Sloppy Sheffield United dig themselves out of a crater of their own making with 3-3 draw against Blackpool
There was no other way to describe Sheffield United's performance against Blackpool.
Actually there was: lucky.
The Blades showed huge spirit to snatch a 3-3 draw with Oliver Norwood's half-volleyed goal in the ninth added minute but it was only impressive because of the huge crater of a hole their lackadaisical defending had dug.
In all their were four red cards – two after the full-time whistle as pretty much all the players and plenty of support staff and substitutes piled into a mass confrontation.
That Wes Foderingham was dismissed for wrestling with Shane Lavery – he went too – could be costly for his side in the coming weeks. The goalkeeper has been outstanding for them and after four games without a win, they need to be able to batten down the hatches.
Midway through the first half the Blades were cruising at 2-0 up. Their Manchester City loanees, Tommy Doyle and James McAtee, were controlling the midfield and the wing-backs were piling forward in overloads.
But they defended with a doziness which allowed Blackpool to take a 3-2 lead.
Maybe the Tangerines were feeling sorry for them, getting two men sent off three minutes apart for second bookable offences and conceding an 87th-minute penalty. Rhian Brewster hit it against the post.
Then in what was due to be eight added minutes but ended up stretching to ten, Chris Maxwell made brilliant saves to deny Oli McBurnie and John Egan either side of Anel Ahmedhodzic's goal disallowed for offside.
In the 46-game slog of a Championship season you simply cannot afford to switch off. The Blades should be very thankful Norwood minimised the damage.
Doyle had his first Blades goal disallowed when he swept a Billy Sharp knock-down in after just 95 seconds, McAtee had got his bundling home an assist from the captain – a surprise but justified selection given McBurnie and Brewster's recent goalscoring exploits.
When Iliman Ndiaye scored the second after 24 minutes, reacting quickly after Doyle had headed Norwood into a crossing position from where he drilled a ball goalkeeper Maxwell could only touch into harm's way, it all felt a bit routine.
"Two-nil and you still don't sing," taunted the Blackpool fans as a murmur of pleasant distraction rather than a ripple of excitement went around the famous old ground.
But Championship football is rarely that easy, certainly not when you are on a run of three games without victory.
Perhaps the home defenders were enjoying watching Doyle and McAtee strutting their stuff but they certainly did not watch Jerry Yates closely enough, allowing the Doncaster-born striker an embarrassing amount of space to score twice before the interval.
At least Chris Basham was close enough to him to deflect the shot he tried to curl in after 18 minutes, but when crosses came over from left in the 29th and 42nd minutes, he was able to head and steer the ball into the net.
The equalising goal summed up the malaise, Gary Madine winning a "fight ball", Rhys Norrington-Davies beaten too easily out wide and Basham and George Baldock AWOL when the cross came in.
At 2-1 the Blades could have made Blackpool keep their distance but Doyle was angry at himself for failing to keep a shot down and Maxwell made a terrific tip-over from Doyle. The way Ndiaye won the ball back for the second time in quick succession suggested Yates' opening goal might have had the desired effect in livening up the Blades but his second showed it only applied to their attacking players.
Their desperation on the verge of half-time saw McAtee booked for a penalty-area dive.
Bad went to worse when Egan diverted a Charlie Patino pass into the path of former Barnsley midfielder Kenny Dougall, who made it 3-2.
It could have ben four, Patino blazing just wide after being played in by Yates.
Suddenly the malaise had spread, Ndiaye playing a poor backpass and McAtee robbed in midfield.
The urgency was at least there, and Blackpool were angry that the Blades played omn - rightly - with Liam Bridcutt down injured in the penalty area - and appealed for a penalty when McBurnie hammered the ball at a defender. Dominic Thompson was booked for his protests.
As the game got tetchier, Blackpool lost their heads.
Marvin Ekpiteta scythed down substitute Brewster and received a second yellow card – his first was for a foul on Sharp – as Thompson did three minutes later for some byline argie-bargy, the warm-up for the full-time rumble.
When Maxwell leapt left to deny McBurnie, then scooped up Egan's low header – not to mention everything else that happened – it just looked as if there was nothing the Blades could do about it but they persisted and got their reward from a frankly ridiculous 90 minutes.
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).