Report: Albion 6 Blackpool 1
Albion were in stunning form as the sun shone at the Amex, thumping Blackpool 6-1 to open up a four-point gap over seventh-placed Leicester City.
Indeed, the points were safe by half-time as the Seagulls opened up a three-goal lead with Will Buckley, Matthew Upson and Andrea Orlandi all beating Matt Gilks inside the first 45 minutes, while David Lopez and an Ashley Barnes brace completed the scoring in the second half.
Poyet opted to make changes to freshen up his side with Barnes – back from a seven-game suspension – and fit-again Buckley returning to the side; Leo Ulloa was dropped to the bench for a rest.
And Albion started like a steam train as they cut the visitors open like a tin of sardines from the off; Buckley asking questions of the visitors inside the opening minute, denied only by a Gilks save.
On his return from a hamstring injury Buckley was running Stephen Crainey ragged and inside nine minutes he opened the scoring with a fine curling effort.
The former Watford man was set free following some great hold-up play by Barnes; he then cut inside onto his less favoured left foot and whipped the ball into the top left corner from 18 yards.
It was one-way traffic during the opening ten minutes as David and Orlandi also found a generous amount of space in the wide positions, but a scrambling visiting defence managed to halt the scoring.
Below-par Blackpool did show some attacking prowess as Chris Basham and Nathan Delfouneso linked up well. The goal opened up for the former but Inigo Calderon recovered terrifically well to make a sliding block.
The effort proved to be little more than a warning shot as Albion doubled their lead midway through the first half through Upson, his first goal in a Brighton shirt.
The classy Orlandi whipped a brilliant cross to the back post which Dean Hammond played back across goal with a diving header, setting up the former England international to turn the ball home from close range.
Paul Ince’s side were by no means at their best but nothing should be taken away from the Seagulls who arguably produced the best half of football since moving to the Amex.
And Buckley almost turned provider on 25 minutes when he stood the ball up for Barnes to attack at the back post but Kirk Broadfoot defended well by heading the ball over his own crossbar, while moments later Gilks was called into action again to beat away David’s thunderous strike.
The Albion faithful were cheering every Albion pass and on the brink of half-time Orlandi made it three, finishing off a stunning flowing move. He cut in from the left and played the ball into David inside the penalty area, who played the ball back into the path of Orlandi with a delightful flick and he finished the move off with an exquisite effort with the outside of his left foot.
Positivity was oozing out of the stadium at half-time and the Seagulls began the second half in a similar fashion to the first, extending their lead inside a minute of the re-start.
Orlandi played the ball into Barnes, who teed the ball up for David making a late dash into the box, and he smashed the ball past Gilks from 12 yards.
However as Blackpool had pride to play for, the fourth goal sparked them into life and they pulled a goal back on 53 minutes when Hammond scored an unfortunate own-goal with a diving header.
Moments later Ludovic Sylvestre saw his 30-yard effort fizz past Tomasz Kuszczak’s left post. The game was then cut short for Albion’s Polish goalkeeper as shortly after he left the pitch looking dazed after clashing heads with Gary Taylor-Fletcher, to be replaced by Casper Ankergren.
Kazenga LuaLua – after recovering from a hamstring injury - was introduced with 20 minutes remaining at the expense of Buckley and he was straight into the action, setting up Albion’s fifth on 76 minutes.
With his back to goal, the livewire winger turned Tom Ince brilliantly before fizzing in a low cross, teeing up Barnes to crash the into the goal, on the volley.
Then in the final minute of the gamed Barnes rounded off a memorable afternoon by stabbing home Orlandi’s cross to double his personal tally on his return, to complete the rout.