Barnsley 1 Blackpool 3: Blackpool handed Steele gift as Tykes crumble

Blackpool's Callum McManaman and Barnsley's David Perkins battle for the ball  during the npower Football League Championship match at the Oakwell Stadium, Barnsley.
Blackpool's Callum McManaman and Barnsley's David Perkins battle for the ball during the npower Football League Championship match at the Oakwell Stadium, Barnsley.
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BARNSLEY goalkeeper Luke Steele handed out the Christmas presents as Blackpool striker Matt Phillips bagged a hat-trick at Oakwell.

Steele allowed Phillips to score two soft goals and then a late penalty compounded his Boxing Day misery.

It was the first time Phillips had found the net since returning to Blackpool from a loan spell at Sheffield United.

His goals took his tally for the season to nine and illustrated just why the Blades were so keen to hold onto his services.

As for Steele, it is fair to say that yesterday’s game won’t be on a Christmas DVD that he will want to watch too often.

The former Manchester United goalkeeper had stated a desire to return to the Premier League but the queue for his signature in the New Year won’t be any longer this morning.

Matt Done put Barnsley ahead after 18 minutes but Phillips equalised in the 37th minute and scored his second midway through the second half.

The England Under-20 international completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Stephen Crainey was tugged back in the area by defender Scott Wiseman.

Barnsley have now suffered three defeats in a row after previously threatening a surge into the top six. Keith Hill’s side are six points adrift of the play-off zone while Blackpool are now just one off the pace in seventh spot.

Afterwards, Hill said: “Luke Steele has been absolutely magnificent this season. I have not seen the goals again but there is no finger of blame being pointed. We should have dealt with all three goals better but it is a collective responsibility.

“There is no embarrassment losing to Blackpool when you consider where they have been and how they play the game,” he added. “It’s a very attractive style that we are trying to progress to.”

Hill made two changes to his side with winger Jim O’Brien and midfielder Matt Done replacing Nile Ranger, whose loan deal from Newcastle United has been interrupted by injury, and Miles Addison.

But Blackpool, who have now lost only one of their last nine games, showed the greater all-round flair with Phillips, Lomana LuaLua and Gary Taylor-Fletcher all impressive.

Phillips has revived his career at Blackpool thanks to his spell with the Blades and is now an integral part of Ian Holloway’s side.

His pace was a constant source of discomfort for defender Wiseman and his eye for goal proved decisive in settling the outcome of the contest.

The Tykes weathered early pressure before Done finished off a dangerous ball into the box by Jim O’Brien.

Davies then wasted a good opportunity to double Barnsley’s lead when tripping over a pass from Jacob Butterfield.

Barnsley’s much-talked about captain tested goalkeeper Mark Howard from 25 yards and laid another slide rule ball into the path of Davies who dragged his shot wide.

Had Barnsley made more of these opportunities, the result could have been far different.

Although Phillips stole the show, LuaLua was another star for Blackpool. He may be a player who has never truly fulfilled his potential but he still has the class to leave a defender trailing in his wake with just the deftest of shimmies.

Eight minutes before the break, Phillips put Blackpool on level terms.

It was a ‘soft’ goal from Steele’s point of view who will surely feel he could have got down quicker to keep out the low drive which sneaked inside his right-hand post.

Significantly, it was Phillips’s first goal in seven appearances since returning to Blackpool from his prolific spell at Bramall Lane.

The game remained a wide open affair with the teams virtually taking it in turns to attack. Refreshingly, both were able to do this without resorting to the long ball.

Howard foiled Done in a one-on-one situation just before the break as the scales began to tip in Blackpool’s favour.

Phillips scored his second of the game in the 67th minute and, again, it was a goal that Barnsley goalkeeper Steele will want to forget.

Steele appeared to be caught in two minds as he allowed a cross from Phillips to evade his grasp amid pressure from incoming Blackpool substitute Elliott Grandin.

No sooner had the ball hit the net than Steele was pointing a finger of blame at Vaz Te. On this occasion, however, it was hard not to feel sympathy for the accused.

Phillips completed his hat-trick nine minutes before the end with a penalty after Wiseman pulled back Crainey.

There will have been few complaints about the entertainment value of the game – watched by Barnsley’s second biggest gate of the season, 11,776 – but the result still puts a small dampener on the Oakwell Christmas.

Barnsley: Steele; McEveley, Edwards, McNulty, Wiseman; O’Brien (Gray 62), Butterfield, Perkins, Vaz Te (Haynes 76); Done, Davies. Unused substitutes: Preece, Hassell, Foster.

Blackpool: Howard; Baptise, Cathcart, Evatt, Crainey; Ferguson, Sylvestre, McManaman (Ince 76); LuaLua (Grandin 63), Taylor-Fletcher (Basham 86), M Phillips. Unused substitutes: Eardley, K Phillips.

Referee: CH Webster (Tyne and Wear).