Matt Phillips came off the bench to score Blackpool's winner. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Leeds United headed to the seaside for their first away fixture of the 2012/13 season to face last season’s play-off finalists Blackpool. There was one forced change for Neil Warnock after Paul Green suffered an injury during the first half of United’s 1-0 victory over Wolves on the opening day of the season. Tom Lees was drafted back into the side in Green’s place in a move which saw captain Lee Peltier switched to left back in order to accommodate the addition of Tom Lees to the starting line-up.
Similarly to the Whites, Blackpool started their campaign in fine fashion with a 2-0 win away at Millwall and the hosts will have fancied their chances as United’s new boys try to gel as a team. The Whites gave as good as they got in the early stages though and took the lead after some early pressure when Tom Lees converted Ross McCormack’s corner with a powerful header. It was just what United’s travelling army wanted to see as they took the lead for the second consecutive game via a header. From then on Blackpool dictated much of the play but for large parts it was nothing that United’s new defence couldn’t contain. Tom Ince was at the heart of most of Blackpool’s threats but it was Gary Taylor-Fletcher who sent veteran striker Kevin Phillips through on goal for Blackpool’s first real chance to equalise. Phillips sent his shot straight at the in-form Paddy Kenny though and it was the first of a string of great saves from the former QPR shot-stopper in the first half. Other Blackpool players to be denied included Alex Baptiste. In the middle of all of Blackpool’s chances the hosts had two strong penalty appeals turned down by referee Dean Whitestone, who otherwise gave the hosts most 50-50 decisions on the night. Neil Warnock’s men were just about holding on till half time and when Tom Ince sent another good chance miles wide, it seemed like it could be United’s night.
The feeling during the half-time interval was that Leeds needed a second goal if they were to win. For Paddy Kenny to hold on to his clean sheet for another 45 minutes, it was going to be a massive ask. Leeds got the second half under way and before they had played out the first minute, that man Thomas Ince, Blackpool’s two goal hero against Millwall at the weekend, had struck the post. United’s defence were scrambling to clear the ball seconds later when a poor clearance had seen the ball pumped back into United’s danger zone. The ball was cleared successfully and Leeds had held onto their lead for one second half minute. Only 44+ to go.
Leeds did have a five minute spell in the second half where they controlled the play and came close to stretching their lead. McCormack sent the ball just wide before he was replaced by El-Hadji Diouf and then Becchio almost managed to scramble the ball over the line but unfortunately a mixture of both the Blackpool defence and goalkeeper Matt Gilks managed to guide the ball around the post for a corner. United’s period of domination was all too short and it wasn’t long before Blackpool were on the front foot again. Ian Holloway looked to shake things up by throwing Nouha Dicko and want away winger Matt Phillips into proceedings. The substitutes proved to make all the difference and after Luke Varney had failed to clear his lines and was easily dispossessed, former United left-back Stephen Crainey found himself in an advanced position. It was his cutback which provided substitute number one, Dicko with an opening net to the level the scores. All of a sudden it seemed as though United weren’t the only team who had a set of supporters in the stadium as the home supporters came alive. Danny Pugh was brought on to replace Aidan White and within a matter of minutes it was 2-1 to Blackpool. The tangerines once again reached the byline down United’s right hand side and this time Tom Ince’s pull back gave Matt Phillips, substitute number two, the opportunity to guide the ball into the right hand corner of Paddy Kenny’s net.
As well as the Whites had done to hold on to their 1-0 lead for so long, it couldn’t be denied that the hosts deserved to complete the quick turnaround and following Phillips’ goal there wasn’t any way back for United. The visitors had serious issues with retaining the ball and in the closing stages of the game it was just wave after wave of Blackpool attack. Ian Holloway’s side are one of the best in the league and their pace and attacking prowess cannot be denied, particularly when they are constantly on the ball. I would not like to see the possession stats for the game. Blackpool could have scored more as the game fizzled out with most of the Leeds fans attempting to come to terms with the fact that they were around 15 minutes away from a fantastic away win but had ended up going home empty handed.
Warnock’s game plan which worked out so well on Saturday, unfortunately fell short at Bloomfield road. It nearly worked again but United’s inability to keep possession cost them dear at the seaside. Austin had a poor game for Leeds and struggled to get into the game, Norris on the other hand had a good game before the Whites completely collapsed in the last 15 minutes of the match. McCormack showed some good touches which in included his second assist in as many games but Luciano Becchio was too often left isolated up front resulting in United’s clearances just simply coming straight back at them. Paddy Kenny made some great saves, particularly in the first half and he is going to be crucial to United’s hopes this season. We again looked good in defence in my opinion but when a team who attack as well as Blackpool do with pace, there is only so long you can hold on and the home side deserved to take all three points in the end. They sit at the top of the Championship with the only 100% record in the league after two games and they will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. Only 44 games to go. Another battling display from Neil Warnock’s men but attacking prowess is needed, and fast. Someone to keep the ball in the opponents half please Neil.