Blackpool 1 (Ince 55)
Reds 2 (O’Brien 25, Scotland 87)
The Reds’ revival continues under the guidance of Flitcroft, Mellon and Scott, with Barnsley recording a vital victory on a quagmire of a pitch at Blackpool. Jason Scotland was the hero with the late winner; Jim O’Brien having seen his cool finish cancelled out by the outstanding Ince.
Jim O’Brien’s neat finish separated the two sides at Bloomfield Road by the midway point of the match, but there’s certainly not much in the contest.
There was a fairly early scare when Matt Phillips almost latched onto a neat through-ball but Steele was alert to clear the danger and win his side a throw-in in the process.
Gomes then managed a strike on target that was fairly comfortable for Steele to deal with on seven minutes. The Reds’ defence was found wanting a few moments later but thankfully Phillips blasted over after a poor cross was cleared into his path eight yards out.
The Reds responded positively but failed to create a clear-cut opportunity in the final third by the 15th-minute mark.
Chris Basham should have opened the scoring with a free header at the back post on 17 minutes but wasted the chance from eight yards.
A Tom Kennedy free-kick was nodded into the path of O’Brien by Foster and the winger’s looped attempt at goal was easy enough for Gilks to gather at the top corner. On 22 minutes a Basham slice fell kindly for Gilks as the Reds built up a head of steam down the left with O’Brien eventually delivering into the crowded penalty area.
Barnsley took the lead on 25 minutes as Marlon Harewood set O’Brien away down the right channel and the little Scot didn’t disappoint with a cool finish into the near post from 15 yards. He should take credit for controlling the ball well on the embarrassing surface.
The travelling Reds fans were in fantastic voice backing their side on a bitterly cold afternoon, and their team were responding.
Ince saw a shot blocked on 35 minutes as the home side piled forward with intent. The Reds were having to stand strong with Blackpool proving to be their biggest test of 2013.
Phillips was teasing Cranie down the left after latching onto Taylor-Fletcher’s clever ball over the top, but the winger’s cross evaded everyone in the area just as the board went up with one additional minute of time indicated.
The second half resumed in frantic fashion with both sides attacking in full swing. Ince was typically looking dangerous down the flank, but Perkins fired in the first shot of the second period, although it drifted wide of Gilks’ left-hand post on 49 minutes.
Rory Delap put in a fantastic tackle to deny Phillips a glorious chance to go one-on-one. Catchcart then fired a vicious volley just over the bar from 20 yards on 52 minutes – it was the closest the hosts had come to scoring.
Delap was replaced after a fine debut on 54 minutes by Scott Wiseman.
There was nobody else really who was going to score for Blackpool other than Thomas Ince – with his goal arriving on 55 minutes. A cross from the left-wing found the man who is somehow still at Bloomfield Road with the transfer window shut and he tucked into the bottom right corner.
Chris O’Grady became the second player to make his debut of the afternoon as he replaced Jim O’Brien a minute pas the hour.
O’Grady had an immediate impact as he went through on Gilks but the goalkeeper stopped O’Grady from bagging a debut goal as he deliberately handled outside the box. Gilks was duly dismissed and Blackpool were forced into a change. Phillips was sacrificed to be replaced by the Seasiders’ sub goalkeeper Mark Halstead.
Barnsley also made a change – their third and final one – with Scotland coming on for Harewood with 65 gone.
Kennedy curled in the free-kick and it seemed to be curling in but a deflection made the ball drift agonisingly wide.
Tiago Gomes hammered well wide as still Blackpool attacked with just ten men, just like last season, and the Reds would still have to be careful as they went for a winner.
Dagnall went on a splendid run on 83 minutes, taking it past two men, before being cynically halted in his tracks. Kennedy cracked the 25-yard free-kick straight at Halstead.
The crossbar of Luke Steele was rattled by a 25-yard stunner on 86 minutes by Angel. It was a huge sigh of relief for the Reds.
Jason Scotland bagged a second for the Reds and it was absolute pandemonium in the away end. The striker bundled his way through and eventually thumped the ball home from close range. Scotland showed immense power to steam his way through to score what seemed to be the winner.
There was almost a calamitous moment, reminiscent of the famous Bryan Gunn backpass, as O’Grady sent the ball back to Steele only for a bobble on the dreadful pitch and go out for a corner.
Barnsley were standing strong with Cranie and Foster absolutely immense at the back. The full time whistle eventually blew and the Reds’ rejuvenation had continued.
Blackpool: Gilks, Crainey, Phillips, Gomes (Delfouneso 82), Ince, Taylor-Fletcher (Derbyshire 69), Baptiste, Basham, Cathcart, Angel, Broadfoot.
Subs: Wabara, Ferguson, Halstead, Osbourne, Eccleston.
Reds: Steele, Golbourne, Delap (Wiseman 54), Foster, O'Brien (O’Grady 61), Perkins, Dagnall, Harewood (Scotland 65), Etuhu, Cranie, Kennedy.
Subs: Hassell, Mellis, Rose.