Blackpool 2-1 Oxford United: Seasiders maintain perfect start with hard-earned win
A backs-against-the-wall display saw Blackpool maintain their 100 per cent record with a hard-earned 2-1 win against an impressive Oxford United side.
Ryan Edwards headed the Seasiders ahead with his first goal for the club, before Armand Gnanduillet doubled their lead very much against the run of play on the stroke of half time from the penalty spot.
However, Oxford - who had dominated for large swathes of the opening period - pulled a goal back immediately through Josh Ruffels with the final action of the first half.
Karl Robinson’s men were again in the ascendancy for the vast majority of the second half but Pool somehow managed to cling on for a crucial victory.
It means they have now won all three of their opening three league games, capping a perfect start to the new season.
But they had to do it very much the hard way, Oxford enjoying 70 per cent of the possession and producing 17 attempts on goal to Pool’s three.
The Seasiders were dealt injury blows in the form of Jay Spearing and Joe Nuttall, who were both missing from the Pool squad.
Spearing was ruled out with a shoulder injury he suffered towards the end of Pool’s midweek Carabao Cup defeat to Macclesfield Town.
That was a game Nuttall also missed, having injured his calf in training at the start of the week.
Curtis Tilt returned to the starting line-up having been rested for the cup tie against Macclesfield and took the captain’s armband in Spearing’s absence.
Matty Virtue remains sidelined alongside Mark Howard, while James Husband served the second of his three-game suspension.
The Seasiders threatened as early as the fourth minute, Jordan Thompson producing a teasing free-kick delivery that was headed away for a corner.
And Thompson produced another superb cross from the resulting set piece, leading to Pool breaking the deadlock.
Ryan Edwards was the man to take advantage, slamming home a powerful header inside the six-yard box to score his first goal for the club.
To Oxford’s credit, they responded well to going a goal down and almost drew level on 18 minutes, Jak Alnwick called into action to make an importance to deny Josh Ruffells’ back-post header.
Jamie Mackie was the next Oxford player to go close, the forward nipping ahead of Tilt to head just over the crossbar.
Despite being a goal down, Karl Robinson’s men were the side in control and were dealing with Pool’s threatening front three fairly comfortably.
Grayson’s men did grow into the game as the half wore on, their main threat coming via Liam Feeeny down the right-hand flank.
One of his teasing deliveries almost found Tilt at the back post, with an Oxford defender just getting the slightest of touches ahead of him.
Alnwick had to be alert once again 10 minutes before the interval, making a flying save to claw James Henry’s curling effort away from goal.
The ball fell to Mackie at the back post and, with Alnwick floored, the forward appeared to have the simple task of tapping it home into the back of the empty net but he stumbled and the chance went begging.
Pool’s goal continued to live a charmed life, as Alnwick was left rooted to the spot as Liverpool loanee Ben Woodburn drove a shot onto the foot of the post.
Despite being under the cosh for most of the opening half, the Seasiders found themselves two ahead in the first minute of stoppage time.
It came via the penalty spot after Armand Gnanduillet was bundled to the floor by John Mousinho after the striker had latched onto Feeney’s exquisite long ball.
In the absence of Spearing, Gnanduillet was tasked with taking the spot kick and he made no mistake, drilling his low penalty into the bottom corner and beyond Simon Eastwood, who had guessed the right way.
But Blackpool’s celebrations were short-lived, as Oxford still had time to pull a goal back with the final action of the half.
Blackpool were unable to clear their lines and a lofted ball found its way to Ruffels at the back post, whose header ended up in the back of the net despite Alnwick’s best efforts.
Blackpool thought they had their second penalty of the day with the first exchanges of the second half when Jordan Thompson was brought down inside the box by Henry.
The home fans were celebrating when it appeared referee Darren Drysdale had pointed to the spot, when in fact he was signalling for a goal kick.
Oxford almost pulled themselves back level with five minutes of the second half, but Alnwick was there to make a vital fingertip save from Woodburn’s low curling effort.
Referee Drysdale rapidly lost control of the match, with both sides displeased with his officiating.
Meanwhile the game continued at break-neck speed, although most of the pressure continued to come from the away side.
They came within inches of levelling matters on 65 minutes, Jamie Hanson left unmarked seeing his header cannon back off the crossbar.
Pool, somehow, continued to weather the storm, Mousinho the latest to produce a shot on goal, his ambitious 25-yard effort flying just over the bar.
The officials bizarrely indicated for six minutes of stoppage time, but Grayson’s men held firm to claim their third consecutive win in League One.
Blackpool: Alnwick, Bushiri (Nottingham), Edwards, Tilt, Feeney, Anderton, Turton, Thompson (Pritchard), Kaikai, Delfouneso (Guy), Gnanduillet
Subs not used: Mafoumbi, Shaw, Devitt, Hardie
Oxford: Eastwood, Cadden, Ruffels, Dickie, Rodriguez (Hall), Brannagan, Hanson (Forde), Woodburn (Moore), Mousinho, Henry, Mackie
Subs not used: Stephens, Long, Sykes, Berkoe
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Attendance: 9,104 (894 Oxford)