League One outfit Blackpool earned an FA Cup third round replay against a much changed Reading team as both sides battled out a 2-2 draw at the Madejski Stadium.
Blackpool had goals cancelled out by the home side in both halves. Firstly, Sam Baldock cancelled out Nathan Deflouneso’s first half headed goal. Then Substitute Danny Loader cancelled out Armand Gnanduillet’s second half strike.
The date for the replay at Bloomfield Road is to be confirmed soon.
Story of the match
The opening stages of the first half was dominated predominantly by Reading possession. Blackpool’s main aim was to get through the first fifteen minutes unscathed.
And they did exactly that- but only just about… Sam Baldock and Matt Miazga had the best opportunities to open the scoring in the first fifteen minutes, but neither took their chances.
Blackpool’s first attempt came in the 16th minute, but Callum Guy blazed over his effort from far out. Getting through the first fifteen minutes definitely gave the away side a confidence boost. A nice move from the visitors in the 19th minute resulted in Sam Walker catching Liam Feeney’s dangerous cross from the right.
Despite Blackpool growing into the contest, to home side really should have taken the lead but Sam Baldock was denied by the post from close range.
Against the run of play, the Tangerines took a shock lead in the 28th minute when Nathan Delfouneso headed past Walker from close range after a lovely header across the box from top scorer Gnanduillet.
That was Delfouneso's 3rd goal of this years competition after he netted twice in the previous round against Maidstone United.
The Tangerines nearly added a second minutes later in the 33rd minute, but Ben Heneghan couldn’t direct his unmarked header on target from a free kick.
That goal really damaged the Royal’s early momentum, and Mark Bowen would have been relieved to get his side in at only 1-0 down, as Guy nearly added a second before the break.
At 1-0 at half-time, a big talk was needed by Bowen to pick his side up.
Interestingly, there were no changes at half-time for the Royals, and the home side nearly paid for that in the 47th minute when Delfouneso missed a glorious chance to extend Blackpool’s lead. Were they going regret these missed chances at the end of the match?
Whatever Bowen said at half-time paid off in the 56th minute after lovely work between Michael Olise and Baldock resulted in the striker powerfully finishing past Howard in the Blackpool goal.
But, the Royals joy of being level quickly ended minutes later after top scorer Armand Gnanduillet powered his effort past Walker at the near post for his 15th goal of the season in all competitions. And more importantly to restore Blackpool’s slender lead.
However, this goal unlike the first one didn’t affect Reading’s momentum, as Danny Loader lovely intricate flicked attempt in the 66th minute evaded Howard in the Blackpool goal to level the game for a second time.
Unbelievably, the away side went down the other end and had an immediate chance to level the game up from the spot after Armand Gnanduillet was impeded in the box.
The top scorer for the League One club missed the spot kick after he tried to chip Walker- but the bar was there to save the Berkshire side from going 3-2 down immediately after levelling the game for a second time.
Here is that penalty encase you missed it:
The contest then turned into an end to end match and the visitors again should have taken the lead, but Walker amazingly denied Delfouneso his second goal of the game from close range.
As we approached the last few minutes, it looked like Blackpool were happy to settle for a replay. But the Royals nearly scuppered that plan from the visitors right at the end but both Sone Aluko and Omar Richards had their efforts saved by the visiting goalkeeper.
But it ended in a replay for the away side which they deserved on the whole.
Both sides will be in the FA Cup draw on Monday from 7:30pm (GMT) at the Emirates Stadium. Both these sides will be ball number 20.
Takeaways from the match
Blackpool’s first half game plan worked perfectly
Simon’s Grayson’s tactics in the first half were simple. Survive the opening 15 minutes, then start getting at Reading’s makeshift backline.
That’s exactly what they did and the only regret Grayson would have had going into half-time was that his side didn’t extend that lead.
The game plan was scuppered when Baldock equalised early in the second half. But then came back to play once the score went 2-2 with the Tangerines seemingly more than happy for a replay.
Bowen’s rotation didn’t pay off in the end
Making 11 changes to any side is a big call. And that is what Bowen did give the likes of Teddy Howe and Andre Burley rare appearances for the first team.
And what was the result of the changes- a side who have hardly been on the pitch together and didn’t have the right chemistry that we are used to seeing from Mark Bowen’s Championship starting eleven.
And the worst thing is- Reading now have a replay that Mark Bowen would have not wanted before the start of the day, but that’s what happens when too much rotation goes wrong.