Brighton & Hove Albion have continued to build momentum going into the final weeks of a topsy-turvy season in The Championship after a 6-1 win over Blackpool.
Brighton’s slick passing and incisive attacking play left the Blackpool team floundering. Even the Blackpool consolation came courtesy of a Brighton player, a tremendous diving header from the unfortunate Dean Hammond.
Albion welcomed back Ashley Barnes, following his seven match suspension for a red card at Bolton, and he repaid the manager's faith with two goals and a superb display as the target man.
His touch showed few signs of the long lay-off and his deft flicks and subtle touches were a joy to watch. Andrea Orlandi, coming into excellent form at just the right time, was also superb, with his marauding runs causing the Blackpool defence all sorts of problems.
Brighton started as if they meant business, their crisp passing opening up Blackpool right from the start. After just 52 seconds, Will Buckley drew a save from Matt Gilkes in goal and it was Buckley who sent the crowd into raptures after just eight minutes.
He gathered the ball on the right, from Ashley Barnes' layoff, cut inside, and bent an unstoppable curling shot into the top left hand corner. Brighton were fired up and continued to breach Blackpool's defence at will.
Orlandi was at the heart of everything Brighton created and from his cross in the 23rd minutes, the ball was nodded back and Matthew Upson was on hand to prod the ball home from close range. His first goal as a Seagull was greeted with more acclaim from the 28,000 inside The Amex.
Brighton were now rampant and got a third seconds before half time. Orlandi was again at the heart of things, exchanging passes with David Lopez, the second a delightful back heel from the Spaniard, before using the outside of his foot to once again send the ball beyond the reach of Gilkes and into the net.
Those Albion fans eager to sample the magnificent pies on offer from Piglets Pantry were cursing their decision to leave their seats before the half time whistle. More agony was to follow for late returners to their seats, as Albion began the second half as they ended the first, with a goal.
Will Buckley surged into the box, Barnes laid off his low, drilled cross and Lopez was on hand to drill the ball home in front of a jubilant North Stand.
Four goals to the good and Brighton were cruising. Blackpool were powerless to stop the endless tide of attacks and it seemed only a matter of time before a fifth goal came.
However, Blackpool were gifted a soft consolation after a seemingly harmless cross form the left was deftly steered into his own net by the unfortunate Dean Hammond, the only blot on another fine performance by the industrious midfielder.
After 65 minutes, Gus Poyet introduced Bruno Saltor for Wayne Bridge at left back. Saltor started the season in swashbuckling form and after a long injury layoff, seemed keen to continue his marauding ways. His touch was slightly off, but he still managed some telling runs into the danger areas around the Blackpool penalty area. Another substitute, Kazenga Lua Lua, was also having joy down the flanks, giving the Blackpool fullback a torrid time on the left wing. A jinking run in the 73rd minute culminated in a pulled back cross that Ashley Barnes gleefully smacked home from eight yards.
The goal was just reward for Barnes, who was pilloried after his indiscretion at Bolton. The alleged trip on the referee that day, led to a four game ban being added to the three he received for the red card.
Fans had questioned Barnes' temperament for the long haul, but Poyet's faith in the West Country lad was repaid. He had come straight back into the side for the exhausted Leo Ulloa and took his chance with aplomb.
More was to come from Brighton and it was fitting that the final humiliation was delivered at the end of yet another magnificent passing move from Poyet's talented squad. Man of the Match Orlandi checked his run down the right and fired in another low cross to the near post where Barnes waited to smash the ball gleefully into the net.
"7-0 to The Albion" sang the wags in the North Stand. Many of the 700 Blackpool fans had seen enough and headed for the exits and a long journey home.
The Seagulls fans stayed behind to acclaim their heroes and speculate further on the possibility of a place in the play-offs. Brighton are now fourth, and know that a point at Elland Road next Saturday will cement their place in the most lucrative of football's end of season lotteries.
A closer look at the table shows that Crystal Palace could be their opponents at some stage of the play-offs. Poyet's men would relish the chance to put another one over on their biggest rivals and who would bet against that happening, in this most crazy of seasons? In their current form, the Seagulls would fancy their chances against any of the teams in the top six.
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