Football: Bassett hounded as brave Blackpool rock on: Blades' pressure fails to leave mark

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The Independent Online
Sheffield United. . .2

Blackpool . . . . . .0

(Blackpool win 3-2 on aggregate)

SECOND Division Blackpool took another step along the Golden Mile of a Coca-Cola Cup run last night when they survived a late Sheffield flourish to hang on to their first-leg advantage. The three-goal lead they established at Bloomfield Road, mind, was only just enough.

For almost an hour Blackpool soaked up the almost continuous pressure of their Premier League opponents and even when Bobby Davison, beginning his second loan spell at Bramall Lane, finally broke their resistance with a neat chip over Lee Martin from Carl Bradshaw's through ball, they still looked comfortable.

Then, with six minutes left, the substitute Mitch Ward got his head to Dane Whitehouse's chip and for the first time Blackpool were in danger of being swept away by the tide. Moments later, Whitehouse saw a 20-yard drive come back off the post, and Martin made two fine saves from Willie Falconer and David Tuttle in the dying seconds.

Until then, Blackpool's policy of falling back in numbers and letting the Blades chase the game had worked admirably. Gary Briggs and Philip Horner at the heart of their back four repelled most of what was thrown at them, and Martin always had a finger in the dyke when required.

United's need to make early inroads into the deficit was evident in their optimistic long-range shooting and two headers from their leading scorer Jostein Flo were the best they had to show for their relentless first-half efforts. Ward's arrival after half-time belatedly gave them some midfield flair but by then it was too late.

The Blackpool manager, Billy Ayre, said: 'They put us under extreme pressure and how we stood up to that determined the outcome.' Eyre's counterpart, Dave Bassett, said: 'If we had played in the first half as we did in the second we might have pulled it back, but the real damage was done in the first leg.'

Sheffield Utd (4-4-2): Tracey; Bradshaw, Beesley (Hoyland, 69), Tuttle, Barnes (Ward, h/t); Hodges, Rogers, Falconer, Whitehouse; Flo, Davison. Substitute not used: Kelly (gk).

Blackpool (4-4-2): Martin; Davies, Horner, Briggs, Cook; Rodwell, Bonner (Gouck, 90), Beech, Sheedy; Watson, Griffiths (Mitchell, 86). Substitute not used: McIlhargey (gk).

Referee: V Callow (Solihull).

(Photograph omitted)