Sheffield United v Blackpool: Six goals, four red cards and utter madness

Paul Heckingbottom looked nonplussed. And that was putting it politely.
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In fact, after watching his players orchestrate their own downfall against Blackpool, Sheffield United’s manager appeared utterly hacked-off by the time the dust had settled on this chaotic game against opponents who at one stage seemed dead and buried before some costly defensive errors gave them the kiss of life.

Two goals up following an explosive opening period, United should have ended the contest celebrating a much needed win after losing momentum since the international break.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom drags Wes Foderingham away following the melee which followed the draw with Blackpool: Simon Bellis / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom drags Wes Foderingham away following the melee which followed the draw with Blackpool: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom drags Wes Foderingham away following the melee which followed the draw with Blackpool: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
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Instead, having seen two strikes from Jerry Yates and a Kenny Dougall finish turn the contest on its head, they were contemplating a third straight defeat until Oliver Norwood salvaged a point with seconds remaining. Rhian Brewster had earlier spurned a chance to level after missing a penalty against opponents reduced to nine men when Marvin Ekpiteta and Dominic Thompson both saw red. There were two more dismissals following the final whistle, when United’s Wes Foderingham and Shayne Lavery ended-up grappling on the pitch.

“We did more than enough,” said Heckingbottom, as he tried to make sense of the madness that unfolded after James McAtee and Iliman Ndiaye had seemingly put United in the driving seat. “But we were wasteful. It’s not a good point but, with the situation we put ourselves in, we’ll have accept that.”

Selecting a starting eleven has been an exercise in improvisation this season. United, now second, might have prepared for the contest at the summit of the division. But they are runaway leaders when it comes to collecting injuries; Sander Berge, Daniel Jebbison and Jayden Bogle the latest names added to an extensive casualty list.

Still, as the league table demonstrates, United are adept at making the best out of bad situations. Despite missing nine of their most influential performers, Heckingbottom’s men had barely broken sweat before taking the lead - McAtee netting for the first time since arriving on loan from Manchester City after Billy Sharp’s cushioned header fell into his path. Unfortunately, as we later discovered, United can also shoot themselves in the foot.

Sheffield United took the lead through James McAtee: Lexy Ilsley / SportimageSheffield United took the lead through James McAtee: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage
Sheffield United took the lead through James McAtee: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage
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“We went toe to toe,” insisted Blackpool’s Michael Appleton, who confirmed he will appeal Lavery’s sending-off. “I feel a bit frustrated but soon I’ll feel proud.”

Blackpool responded, with Gary Madine firing over before Yates converted. The only trouble was, from Appleton’s perspective at least, was that Ndiaye had already claimed his sixth of the campaign by the time the ex-Rotherham forward pounced; nodding the ball across the line after Chris Maxwell had failed to smother Norwood’s pass. Which was probably just as well given that Yates struck again just before the break. Rhys Norrington-Davies won’t enjoy watching a replay of the slip which allowed Lavery to provide the assist.

United’s John Egan created the next telling opening. Unfortunately for the hosts, it was at the wrong end of the pitch with the centre-half diverting Charlie Patino’s slide rule effort into Dougall’s path.

Ekpiteta walked when he received his second caution with 11 minutes remaining. Thompson quickly followed for the same offence. The drama continued when substitute Anel Ahmedhodzic won a spot-kick which Brewster duly missed; his shot beating the excellent Maxwell but not the post. Norwood spared his blushes deep into added time before an already bizarre afternoon descended into chaos.

Sheffield United Paul Heckingbottom watches the drama unfold: Simon Bellis / SportimageSheffield United Paul Heckingbottom watches the drama unfold: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Sheffield United Paul Heckingbottom watches the drama unfold: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Sheffield United: Foderingham, Baldock (Khadra 84), Osborn (McBurnie 64), Norrington-Davies, Egan, Basham, Norwood, Doyle, McAtee (Ahmedhodzic 64), Ndiaye, Sharp © (Brewster 64). Not used: Davies, Robinson, Arblaster.

Blackpool: Maxwell, Connolly, Yates, Dougall, Madine (Hamilton 85), Lavery (Williams 80), Ekpiteta ©, Thompson, Patino. Thorniley, Bridcutt (Wright 76). Not used: Grimshaw, Carey, Corbeanu, Poveda.

Referee: David Webb (Lancashire).

Attendance: 28,455.