Madness of Sheffield United's 3-3 draw with Blackpool cannot disguise Blades' failings

Rational thought was not easy in the immediate aftermath of a game of six goals – the last in added time of added time – four red cards – two after the final whistle – two disallowed goals and a missed penalty.

Relief at an equaliser nine minutes into stoppage time, like Oliver Norwood’s brilliant goal for Sheffield United against Blackpool, can mask a thousand sins.

Paul Heckingbottom took his time before addressing the media but when he did, he was clear-eyed about his side’s failings. Things have been difficult spell for some time albeit it is only in the last four matches scores have reflected it, but they are contributing too much to it.

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"It's not a good point having been 2-0 up," insisted the manager. "We've put ourselves in a position we have to chase, which is in our control. We've created enough chances to win the game, which is in our control, and we've not done it."

Mistakes were inevitable in the maelstrom – referee David Webb made a few, most notably allowing Norwood's goal, but Anel Ahmedhodzic should not have been flagged offside as he netted in the 92nd minute. Marvin Ekpiteta lunging at Rhian Brewster was reckless, for Dominic Thompson to then kick the ball at Ahmedhodzic brainless.

Sheffield United's best player recently, Wes Foderingham, getting sent off with wrestling partner Shayne Lavery as almost everyone who played and a few who had not piled into a frank exchange of views on the whistle was none too clever.

But the Blades' worst mistakes came when all was pretty moribund.

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When Iliman Ndiaye put them 2-0 up midway through the first half, the game was lolling, Tommy Doyle's brilliance spoiling it as a contest. His passing and thinking were brilliant, ganging up with George Baldock as fellow Manchester City loanee James McAtee did with the fit-again Ben Osborn on the left.

FLASHPOINT: Tempers flare with Blackpool's former Leeds United midfielder Liam Bridcutt down injured in the penalty areaFLASHPOINT: Tempers flare with Blackpool's former Leeds United midfielder Liam Bridcutt down injured in the penalty area
FLASHPOINT: Tempers flare with Blackpool's former Leeds United midfielder Liam Bridcutt down injured in the penalty area

After Doyle’s maiden Blades goal was disallowed inside two minutes he helped produce a cover version six minutes later. Billy Sharp knocked down his cross and McAtee bundled in his first senior goal.

As Doyle headed to Norwood in the 24th minute and Chris Maxwell could only palm the drilled centre to Ndiaye, it all felt a bit easy.

"I hope it's not complacency but we appeared that way," said Heckingbottom. "We had a couple of good moments but hadn't played great."

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Jerry Yates warned them before the half-hour, stepping off Rhys Norrington-Davies to loop a header in yet the dozy defending continued.

ON FORM: Blackpool goalkeeper Chris Maxwell makes another saveON FORM: Blackpool goalkeeper Chris Maxwell makes another save
ON FORM: Blackpool goalkeeper Chris Maxwell makes another save

Before half-time Lavery beat Norrington-Davies too easily on the left and crossed. Yates had so much space the ball dropped at his feet.

John Egan – the nearest thing to a Championship guarantee – diverted Charlie Patino’s pass into Kenny Dougall's path for the former Barnsley midfielder to make it 3-2.

Only 52 minutes in there was plenty of time and Ekpiteta and Thompson were happy to help, but Patino ought to have made it four after Yates too easily picked him out in a huge amount of space.

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Brewster was scythed down by Ekpiteta, on a booking for fouling Sharp, after 79 minutes.

BRACED: Doncaster-born Jerry Yates celebrates his second goalBRACED: Doncaster-born Jerry Yates celebrates his second goal
BRACED: Doncaster-born Jerry Yates celebrates his second goal

Blackpool's blood was up because the hosts played on with Liam Bridcutt injured after 65 minutes. Unfortunately in an era where cheating like McAtee's earlier penalty-area dive is the norm for all teams, players can no longer trust someone on the turf. Inevitably, McBurnie's hammered cross struck an arm tucked into the body, prompting penalty appeals.

Thompson was cautioned for dissent, so kicking the ball at Ahmedhodzic three minutes after Ekpiteta’s red was not an option. He did.

Yates pulled Ahmedhodzic's shirt for an 87th-minute penalty Brewster hit against the inside of a post.

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Add in Maxwell tipping over from McBurnie and scooping out Egan's header, plus Ahmedhodzic's disallowed goal from an onside position, and a third straight loss loomed.

Norwood's half-volley – as McBurnie fouled Maxwell with three team-mates offside – avoided it.

The spirit was magnificent. Heckingbottom revealed McBurnie is booked in for a hernia operation during the World Cup.

But if Foderingham gets a three-match suspension – there will be much pausing and rewinding at Wembley before that is confirmed – on top of McBurnie's daft ban last week, it will be another example of the Blades' self-harming tendencies.

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When nothing can be taken for granted in this crazy league, you have to help yourself.

Sheffield United: Foderingham; Basham, Egan, Norrington-Davies; Norwood; Baldock (Khadra 84), Doyle, McAtee (Ahmedhodzic 64), Osborn (McBurnie 64); Ndiaye; Sharp (Brewster 64). Unused substitutes: Davies, Robinson, Arblaster.Blackpool: Maxwell; Connolly, Ekpiteta, Thorniley, Thompson; Patino; Lavery, Bridcutt (Wright 75), Dougall, Yates; Madine (Hamilton 85). Unused substitutes: R Williams, Carey, Corbeanu, Poveda, Grimshaw.Referee: D Webb (County Durham).