run by Huckerby found a corner, which he took, and it was Otsemobor who got in a header but sent it the wrong side of the post.
McPhee was still looking dangerous and in one swift Blackpool counterattack, he got away from Otsemobor and forced Marshall to concede a corner when he saved low to his left. Hoolahan took the corner and Gorkss headed narrowly over the top.
Marshall did well to make a clean catch from the next Blackpool corner but was left hobbling badly as he landed.
Huckerby was one of City's better performers so far and 11 minutes into the half he wriggled his way into the Blackpool area and tested keeper Rachubka with the first shot on target managed by the Canaries.
With 58 minutes gone, City boss Roeder made another change with Evans replacing Croft.
Blackpool almost went three goals ahead when Taylor-Fletcher weaved through the home defence and shot narrowly wide.
The home crowd were much livelier by now and when Rachubka was caught out of his goal making a hasty clearance, Cureton fired the ball back from at least 45 yards but his ambitious effort fell wide.
City were handed a lifeline after 64 minutes when Cureton reduced the arrears from the penalty spot for his 10th goal of the season. It was another controversial moment with Barker adjudged to have tripped Pattison as he chased the return pass from a one-two. There were prolonged protests from the Blackpool players and Cureton was asked to move the ball onto the spot correctly before he could take the kick, but he kept his cool to tuck it low to the goalkeeper's right.
It was all happening now and Blackpool had the ball in the net twice in as many minutes, first through McPhee and then Jorgensen, but in each case the flag was already up for offside.
Blackpool had responded positively to the setback and if anything looked more likely to add to the score than the Canaries as they pushed forward looking for a third goal.
Cureton had looked lively since the interval and his long pass to Evans gave the youngster the chance to show superb control in the penalty area before getting in a right-foot shot, but the keeper was right behind it.
Blackpool won a free-kick with 15 minutes to go when Hoolahan was tripped by Pattison on the edge of the area, but Crainey curled his left-foot shot over the top.
Gibbs was next to try his luck from long range when he moved onto a pass from Bertrand then sent a left-foot shot just over the top.
City were pressing furiously for an equaliser and Huckerby's persistence won another corner, which he directed beyond the far post, where Pearce managed to get in an overhead kick, but the keeper was in the right place.
A late challenge by Southern left Gibbs needing treatment at the other end and there was a delay while the youngster received attention.
The visitors made their first change with six minutes left when Coid was sent on in place of Taylor-Fletcher.
There was another change two minutes later when Flynn replaced Morrell.
A free-kick by Otsemobor was met by the head of Dublin as City pressed again, but the ball just would not drop for Evans.
Evans, looking lively, set up a shooting chance for Huckerby with a low cross to the near post but he miscued with his first effort and his second was blocked.