Report: Blackpool 1 Fulham 2
Blackpool exited the FA Cup after losing an epic third round tie in extra-time to Fulham at Bloomfield Road.
Steve Thompson's side thought they had won the game in normal time, after Nathan Delfouneso had tapped home following a weak punch from Mark Schwarzer, but Kieron Richardson's last-gasp leveller took the game beyond 90 minutes.
There Thomas Ince was denied twice by the Fulham 'keeper, and Kirk Broadfoot missed a glorious chance before Brede Hangeland headed home a corner to put Fulham through.
In what was a quiet first half, the visitors had the first shot on goal on 15 minutes, when Hugo Rodallega looked to test Matt Gilks from 30 yards. His shot was blocked, but ran kindly for Askan Dejegah to tee up Mladen Petric, who miscued a shot wide.
Blackpool enjoyed some healthy possession in the early going, but struggled to fashion attempts at goal. The lively Nathan Eccleston stepped inside Giorgos Karagounis and looked to play in Thomas Ince, but Matthew Briggs spotted the danger and cleared the ball away.
Dejegah then had Fulham's first attempt on target, as he exchanged passes with Sacha Riether. The winger latched on to Riether's low cross into the box, but his first time shot was straight at Gilks.
Immediately up the other end, Gary Taylor-Fletcher looked to curl a shot of his own past Mark Schwarzer while under heavy pressure, but could only aim his effort down the throat of the Australian.
Alexander Kacanicklic then tried to find either Phillipe Senderos or Hugo Rodallega with a cross from the left, but instead the ball flew all the way to Dejegah whose shot from a tight angle was cleared by Kirk Broadfoot.
The resulting corner also evaded a number of players on it's way across goal, before finding Rodallega lurking at the back post. The former Wigan striker composed himself and got a shot away, but Gilks was off his line quickly to close the angle and make an excellent save.
Fulham had grown into the game and were well on top, firing in a number of crosses from both flanks. Most of those were well defended by The Seasiders, but they momentarily switched off to allow Chris Baird a free header from a Karagounis corner in the 37th minute. The Northern Irishman should've punished Blackpool, but he could only glance his header across goal and against the outside of the post.
Steve Thompson's looked to take advantage of that good fortune, and responded by creating their own great chance to take the lead. A corner from Ince found Broadfoot unmarked in the box, but the central defender headed wide.
Caretaker boss Thompson had opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation, looking for fluid movement in behind Taylor-Fletcher. Delfouneso took up a position on the left and exchanged quick passes with Ince on the edge of the area, but then shot harmlessly high and wide.
HALF TIME: BLACKPOOL 0 FULHAM 0
The second half started with an early chance for the home side, when Taylor-Fletcher set Ince through on goal. The flag stayed down, but Ince's shot wasn't convincing and Schwarzer got down to his right to make a simple save.
Quick thinking from Chris Basham then created an excellent opportunity for Taylor-Fletcher to open the scoring. After Ince had been brought down by Baird, Basham wasted no time in giving the ball to Neal Eardley. The Welsh right-back swung in a tempting cross that flew beyond Delfouneso and on to the head of Taylor-Fletcher. The 31-year-old forward appeared not to have anticipated the ball reaching him however, as his header landed disappointingly off target.
With extra time looming, neither goalkeeper had been seriously tested in the second half. That was until a darting run into the box from Petric forced an opening for Rodallega, but once again Gilks denied him, again turning his shot away for a corner.
At the other end of the field, Ince got down the left hand side and played in a cross towards Basham. The defensive midfielder had the freedom of the penalty area and looked to have connected perfectly with his volley, but pulled it just off target.
Looking a threat every time he got onto the ball, Ince then tried his luck with a left footed effort which stung the palms of 'keeper Schwarzer as he pushed it over the bar.
The Tangerines were enjoying their best spell of the contest, and when Fulham failed to clear another ball into the box, Schwarzer was forced to try and punch the ball away. Under pressure from Taylor-Fletcher, the veteran goalie got to the ball first, but could only punch as far as Delfouneso, who gratefully tapped the ball into the empty net.
GOAL: BLACKPOOL 1 FULHAM 0
Fulham responded by pushing Brede Hangeland up front, but nearly found themselves two-nil down when Aaron Hughes's attempted clearance was latched onto by Tiago Gomes. The Portuguese midfielder got his right footed shot away, but could only find the side netting.
Blackpool appeared to have secured their passage to the fourth round, but Fulham equilised with virtually the last kick of the game. Substitute Richardson sweetly struck from 18 yards to ensure the game would continue on into extra-time.
GOAL: BLACKPOOL 1 FULHAM 1
END OF 90 MINUTES: BLACKPOOL 1 FULHAM 1
The game had really opened up in the second half, and it continued in a similar vein in the first period of extra-time. Rodallega almost found himself clear in the box with space to shoot for Fulham, before Ince forced Schwarzer into two saves in the space of a minute. Both times the winger aimed for the bottom right hand corner, and on both occasions the 'keeper got down well to push the ball away.
Following that good work, Schwarzer then almost gifted Blackpool the lead once again. Gomes drove forward and struck a fierce shot that was straight at the 40-year-old, but he couldn't hold it. The loose ball fell to Broadfoot who had to score, but the defender instead implausibly fired over from 12 yards.
Karagounis tried to emulate the strike which drew Fulham level in the first game between these two sides, but on this occasion his shot was seen comfortably wide by Gilks.
It was end to end stuff, and Gomes was next to offer an attempt at goal as he struck right-footed, but his effort ended up in the stand.
Dejegah had been quiet in the second half, but sprung into life as used he clever footwork to beat Eardley. He fired in a low cross-shot, which Gilks saved well with his feet.
HALF TIME IN EXTRA TIME: BLACKPOOL 1 FULHAM 1
Both sides were now nearing 20 shots on target apiece, but the efforts on goal continued to flow freely, as Blackpool had two chances to go in front. First Ince was set clear by a fantastic ball from Gomes but shot straight at Schwarzer, before Taylor-Fletcher headed straight at the 'keeper from around eight yards.
The visitors then spurned their own opportunity to take the lead, in a series of events somewhat similar to how The Seasiders opened the scoring. Gilks came through a crowd of bodies to punch clear, but the ball fell to Richardson who tried to scoop the ball in to the empty net from 18 yards. The away fans thought it was heading in, but it instead sailed the wrong side of the upright.
You felt somebody was certain to score before it reached penalties - and in the end it was Fulham who did, taking the lead for the first time after Dejegah had forced a corner. Hangeland rose highest after Duff had put the ball in, as he headed beyond Gilks and into the net.
BLACKPOOL 1 FULHAM 2
FULL TIME: BLACKPOOL 1 FULHAM 2