Leeds United 3 Blackpool 1: Whites secure first win in nine

LEEDS UNITED secured their first win in nine matches with a barnstorming first-half performance accounting for rock-bottom Blackpool.

Neil Redfearn.

Three goals in an excellent first 45 minutes, including a first in United colours for defender Liam Cooper and a lovely strike from Souleymane Doukara after a flowing move spanning virtually the length of the field, helped clinch three much-needed points against the Seasiders.

United, whose third goal arrived just before the interval from Mirco Antenucci, failed to kick on after the restart, with a 75th-minute goal from sub Nile Ranger making from a finale which was far more anxious than it should have been.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The low-key second half will represent a concern for Neil Redfearn, but securing a much-needed victory was the main business of the day with heading into the international break with their winless streak still intact representing an unpalatable prospect.

Neil Redfearn.

In the final analysis, Leeds claimed their first win in nine matches and while it was ultimately not the perfect afternoon that it looked likely to be at half-time, the three points was gratefully received by the majority of the 23,846 Elland Road crowd.

United, vibrant from the first whistle in a relentless first half in which their attacking intent was sustained, made a mockery of their recent winless streak in impressive fashion.

United head coach Neil Redfearn, pleased by much of his side’s attacking play against Charlton, if not aspects of his side’s defending, made just one change to his starting line-up in an expected move.

Captain Jason Pearce returned in the heart of the back four, with Giuseppe Bellusci sitting out the game due to a one-match ban, while Billy Sharp and Rudy Austin took their place on the bench after recovering from injuries.

Ahead of the game, Redfearn implored Leeds to be brave and open up the visitors, who went into the match with a horror record of their one win in the past year on the road in all competitons.

Leeds adhered to his advice to the letter in a powerhouse first half and while the Seasiders displayed plenty of evidence as to just why they look nailed on for the drop this term, it was the hosts’ excellent efforts which were worthy of the greater mention.

Three goals arrived in the opening 45 minutes with the scoreline in no way flattering Leeds, who produced their best footballing show since Huddersfield Town were dissected back on September 20.

Particularly down Blackpool’s left, United enjoyed a beano with the likes of Sam Byram, Adryan, Antenucci and Doukara all coming to the party, with plenty of others not far behind.

United pinned Blackpool back for virtually the entire half with the tone set in the second munute when Doukara cleverly slipped in Antenucci, whose saw from a narrow angle was blocked by Joe Lewis.

Generating a fair head of steam, Leeds continued their attacking assault with Blackpool palpably struggling to man the barricades.

Adryan nodded a Byram crossshot wide of goal before the pressure told with United taking the lead from an unlikely source.

A corner was not cleared by the Seasiders and the ball broke to Cooper, who showed instincts of a striker to tee himself up and lash home an emphatic 20-yarder past the stationary Lewis in a goal of considerable quality for a centre-back.

Blackpool’s poor start was then in danger of turning into a truly wretched one with an incisive pass from Tommaso Bianchi slipping in Antenucci, whose effort flew into the side-netting when the Italian was well placed in front of goal.

Blackpool’s opening had clearly been too much for Lee Clark, who made a tactical change on 17 minutes when Andre Blackman, on trial with United in the summer, made way for former Spurs and Portsmouth midfielder Jamie O’Hara, who came on for his debut.

It failed to alter the pattern of proceedings with Doukara firing wide after good play from Lewis Cook and Adryan.

A rare semblance of threat at the other end resulted in Byram making a telling clearance after Leeds were briefly unhinged with Andrea Orlandi firing over a dangerous cross on the right.

The game soon reverted to type with the lively Doukara seeing a shot blocked before a stunning second doubled the hosts’ money on 31 minutes.

A rapid counter was started by Byram and with Blackpool stranded with bodies upfield, Leeds went for the jugular.

A lovely exchange in midfield resulted in Adryan surging clear and the Brazilian playmaker ran deep into Blackpool territory before providing a perceptive pass to the supporting Doukara, who calmly beat the advancing Lewis with a pinpoint finish for a team goal of the highest order.

It was a moment to savour for home supporters who have endured more of the bad than good in regards to their club in recent times and soon after a chant of “There’s only one Neil Redfearn’ piped up, with it all very resemblent of the Huddersfield game.

The seal on a top-notch half arrived on 42 minutes when Antenucci, whose partner had a baby in the week, got in on the goalscoring act.

Telling play down the left saw Alex Mowatt set up Doukara, whose pull-back was half-cleared by Charles Dunne, with the lurking Antenucci, close to the edge of the box, composing himself before firing home past Lewis with the aid of a deflection.

The half-time whistle was the cue for more applause from the home faithful who had been energised by Leeds’ performance with the hosts, given their thoroughly disappointing run passing their character and aptitude test with flying colours.

With the game all but in the bag barring a spectacular implosion, the second half was all about Leeds boasting their morale and goal difference in the process, but in the event, play became scrappy with the hosts failing to hit the heights of their sublime first period.

Blackpool, for their part, showed a little more endeavour, but scant quality.

A long-ranger from David Perkins which flashed wide represented a semi-dangerous moment, while at the other end, Leeds failed to recreate the rhythm of their fine opening 45 minutes.

As time went on, it started to become a little disconcerting, but with Pool bringing little to the table, attacking-wise, it did not represent too much to worry.

That said, it became more of an issue for Leeds - whose lost Bianchi to injury in the 70th minute, with the Italian schemer hobbling off after being hurt in a challenge - when the visitors pulled one back with fifteen minutes to go.

Jacob Murphy’s corner was attacked by interval substitute Nile Ranger, with the lumbering striker, linked with Leeds in the summer, heading in unchallenged.

The goal appeared to wake up Leeds, who straightaway went close to a fourth.

The ball found its way to Antenucci down the left and he cut inside before firing a low shot which was spilled by Lewis, with sub Austin attempting to convert the rebound, only for the visiting rearguard to block his efforts, with both he and Seasiders defender Peter Clarke getting injured in the process.

With Leeds largely losing their way in the second period, the relief was palpable when a fierce low shot from Ishmael Miller flew inches wide instead of nestling in the net.

Leeds then failed to make the game safe when Doukara looked well placed to convert with the goal beckoning after being supplied by Austin, but he could not finish off with the ball spinning away and the chance gone.

Silvestri, Byram, Cooper, Pearce, Warnock, Cook, Mowatt, Bianchi (Tonge 70), Adryan (Austin 64), Doukara, Antenucci (Sharp 89). Unused substitutes: S Taylor, Berardi, Del Fabro, Dawson.

Blackpool: Lewis, Lenihan, Daniels, Clarke, Dunne, Blackman (O’Hara 17), Perkins, Lundstram (Mellis 69), Orlandi (Ranger 45), Murphy, Miller. Unused substitutes: Parish, Cywka, Zoko, Delfouneso.

Referee: S Attwell (Nuneaton).