Everything was in place at Blackpool yesterday for one of those upsets that seems so predictable it almost ceases to count as such. The lower-League side, once a genuine force in English football and sensing a return to the good old days, were raucously supported and in prime form; their lofty opponents were languishing in the League and had won only one match in their last 11; the weather was cold and windy; the pitch cutting up and full of bobbles.
But it was not quite to be, even though, to their great credit, Blackpool remain in the competition having come from behind to earn a deserved replay. Darren Huckerby put Norwich City ahead but Ian Evatt, Blackpool's central defender, chose quite a moment to head home his first goal of the season and equalise early in the second half.
Chris Brown was sent off for Norwich, having received a pair of innocuous yellow cards, before Blackpool, who came into this match on the back of nine wins in their previous 11 games, came close three times to forcing a late winner in a spirited finale.
"It was a cracking Cup-tie and we almost nicked it at the end," said Simon Grayson, the Blackpool manager. "None of my players can be disappointed with their performances and the main thing is that we're still in the competition. We'll go to Norwich with confidence and there's no reason why we cannot go down there and get a result."
For a stadium with only two stands, there had been plenty of noise and old-fashioned excitement inside Bloomfield Road as kick-off time approached. A drummer, masses of tangerine orange balloons and the now-obligatory bellowing stadium announcer all did their bit to add to the atmosphere. Scott Vernon sent Blackpool's best first-half chance over the crossbar and if his side were not quite dominant, they were certainly unfortunate to go in trailing at the interval.
Norwich had initially looked uncertain, unsurprisingly considering their insipid recent form, but improved as the half went on. Brown shot across the face of goal and a Carl Robinson shot was pushed away by Rhys Evans. Then Huckerby almost found the bottom corner with an angled shot. In first-half injury time, though, Huckerby was altogether more accurate as Norwich took the lead. With defenders backing off, he had time to look up some 20 yards out and shoot beyond Evans.
He almost added a second when, having again been allowed too much space, his shot swerved into the side netting. But then came Blackpool's equaliser as Evatt, at fault for Norwich's goal, made amends by rising highest to meet David Fox's free-kick with an accurate header.
"They were marking zonally and I just thought I'd hang around at the far post," said Evatt. "Foxy put it right on my head and I was able to head it into the far corner."
Despite this, Norwich continued to look the more dangerous team, and Brown was put through by Huckerby, only for Evans to make a brave block at his feet. Late on though, as Blackpool poured forward, David Marshall had to save headers from Ben Burgess and Kaspars Gorkss while the Seasiders even had an effort cleared off the line. It was that kind of a frantic afternoon, as Peter Grant, the Norwich City manager, acknowledged.
"You've got to give credit to Blackpool for the way they played," he said. "Neither side deserved to lose and a draw was a fair result. We're disrupted by injuries at the moment and they were always going to make it difficult for us."Reuse content