OXFORD United have a mountain to climb in the second leg of their play-off semi-final after Blackpool claimed a comfortable win at the Kassam Stadium.

The Tangerines struck twice in four first-half minutes through Ollie Turton and Ellis Simms, before the latter added a late third on the counter-attack.

It made for a disappointing evening for the U’s fans attending their first match since December, as their side could not build on a bright start.

The opening 45 minutes were frustratingly similar to Blackpool’s 2-0 win here in March, with the U’s unable to turn possession into meaningful chances and the visitors deservedly ahead through Turton and Simms.

United’s previously free-flowing attack was blunted by the best defence in Sky Bet League One, while Mark Sykes could not beat Chris Maxwell with United’s best chance seven minutes into the second half.

The U’s were made to pay when Simms struck his second, leaving them needing a miracle in Friday’s second leg at Bloomfield Road.

United’s supporters were joined in the stands by Karl Robinson, who was serving the second game of his four-match touchline ban.

The U’s head coach made two changes to the side that beat Burton Albion on the final day of the regular season, one of which was enforced.

Sam Long’s hamstring injury prevented him from even making the bench so Jamie Hanson started at right back, while Brandon Barker came in for Mide Shodipo on the left wing.

United’s fans gave the players a raucous welcome when they entered the pitch and the noise continued as the hosts began on the front foot.

Within three minutes Sykes found a gap between the Blackpool centre backs, only to be tripped by a sliding James Husband, who received the game’s first booking.

Elliot Lee’s free-kick came to nothing, but Barker looked in the mood and his mazy run from deep gave United a man over moments later.

He fed Lee to his right, but the chance was gone when James Henry’s shot struck the offside Matty Taylor.

Blackpool successfully rode out the storm, though, and could have gone ahead after 19 minutes.

Simms’ cross was deflected into Keshi Anderson’s path and Jack Stevens made himself big to block, before Elliott Moore got in the way of Elliot Embleton’s follow-up.

It was a warning shot, but within seven minutes Blackpool had struck two big blows.

First, Embleton’s free-kick from deep was inadvertently prodded across goal by Josh Ruffels, with the grateful Turton on hand to dispatch at the back post.

United needed to keep it tight, but they were undone again three minutes later.

Simms beat Rob Atkinson to a long ball and flicked it over his marker’s head to buy some space in the penalty area, before his fierce effort took a nick of the centre back to beat Stevens.

The U’s regained their composure but lacked cohesion, while their supporters grew frustrated with referee Robert Madley as several decisions went Blackpool’s way in the build-up to the break.

United had a big 45 minutes ahead of them and, like in the league fixture, Sykes should have halved the deficit shortly after the restart.

The midfielder ran from deep to meet Henry’s perfect through ball, but he could not beat Chris Maxwell one-on-one.

An injury to ex-U’s man Luke Garbutt forced Neil Critchley to reshuffle the Blackpool defence, with Jordan Thorniley coming on and Husband moving to left back.

The latter almost created a killer third just before the hour mark, but top-scorer Jerry Yates blazed his low cross over at the far post.

Henry was next to spurn an opportunity as he fired into the Jim Smith Stand following another positive run from Barker, before Robinson looked to his bench.

Sam Winnall and Dan Agyei replaced Taylor and Lee in two straight swaps, but the visitors soon struck a hammer blow to United’s play-off hopes.

The U’s left themselves open trying to find a goal and a clearance fell to Simms, who moved the ball on to Yates.

Blackpool’s No 9 did not have the pace to beat Atkinson, but he checked inside and sent his strike partner through on goal to poke past Stevens.

Critchley replaced both wingers with full-backs in the form of Jordan Gabriel and Demetri Mitchell as the Tangerines looked to close out victory.

Meanwhile, Anthony Forde replaced Hanson and Shodipo came on for Barker, who had been United’s most consistent threat all afternoon.

The U’s needed a goal but were leaving themselves vulnerable to the counter-attack and suffered a further blow when Winnall was substituted just 19 minutes after coming on.

Cameron Brannagan joined him down the tunnel in stoppage-time, leaving United to finish with ten men on an evening when their poor record against League One’s top six continued.

Oxford United (4-3-3): Stevens, Hanson (Forde 79), Moore, Atkinson, Ruffels, Henry, Brannagan, Sykes, Lee (Agyei 67), Taylor (Winnall 67 (Gorrin 86) ), Barker (Shodipo 79).

Unused subs: Eastwood, McNally.

Booked: Blackpool (4-4-2): Maxwell, Turton, Ballard, Husband, Garbutt (Thorniley 53), Embleton (Gabriel 75), Dougall, Stewart, Anderson (Mitchell 75), Simms, Yates (Madine 80).

Unused subs: Moore, Ekpiteta, Robson.

Booked: Husband, Anderson, Dougall.

Referee: Robert Madley (West Yorkshire).

Attendance: 3,224.