Blackpool 3, Barnsley 1
(Carabao Cup, first round)
When half-time arrived at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday night everything was going so well for Barnsley.
With two and a half games of the new campaign gone they had scored seven goals, conceded none, were top of League One and apparently coasting into the second round of the Carabao Cup.
However, a second half capitulation against opponents languishing 17th in the table emphasised that it is far too early in the season to start talking in terms of an immediate return to the Championship.
Having said that, this was not a full-strength Barnsley side and, in the longer term, it might be to their advantage that they no longer have an interest in this particular cup competition and, for the moment, at least, can focus all their efforts on the far more important challenge of the league.
There was no Keiffer Moore, no Mamadou Thiam, no Adam Davies, no Brad Potts in the Reds’ starting line-up, but they still dictated the pattern and pace of the game right up to the interval and deservedly held a 1-0 lead thanks to a superb volley from George Moncur (pictured) in the 19th minute.
Dimitri Cavare, whose rampaging runs down the right flank were a feature of the visitors’ attacks, had Blackpool defenders struggling in his wake before crossing for Moncur to whack the ball past the helpless Howard in the Blackpool goal.
After that the Reds found it difficult to penetrate a resolute Seasiders’ rearguard and they were largely restricted to long-range efforts which carried little or no threat.
When Blackpool came out for the second half it was immediately apparent that they had been on the receiving end of a dressing room dressing down and they hit the ground running, pressurising the Barnsley defence for the first time in the game and putting Daniel Stendel’s side on the back foot.
It took them only five minutes after the resumption to level matters following a bizarre sequence of events which saw Jack Walton make a brilliant save from French striker Armand Gnandguillet at the expense of a corner, following which he parried a Curtis Tilt header; and Mark Cullen then incredibly hit the bar from barely two yards out from the rebound before Michael Nottingham prodded the ball home as the ball bounced back to him.
Six minutes later Blackpool were in front, Harry Pritchard netting his first goal for the club with a stunning strike into the far top corner of the net from the edge of the box as the home team roared forward.
Another Cavare foray set up a chance for Tom Bradshaw to equalise but his shot was deflected wide and ten minutes from time Blackpool booked their passage into round two in controversial fashion.
Walton caught the ball cleanly from a curling cross before stumbling outside the area with the ball still in his hands as he looked to clear. Referee Mark Heywood ignored Barnsley claims that the goalkeeper had been tripped, and awarded Blackpool a free-kick which Gnandguillet steered home.
If nothing else this defeat will surely have acted as a stark reminder to all those connected with the Oakwell Club – officials, players and supporters alike – that they can take nothing for granted. Success at any level has to be earned over a period of time. And there is a long hard season ahead.
Blackpool: Howard; Nottingham, Daniels (Bola, 82 mins), Tilt, Wilmer-Anderton, O’Sullivan, Spearing, Thompson, Pritchard (O’Connor, 75 mins), Cullen (Delfouneso, 61 mins), Gnanduillet.
Barnsley (4-4-2): Walton; Cavare, Jackson, Pinnock, Pinillos); McGeehan (Mowatt, 80 mins), Dougall (Potts, 72 mins), Moncur. Isgrove (Thiam, 63 mins); Adeboyejo, Bradshaw.
Booking: Tilt (Blackpool).
Referee: Mark Heywood.