Bristol City 1-1 Blackpool: Shayne Lavery's last-ditch strike rescues Seasiders a point on their return to the Championship

Shayne Lavery’s injury-time equaliser rescued Blackpool a point on their long-awaited return to the Championship.

By Matt Scrafton
Saturday, 7th August 2021, 5:05 pm
Updated Saturday, 7th August 2021, 5:06 pm

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The Northern Irishman turned home Josh Bowler’s cross in the 92nd minute of the game to send Blackpool’s 1,100 travelling supporters into bedlam.

Last season’s League One play-off winners looked to be heading for an opening day defeat for the second season running.

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Keshi Anderson in the thick of the action at Ashton Gate

Chris Martin had given Bristol City a deserved first-half lead and Nigel Pearson’s men had two or three other gilt-edged chances to extend their lead.

But the Seasiders stayed in the game and came on strong towards the end, hitting the post through Callum Connolly before Lavery struck at the death.

The Northern Irishman made a great impact off the bench, as did the man who provided the cross for his leveller Bowler.

Lavery and Bowler were two of six players to be handed debuts by Neil Critchley, four from the start.

Callum Connolly started at right-back, Richard Keogh was preferred to Marvin Ekpiteta in the centre of defence and Tyreece John-Jules was given a role just off Jerry Yates in attack.

Reece James, meanwhile, was named in central midfield, where he came up against his brother Matty - a summer signing for the Robins.

Only five of Blackpool’s starting XI were also starters at Wembley back in May - Chris Maxwell, James Husband, Luke Garbutt, Keshi Anderson and Jerry Yates.

The Seasiders were without a host of first-team names through injury, namely Daniel Gretarsson (shoulder), Matty Virtue (ACL), Kevin Stewart (ankle), Kenny Dougall (knee), Demetri Mitchell (knee) and Gary Madine (groin).

Elsewhere, Teddy Howe, Oliver Sarkic, Bez Lubala and Joe Nuttall were all left out.

Nigel Pearson’s Bristol City, who finished 19th in the Championship last season, left former Pool loanee Taylor Moore out of their side.

The hosts paid tribute to their former player and manager Terry Cooper prior to kick off, holding a minute’s applause.

The Seasiders survived an early scare when a Bristol City player went to ground inside the Blackpool box in just the third minute, but the referee ignored the home side’s passionate appeals.

The Seasiders kept faith with their new patient, passing style of play, which we witnessed in pre-season.

Critchley’s men looked calm and composed in possession of the ball as they looked to build up their play from deep.

Luke Garbutt had Blackpool’s first shot in anger, whistling a long-range effort over the bar.

At the other end, Callum Connolly did superbly to recover and make a last-ditch block to deny Callum O’Dowda, otherwise the Bristol City man was clear through on goal.

It proved to be O’Dowda’s last action of the game, as he was forced off with an injury a few moments later and replaced by Kasey Palmer.

Pool were more than holding their own early on, but they squandered a presentable opening when space opened up for debutant John-Jules. Instead of shooting, he opted to slip in Keshi Anderson whose attempted pullback was blocked.

The Seasiders were given a major let-off 20 minutes in when Zak Vyner’s long throw fell kindly for Andreas Weimann, but the former Aston Villa man blazed well over the bar from close range.

Chris Maxwell was then called upon to make a big stop to keep the scores level, getting down at his near post to get a strong hand to Palmer’s low, drilled effort.

The hosts began to build up some momentum, not helped by the Seasiders conceding a host of needless free-kicks - far from ideal against a Nigel Pearson side that likes to get the ball into the box.

Yet another Robins free-kick was worked back into the Blackpool box after being partially cleared, picking out the unmarked Andy King who headed wastefully wide.

The Seasiders appealed desperately for an offside flag to be raised, but it never arrived.

While Pool continued to give away set-pieces at an alarming rate, they also lost momentum with their passing game - struggling with the home side’s press which forced them into mistakes.

The visitors weren’t able to hold on until the break, as Bristol City edged their noses in front in the 44th minute. It had been coming, to be fair.

Experienced striker Chris Martin was the man to break the deadlock, heading past Maxwell at the back post after being left completely unmarked.

Pool started the second-half sloppily, failing to get their passing game going and resorting to lazy long balls for Hamilton to chase.

They did produce an attempt on goal, at least, as Grant Ward curled two or three yards over from long range.

This seemed to wake the Seasiders up from their slumber, as they created a good opening to level seconds later.

It came via Luke Garbutt’s tantalising cross from the left flank, which Jerry Yates came within inches of reaching at the near post. The delivery still almost fell to Hamilton at the back post, but it was just too far ahead of him.

Matty James, the sibling of Blackpool’s Reece, then blazed over from the edge of the box for the hosts.

The home side enjoyed another sustained spell of pressure around the hour-mark, James going close again as he whistled just wide from range.

The Seasiders were appealing for Nathan Baker to be shown a red card for a heavy challenge on John-Jules, but the defender was just cautioned.

Pool turned to the bench in the 73rd minute, introducing Josh Bowler for John-Jules - which saw Hamilton move to the left and Anderson into a more central position.

Bowler, also making his competitive debut, was almost straight into the action as a Garbutt corner reached him at the back post, only for the ball to flick off a Bristol City man behind for another corner.

But Pool’s clearest opportunity of the afternoon fell to the unlikely source of Callum Connolly 10 minutes from time.

It came via a Garbutt cross which was partially cleared to the defender, who whacked a first-time effort against the post.

With no option but to throw caution to the wind, Critchley introduced another debutant off the bench in the form of Shayne Lavery, who replaced the quiet Hamilton.

Like Bowler, Lavery was straight into the thick of the action, surging onto a through-ball down the right which he ought to have taken more advantage of, opting to stall rather than shoot - resulting in the chance going to waste.

The Northern Irishman then played in strike partner Yates after some good work from Bowler, but last season’s top goalscorer could only fire over.

It looked as though Pool’s late fightback would prove in vain, but up stepped Lavery with virtually the last kick of the game to rescue a point - the striker turning home Bowler’s cross at the near post.

TEAMS

Bristol City: Bentley, Vyner, Atkinson, Baker, Dasilva, King, James, O'Dowda (Palmer, Bell), Scott (Williams), Weimann, Martin

Subs not used: O’Leary, Simpson, Kalas, Wells

Blackpool: Maxwell, Connolly, Keogh, Husband, Garbutt, James, Ward, Hamilton (Lavery), Anderson, John-Jules (Bowler), Yates

Subs not used: Grimshaw, Ekpiteta, Casey, Antwi, Carey

Referee: Andy Davies

Attendance: x

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