Antenucci strike secures 1-1 draw with Blackpool...
BLACKPOOL 1 (Madine 44), UNITED 1 (Antenucci 62).
Blackpool: Lewis, Hall, Clarke, O'Dea, Dunne, Cubero, Addison, Perkins, Orlandi, Jacobs, Madine. Subs. Parish, Ferguson, Aldred, Oliver, Osayi-Samuel, Telford, Delfouneso.
United: Silvestri, Wootton, Bellusci, Bamba, Berardi, Murphy, Cook, Mowatt (Antenucci 54), C Taylor (Doukara 75), Byram, Sharp (Morison 54). Subs. S Taylor, Cooper, Austin, Cani.
Referee: S Duncan
Booked: Madine, Orlandi (Blackpool), Byram, Bellusci (United)
The trip to Blackpool saw Neil Redfearn name an unchanged side from the midweek 3-0 victory at Fulham, while Rodolph Austin returned from injury to occupy a place among the substitutes.
It was United who had the afternoon’s first sight of goal on a testing Bloomfield Road pitch, with Luke Murphy firing wide from distance inside the opening two minutes, while Michael Jacobs was inches away from connecting with a low cross for the hosts in a fast-paced start to proceedings.
The United defence stood firm to keep out a series of deliveries into the box, and Redfearn’s side looked at their most dangerous on the counter-attack as both Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook looked to break forward at pace.
But chances were few-and-far between until the 29th minute when Luke Murphy unlocked the Blackpool defence and made his way towards the byline. The midfielder’s floated cross was inch-perfect for the arriving Sam Byram at the back-post, but his right-footed volley fizzed millimetres away from opening the scoring.
Marco Silvestri was then forced into his first save of the afternoon three minutes later, getting down sharply to his left to clutch Gary Madine’s low effort from inside the area.
Jose Cubero smashed a first-time strike way over Silvestri’s bar, before another fine United chance came at the opposite end through Charlie Taylor. The 21-year-old waltzed his way through the home defence and into a one-on-one situation with Lewis, but the Blackpool goalkeeper pounced on his attempt as he looked to poke it goalwards.
David Perkins struck wide from outside the box, before the deadlock was eventually broken on the stroke of half-time through Blackpool’s Gary Madine. Andrea Orlandi’s curling free-kick clipped the post and fell kindly into the path of Madine to give the hosts a slender lead going into the break.
The two sides re-emerged unchanged and former United loanee Darren O’Dea towered a header over within three minutes of the restart, while Silvestri clutched a low free-kick from Orlandi as Blackpool began the second period on the front foot.
Redfearn was prompted into his first changes of the afternoon on 54 minutes, replacing Billy Sharp and Mowatt with Steve Morison and Mirco Antenucci respectively.
And a golden opportunity fell into the path of Antenucci just five minutes after his introduction, but the Italian smashed his volley over Lewis’ bar after being found inside the area by Gaetano Berardi’s cut back.
Antenucci was soon to make amends, though, and the striker pulled United level on 62 minutes with his 10th goal of the season to the delight of the travelling contingent. The ball bounced into the path of the 30-year-old inside the area and, with immense composure, he lifted the ball over the onrushing Lewis to make it 1-1.
Morison was soon involved himself, with his path just blocked off as he looked to race through on goal, while Silvestri needed to be alert at the opposite side to hold on Miles Addison’s low effort.
With 15 minutes remaining on the clock and the game firmly in the balance, Redfearn made his third and final change of the game – an attack-minded one – as Souleymane Doukara replaced Charlie Taylor.
United had their sights set on adding a second and Antenucci sent his lobbed effort over the bar after Lewis was caught off his line as he competed with Morison for a cross into the box.
Morison found himself crowded out inside the area as the game approached seven minutes of added time, with the lengthy stoppage coming due to a head injury to the United striker.
Silvestri’s reflexes were tested as he flew across his line to palm away Orlandi’s goalbound free-kick on the 91st minute, before United did have the ball in the back of the net through Giuseppe Bellusci, only to be ruled out for a foul in the build-up.
As United broke up-field, the Italian defender was adjudged to have tangled unfairly with a Tangerine shirt in the middle of the park before going on to head home Berardi’s cross. Bellusci was booked and that proved to be the game’s final meaningful incident as the spoils were shared.