Rotherham United 2-1 Blackpool: Dan Barlaser's late free-kick gives Seasiders New Year's hangover

Pool have now lost three of their last four games in League One
Pool have now lost three of their last four games in League One
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Dan Barlaser’s 85th-minute free-kick condemned Blackpool to defeat at Rotherham United in their first game of 2020.

READ MORE: Rotherham United v Blackpool as it happened

The Seasiders appeared to be battling their way to a hard-earned point in this New Year’s Day clash after Armand Gnanduillet had cancelled out Michaell Smith’s opener.

But Barlaser’s late strike saw Pool slump to a third defeat in four to cap off a miserable festive period, taking just one point from their four games in the 12-day spell.

Simon Grayson made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 against Tranmere Rovers on Sunday.

In came Jordan Thompson, Sullay Kaikai and Nathan Delfouneso, while Callum Guy, Liam Feeney and Joe Nuttall all dropped down to the bench.

Jak Alnwick missed out with a bicep injury once again while new signings Grant Ward and Jordan Thorniley weren’t involved.

Former Seasider Clark Robertson, who scored in the reverse fixture at Bloomfield Road, missed out with a hernia problem.

The Millers, buoyed by back-to-back victories in the lead-up to this encounter, made a bright start, forcing two early corners.

The second almost resulted in the breakthrough after just four minutes, Dan Barlaser’s delivery narrowly eluding Freddie Ladapo from within the six-yard box.

It was a sluggish from the Seasiders, but they came close with their first venture forward as Thompson almost picked out Armand Gnanduillet on his own in the centre after a quick break.

Matt Crooks then dragged a shot well wide from 25 yards after the huge Rotherham midfielder pounced upon a weak clearance from Ryan Edwards.

On 17 minutes, Nathan Delfouneso squandered a priceless chance to give the Seasiders the lead as he blazed over from point-blank range.

The forward had played Gnanduillet in down the right before latching onto his teammate’s pullback, yet failed to test the keeper with his first-time strike.

The men in blue were made to pay for that miss just a few moments later when the home side took the lead in the simplest of fashion.

Beanpole striker Michael Smith got above Edwards from a Dan Barlaser corner to rise high, his header ending up in the back of the net via the underside of the crossbar.

The Seasiders continued to be frustrated in their attempts to get back in the game, Jordan Thompson showing signs of desperation by falling to ground too easily on a couple of occasions.

Things almost went from bad to worse for Grayson’s men when Mark Howard and Ben Heneghan collided on the edge of Pool’s box, providing an opportunity for Michael Ihiekwe.

But his lobbed attempt was charged down and eventually cleared away from danger.

They probably didn’t deserve it, but Pool drew themselves level on 34 minutes as they capitalised on some lax Rotherham defending.

The Seasiders produced a well-worked corner to allow Thompson the space to find Gnanduillet unmarked at the back post.

The striker made no mistake - heading beyond keeper Daniel Iversen who was caught in no man’s land - to notch his 14th goal of the season, matching last season’s total on the first day of 2020.

Having felt aggrieved to have been pegged back, the Millers looked to immediately restore their lead as Ogbene blazed wastefully over after embarking on a mazy run into the Blackpool box.

Grayson, clearly dissatisfied with his side’s first-half showing, made a double change at the break by replacing Thompson and Kaikai with Curtis Tilt and Joe Nuttall as Pool went 3-5-2.

Tilt almost made a nightmare introduction, appearing to haul goalscorer Smith to the ground inside the 18-yard box only for the referee to wave away the home side’s impassioned appeals.

At the other end, Pool showed signs of improvement as Matty Virtue came close to giving Pool the lead only to be denied by a sprawling save from Iversen after being slipped in by Gnanduillet.

The game began to open up more as a spectacle at this point, with Iversen getting down well to smother Gnanduillet’s low shot from a tight angle.

Jay Spearing, who enjoyed another fine game for the Seasiders, found Husband in acres of space down the left with the wing-back fizzing a dangerous ball across the face of goal that just eluded the sliding Nuttall.

Grayson’s men were reliant on a goalline clearance from Ollie Turton on 65 minutes, the defender heading Smith’s effort away from goal after Howard had failed to deal with a right-wing cross.

Former Seasider Kyle Vassell almost made an instant impact after being introduced by the home side, the striker seeing a first-time effort saved by the legs of Howard.

The two sides continued to exchange changes, Vassell heading over from point-blank range after Nuttall had fluffed his lines in front of goal from 10 yards for the Seasiders.

Vassell appeared determined to net against his former club and he came close again with 12 minutes remaining, curling a 25-yard free kick narrowly wide of goal.

Clearly lacking in confidence, Nuttall was given some encouragement by strike partner Gnanduillet in the form of a high five with eight minutes remaining when the former Blackburn Rovers man bobbled a shot into the turf and well wide when the ball sat up nicely for him 30 yards from goal.

With just five minutes remaining, the Millers were gifted a 25-yard free-kick when substitute Carlton Morris fell to the ground far too easily under limited pressure from Spearing.

The home side took full advantage, the impressive Barlaser slamming home a thunderous strike into the top corner, giving Howard no chance.

Other than a late Spearing strike, which Iversen claimed with ease, the Seasiders were unable to muster much of a response as they slumped to another disappointing defeat.

TEAMS

Rotherham: Iversen, Thompson, Ihiekwe, Wood, Olosunde, Ogbene, Barlaser, Crooks, Wiles (Hastie), Ladapo (Vassell), Smith (Morris)

Subs not used: Price, Lindsay, Clarke, Lamy

Blackpool: Howard, Turton, Edwards, Heneghan, Husband, Spearing, Virtue, Thompson (Tilt), Kaikai (Nuttall), Delfouneso, Gnanduillet

Subs not used: Sims, Nottingham, Macdonald, Guy, Feeney

Referee: James Adcock

Attendance: 8,689 (588 Blackpool)