Sunderland 1-1 Blackpool: Armand Gnanduillet on target as Seasiders claim deserved point

Armand Gnanduillet celebrates giving Blackpool a first-half lead
Armand Gnanduillet celebrates giving Blackpool a first-half lead

Blackpool extended their unbeaten run to six games with a brave, backs-against-the-wall display against automatic promotion hopefuls Sunderland.

The Seasiders led until the 75th minute courtesy of Armand Gnanduillet’s superb 25-yard effort on the half-hour marks.

But the Black Cats earned themselves a point courtesy of Jack Baldwin’s header, a result Blackpool more than merited it what was a breathless action-packed encounter at the Stadium of Light.

Terry McPhillips made two changes to his side for the game, one of them enforced with Donervon Daniels missing out after picking up a knock in training.

Despite scoring in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Walsall, Chris Long dropped down to the bench.

In came deadline day signings Antony Evans and Matty Virtue to make their first starts for the club, having both impressed off the bench against the Saddlers.

The reshuffle saw Ollie Turton revert to right back, while midfield duo Jay Spearing and Callum Guy missed out again as they continue to be sidelined with injuries.

Sunderland, frustrated by letting three points slip through their fingers in their weekend draw at Oxford United, came firing out of the blocks early on.

Duncan Watmore, recently back from injury, got in behind Blackpool’s backline inside the opening 60 seconds to force a corner. The home side worked to the ball short to Grant Leadbitter who stung Mark Howard’s palms with a rasping 25-yard effort.

The Seasiders were then dealt an early blow when, with just five minutes on the clock, Marc Bola was forced off with an injury.

With no defender named on the bench, Liam Feeney was the man to come on with Harry Pritchard filling in at left back.

Watmore continued to be a thorn in Blackpool’s side, the forward fizzing in a dangerous ball across the face of the six-yard box which somehow managed to elude everybody.

At this point the game quietened down a little and it appeared Blackpool had weathered the early storm.

Antony Evans was found in space in the number 10 role but, having taken a neat touch on the turn, the on-loan Everton man wastefully fired over the bar.

At the other end, Blackpool allowed Jimmy Dunne too much time and space to bring the ball out from the back and, with no defender choosing to close him down, the centre back unleashed a swerving shot that left Howard rooted to the spot but fortunately for Pool flew just wide of the upright.

On the half-hour mark Pool came within inches of taking the lead, Curtis Tilt heading against the foot of the post from Jordan Thompson’s corner.

The home side immediately countered and came close to breaking the deadlock themselves only to waste a promising two-on-two situation, Howard denying Will Grigg with his feet.

The action continued at a frantic pace and, just seconds later, Blackpool had the lead through a thunderous 25-yard effort from Armand Gnanduillet.

The striker expertly held off the attentions of a defender before turning and unleashing a piledriver on his weak foot which beat McLaughlin all ends up and nestled in the bottom corner of the Sunderland net.

The hosts, rattled by Blackpool’s goal, went in search of an instant equaliser and had penalty appeals turned down within a minute of Gnanduillet’s strike, Jack Baldwin going sprawling in the box only for the referee Carl Boyeson to point for a goal kick.

Aiden McGeady was given a presentable chance to hit the target with a free kick 20 yards out and he nearly took it, curling onto the outside of the post with Howard well beaten.

The Seasiders wasted a huge chance to double their lead on the stroke of half time, Ben Heneghan heading over the bar from Liam Feeney’s corner when he really ought to have hit the target.

There was controversy at the start of the second half when Evans was brought down in the Sunderland box. The referee raised his whistle to his mouth and looked set to point towards the spot only to change his mind and allow play to continue.

The home side looked to ramp up the pressure by bringing on an extra forward in Charlie Wyke and he nearly made an instant impact, almost getting a decisive touch to Watmore’s low drive across the face of the Blackpool goal.

McPhillips’ men were given a huge let-off on 64 minutes, Grigg somehow failing to roll the ball into an empty net after latching onto a through ball and taking it around the onrushing Howard only to find the side netting.

Howard was then called into action to make a comfortably save to deny Wyke on the turn as the Black Cats looked to ramp up the pressure.

The absence of Jay Spearing began to become apparent as Blackpool began to lose control in the midfield areas.

It led to the home side drawing level 15 minutes from time, Baldwin rising unmarked from a corner to head home.

You would be forgiven for assuming this would result in an attacking onslaught from the home side, desperate for three points to cut the gap to the top two.

But Blackpool dealt with their advances fairly comfortably and ran the clock down efficiently, much to the annoyance of the home faithful.

Substitute Chris Long had a priceless chance to snatch the win at the end of the six minutes of stoppage time as the ball fell to him 12 yards out, but the forward opted to take a touch rather than shoot and the chance went begging.

TEAMS

Sunderland: McLaughlin, Honeyman, Gooch (Wyke), O'Nien, Watmore, Baldwin, James (Flanagan), McGeady (Morgan), Leadbitter, Dunne, Grigg

Subs not used: Ruiter, Maguire, McGeouch, Sterling

Blackpool: Howard, Turton, Heneghan, Tilt, Bola (Feeney), Virtue (Kirby), Pritchard, Evans (Long), Thompson, Delfouneso, Gnanduillet

Subs not used: Mafoumbi, Shaw, Dodoo, Sorensen

Referee: Carl Boyeson

Attendance: 27,580 (398 Blackpool)