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The midfielder, on loan from Liverpool, scored the only goal of the game for Ian Holloway's side, who take a crucial advantage into the second leg on Wednesday evening

Tom Ince scored the only goal of the game as Blackpool beat Birmingham in the Championship semi-final first leg at Bloomfield Road.

The midfielder struck before half-time as his low shot deflected off Curtis Davies and beyond Colin Doyle.

Birmingham boss Chris Hughton knows his side must now win by a two-goal margin to ensure progression to the final and a shot at promotion to the Premier League.

Blackpool started brightly and dominated the opening five minutes as Stephen Dobbie and Ince showed quick feet in and around the Birmingham penalty area, but could not test opposition goalkeeper Doyle.

Birmingham were quick to respond through Davies, who rose to meet a cross but headed off target from close range, and the hosts called Doyle into action at the other end shortly after as Ian Evatt directed a Neal Eardley cross towards goal.

Doyle appeared to pick up a knock making the save as he collided with the woodwork but comfortably dealt with a tame Matt Phillips effort moments later, before Marlon King’s acrobatic scissor kick drifted wide for the visitors.

Nathan Redmond was presented with a chance to open the scoring for Chris Hughton’s side in the 15th minute after Wade Elliott guided the ball into his path, but the highly-rated teenager flashed over Matt Gilks’ goal under pressure from the Blackpool defence.

Ince was involved again when his corner was volleyed over by Angel Martinez and Dobbie continued to trouble Birmingham as his swerving effort from 20 yards was fumbled wide by Doyle with the goalkeeper struggling with the movement of the ball.

Blackpool went close again as Dobbie exchanged a neat one-two with Angel and fed Barry Ferguson, but the Scot’s powerful drive was off target, and Birmingham would have one more attempt at goal when King blasted into the stands from 12 yards.

But the hosts went into half-time with the advantage as the dangerous Dobbie found Ince, whose wayward-looking drive from 20 yards out deflected beyond the helpless Doyle via Davies’ foot.


Dobbie vision | Swansea loanee attempts to beat Guirane N'Daw

Birmingham enjoyed more possession at the start of the second half as they attempted involve lone striker King, but Hughton’s side struggled to create a genuine opening.

And it was Blackpool who were the first to go close after the interval after good work by Matt Phillips in getting to the by-line to pull back for Gary Taylor-Fletcher, whose effort would have found the net were it not for a last-ditch block by Peter Ramage.

The hosts were back on top with less than half an hour remaining and should have been two goals to the good when Ince latched onto a long ball and found Dobbie, but the Swansea loanee curled wide from inside the penalty area when he perhaps should have done better.

Ince’s trickery caused Birmingham problems again as he passed through two defenders and raced onto a return pass from Taylor-Fletcher which Doyle had to bundle away.

Birmingham faded out of the game but nearly snatched an equaliser in stoppage time as Jordan Mutch squared for King, but the striker scuffed wide as Blackpool saw the game out for a crucial victory.

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