Oxford United made two changes from their final day victory over Burton Albion which secured them a play-off spot, snatching it from the grasp of Portsmouth.
Sam Long was replaced for Jamie Hanson at right-back, whilst Brandon Barker came in on the left as Olamide Shadipo dropped to the bench.
Blackpool made six changes from their 1-0 victory over Bristol Rovers on the final day.
League One golden glove winner Chris Maxwell returned to the side. Luke Garbutt, Daniel Ballard, Ollie Turton, Ellis Simms and Jerry Yates were also back in the starting 11.
Blackpool came away with a 2-0 victory when they visited the Kassam Stadium in March. First-half goals from Kenny Dougall and Ballard were enough to split the two sides.
Story of the match
Oxford started the game with an extremely high tempo, and inside the first five minutes, Barker ran the whole pitch, tearing through the Blackpool midfield on his way through. He found Elliot Lee, who was unable to get a shot away.
The U’s were hogging possession, but it was Blackpool who nearly came away with the first goal on the 18th minute. Simms’ deflected cross fell to Keshi Anderson inside the area, whose shot was brilliantly saved by Jack Stevens. The ball then fell to Elliot Embleton for a second attempt at goal, but Elliott Moore was the hero blocking off the line.
Blackpool burst into life and minutes after their golden chance, they took the lead. A beautifully whipped in ball from Embleton, came unfortunately off the thigh of Josh Ruffels, which fell perfectly to Turton, who blasted into an empty net from two-yards out.
Three minutes later, and Blackpool doubled their lead. A ball over the top was latched onto by Simms, who knocked the ball over centre-half Robert Atkinson onto his favoured left-foot and drilled the ball into the net. It took a slight deflection on the way through, but the strike was on target.
Oxford tried to get back into the game in the first-half, but struggled to create chances, with Barker looking the biggest attacking threat. He had a shot deflected inches wide just before the break.
The Seasiders nearly made it three after the break, with Embleton coming up with the first chance in the second-half. He walked through the Oxford defence to release a shot on the edge of the area, which was covered by Stevens.
Matt Sykes missed a golden opportunity to get Oxford back into the game. James Henry neatly found a gap through the Blackpool defence, which put Sykes one-on-one with Maxwell. The Blackpool ‘keeper stood tall and kept the attempt out to keep The Seasiders in control.
This year’s top scorer for Blackpool Yates nearly grabbed his 23rd league goal of the season after a delightful low cross from James Husband. Yates was on a tight angle, and his effort was blazed over the bar.
Another chance for Oxford went begging. A brilliant run and driven cross from Barker found Henry perfectly inside the area, his effort was smashed into the stands when he should’ve hit the target.
Oxford were going all out and left themselves vulnerable at the back and Blackpool took advantage. Simms met the ball on the half-way to find Yates, who ran towards goal and laid Simms to cutely slot the ball in the net to bag his brace and give Blackpool a huge advantage going into the second leg.
Blackpool look likely for a place in the play-off final
It’s going to be a real struggle for Oxford to turn this tie around, with them travelling to Bloomfield Road on Friday night for the second leg.
Earlier in the season, Oxford and Blackpool shared a stalemate at Bloomfield Road, so The U’s are going to have find something special to get past the Blackpool back line.
Oxford tried everything, but it wasn’t their night
Barker was brought into the team and if he found the net and Henry scored off his cross, it could’ve been a blinder for Barker and a different result for Oxford.
The U’s had all the tempo, but not the creativity, there wasn’t enough concrete chances to test Maxwell, and Blackpool took advantage of that by taking their minimal chances.
Chris Maxwell earned his 22nd league clean sheet this season
He wasn’t asked to do much but when the opportunity came, he stepped up and kept Blackpool in the game.
Maxwell has had the best season of his career, and he’ll be a big help to this Blackpool side if they make the final.
Man of the match
Ellis Simms. The loanee from Everton showed why he plays for a Premier League side. Two shots on target and two goals for the forward and now Blackpool have one foot in the play-off final.
His link-up play was quality, he has pace and a wicked left-foot. A real good-looking talent for the future and potentially something Everton are missing out on right now.