GUTSY Barnsley were pegged back by Matt Phillips’ equaliser as they just failed to see off 10-man Blackpool.
David Perkins’ deflected effort fired the Reds in front just after half-time, but they couldn’t hold on, although the draw halted a run of seven straight away defeats against a Blackpool side who had skipper Keith Southern deservedly red-carded early on.
Reds boss Keith Hill, clearly unimpressed with the team that were brushed aside by West Ham at Oakwell on Good Friday, made an incredible SEVEN changes to his starting line-up.
Back came Rob Edwards to partner Stephen Foster at the heart of the defence, with Jim McNulty pushed further forward in a more protective role. Lee Collins was in at left-back, replacing Scott Golbourne.
Across the middle Jim O’Brien and Perkins were back in after coming on as subs on Friday, while Frank Nouble and the experienced Michael Tonge returned.
The front line saw a total rehash. Twin strikers Craig Davies and Andy Gray were relegated to the bench, while in came talented youngster Reuben Noble-Lazarus to lead the line on his own.
Blackpool featured striker Phillips – the man who bagged a hat-trick to win the reverse game for the Seasiders at Oakwell back in December.
The Reds started well, and fashioned the first chancewhen Nouble found midfielder Tonge, whose angled shot produced a decent save out of Matt Gilks.
Phillips and his strike partner Lomana Lualua looked lively and the two combined before Lualua tested David Button from just inside the box.
Then Lualua played in Phillips, whose looped effort dropped onto the roof of the net.
The game swung back into Barnsley’s favour in the 21st minute. Blackpool skipper Southern lunged in knee-high on Foster and referee Andy D’Urso had no option other than to get his red card out after a crude challenge.
The sending-off seemed to galvanise the hosts and after Lualua had crashed a long-range shot narrowly over, he and Phillips again combined.
The Congolese hit-man teed up Phillips superbly and Button had to be alert to palm the youngster’s well-struck effort behind for a corner-kick.
Hill’s men had the better of the closing five minutes of the half, though. Blackpool defender Alex Baptiste almost sliced a whipped-in cross from O’Brien past keeper Gilks, then Angel Martinez came to the hosts’ rescue as he raced out bravely to block an O’Brien drive.
O’Brien was instrumental in breaking the deadlock two minutes into the second half. Catching the hosts’ defence off-guard, Noble-Lazarus broke down the left and crossed for Nouble whose initial shot was blocked. The rebound bounced up for O’Brien, who powered in a shot which flicked off the back of Perkins who gleefully raced away to claim his first Reds goal.
Blackpool responded immediately when Stephen Dobbie powered in a 20-yard drive that Button appeared happy to punch away.
Thomas Ince smashed in a 25-yard half-volley that whistled inches past Button’s right-hand post, but the Reds weathered another storm and almost made it 2-0 on the hour.
The tricky O’Brien played an exquisite through-ball into Tonge’s path, but his powerfully-hit shot was beaten away by the legs of Gilks. That miss was to prove costly as Blackpool levelled with 20 minutes to go. And it was a classic counter-attacking goal as Bob Harris broke down the left before crossing for Phillips who buried his fourth goal against the Reds this season from six yards.
O’Brien struck a great shot just past the post, while right-back Scott Wiseman found himself in space just outside the box and he went close with a decent effort.
Hill brought on Davies, David Cotterill and Kallum Higginbotham late on, but Blackpool attacked again in their drive towards promotion back to the Premier League.
Cotterill came close to nicking a win for Barnsley, but Gilks was equal to the winger’s firmly-struck shot.
Blackpool (4-3-3): Gilks 7; Eardley 6, Evatt 7, Harris 6, Baptiste 7; Ince 8, Southern 4, Martinez 5 (Dicko 72, 6); Lualua 7 (Ferguson 55, 6), Phillips M 8, Dobbie 7 (Sylvestre 87, 6). Subs not used: Crainey, Ormerod.
Yellow cards: none; red: Southern (21, serious foul play).
Barnsley (4-2-3-1): Button 7; Wiseman 7, Foster 7, Edwards 6, Collins 7; McNulty 7, Tonge 6 (Higginbotham 85, 6); O’Brien 8, Nouble 6 (Davies 76, 7), Perkins 8; Noble-Lazarus 7 (Cotterill 76, 6). Subs not used: Dawson, Gray.
Yellow cards: Tonge (80), McNulty (89).