Blues held fourth-placed Blackpool to a draw in a keenly-contested encounter at St. Andrew’s this afternoon.
Jesse Lingard fired the home side in front in the first-half with a predatory finish from close-range but the teams went in level at the break courtesy of Ricardo Fuller’s equaliser for the Tangerines. Both sides had their chances to win the game after the interval but it was Blues that came nearest to stealing the points late on. Lee Novak was denied by a goal-line clearance and also had a header that almost looped in only to strike the woodwork.
Blues made just one enforced change from the side that beat Huddersfield a fortnight ago with Dan Burn replacing the suspended Kyle Bartley.
The hosts enjoyed the better of the early proceedings and had the game’s first notable chance on 13 minutes. Nikola Zigic forced Blackpool keeper Matt Gilks into an error and the ball dropped to Lingard just inside the area. The on-loan striker’s shot deflected narrowly wide of the target.
Blackpool forward Ricardo Fuller felt he should have been awarded a penalty moments later. He latched onto Stephen’s Dobbie’s through-ball and attempted to take the ball around the onrushing Darren Randolph only to be left dumped on the turf by the Blues keeper’s outstretched arm. However, the referee decided that Randolph had connected with the ball as opposed to the player.
Tom Adeyemi tried his luck from distance with a shot that whistled a couple of yards over the bar before Blues made the breakthrough on 27 minutes. There looked to be little danger when Paul Caddis’ cross bounced in front of Blackpool’s Gary Mackenzie inside the area but the centre-half failed to deal with it properly. His hesitancy proved costly as the ever-alert Lingard stole in to poke the ball beyond Gilks from six yards out.
The goal sparked the visitors into life and they enjoyed a good spell of possession that culminated in Paul Ince’s side drawing level. Thomas Ince broke free down the right and picked out Fuller with a low cross. The striker produced a measured low finish into the bottom right corner beyond the dive of Randolph.
The game could have been turned completely on its head when the same Blackpool pairing combined again. This time Ince got away down the left and cut the ball back to Fuller who tried to repeat his earlier exploits with a low curling effort but on this occasion Randolph’s fingertips turned the ball around the post.
Blackpool continued to threaten as the half drew to a close with Dobbie unleashing a fierce drive from the right side of the area which whizzed narrowly past the far post.
Four minutes into the second-half saw the introduction of new signing Dariusz Dudka, the Polish international replacing Callum Reilly. The midfielder almost made an immediate impression just three minutes into his debut as he fired in a low half-volleyed effort that was spilt by Gilks but claimed at the second attempt.
Blues upped the tempo and pushed their opponents back during the early exchanges of the second-half. Adeyemi’s goalbound shot was comfortably claimed by Gilks and then Burke produced a dangerous low cross into the area which Zigic launched his long leg towards but failed to make contact.
The Serbian striker made way for another debutant on 63 minutes as on-loan striker Aaron McLean was thrown into the fray. The Hull City man sparked a promising attack which saw several passes exchanged inside the area but just as Novak prepared to shoot he was dispossessed by a last-ditch tackle from Chris Basham.
At the other end Blues were indebted to Burn for keeping them on level terms on 74 minutes. Ince rounded Randolph and fired in a shot from the narrowest of angles that was heading into the net until Burn produced a terrific goal-line clearance, colliding with the post in the process.
Blackpool looked the team more likely to pinch victory around the 80-minute mark as they enjoyed a good spell of possession. The closest they came was a Dan Gosling effort that flew narrowly wide.
However, the game took another turn in the closing stages as Blues pressed and came agonisingly close to regaining the lead. Novak was the unlucky man on two occasions. Firstly he beat Gilks with a low shot only to see Tyler Blackett block the ball on the line. Then the former Huddersfield man looped a header goalwards and the ball grazed the crossbar as it came back down from the sky before the visitors cleared the danger.
Demarai Gray was given a late chance to shine and had a chance to be the match-winner as he raced onto the ball on the edge of the box and crashed in a shot that was beaten away by Randolph.
In the end Blues had to settle for a creditable draw which sees them drop to 20th but increases the buffer between themselves and the bottom three to four points ahead of next weekend’s crucial clash with second-bottom Barnsley.