Blades on brink of Premier League return
Sheffield United booked their place in the Premier League - bar a mathematical miracle - with victory over Town at a packed Bramall Lane.
The Blades went to the top of the table and six points clear of third placed Leeds with the Elland Road club facing Aston Villa tomorrow and Town next Sunday and having to turn around a 13 goal deficit.
Scott Hogan gave Sheffield the lead midway through the first-half after Jack O’Connell had set him up and then O’Connell made it two with a thumping header in the second-half.
United, full of confidence rather than nerves, dominated the 90 minutes and Town rarely threatened with former Blue, David McGoldrick, a leading candidate for man of the match.
Myles Kenlock returned to the line-up, Kayden Jackson partnered Will Keane up front, while McGoldrick started for the Blades.
The Republic of Ireland international was immediately on the ball as Sheffield forced a corner, then seconds later he was inches away from converting from George Baldock’s excellent cross.
John Fleck saw his cross beat everyone before Town were forced into an early change when the unfortunate Keane was replaced by Trevoh Chalobah.
Dean Gerken was quickly off his line to take Enda Stevens’ cross as Hogan looked to pounce, the Aston Villa loanee stabbing the ball wide after Fleck had found space inside the Town box.
Sheffield continued to threaten and McGoldrick evaded close friend Luke Chambers to burst clear on goal but when a shot looked on, he tried to find Hogan in the middle but Toto Nsiala cleared.
Town began to get a foothold in the game, Jackson denied on the edge of the box, Flynn Downes firing wide then Teddy Bishop weaved his way into Blades’ box but his shot was blocked.
Bramall Lane erupted on 24 minutes, O’Connell’s cross met by Hogan who guided the ball into the far corner leaving Gerken with no chance.
Ollie Norwood had a shot deflected over after a clever corner, Baldock denied by Gerken after McGoldrick opened up the defence with a brilliant pass, then Chris Basham crowded out as he looked to make it two.
Norwood stabbed the ball wide, Chalobah then heading wide after Alan Judge’s free-kick had fallen to him in a crowded penalty area as Blues remained in the game at the break.
Norwood almost gave Sheffield the perfect start to the second-half, his vicious in-swinging free-kick hit the inside of the post via Gerken’s fingertips and bounced to safety, then McGoldrick headed into the sidenetting from close range.
Gerken came to Town’s rescue again to deny Hogan after a flowing move down the right, with the influential Mark Duffy at the centre of it before Hogan made way for local hero, Billy Sharp.
The substitute immediately provided a threat from yet another delicious ball from McGoldrick but Cole Skuse - playing at the back - ended the danger and not for the first time.
Jackson, nursing what looked like a hamstring problem, was replaced by Andre Dozzell midway through the half, Judge pushed on as a striker but on 71 minutes the Blades extended their lead with O’Connell thumping in a header from a corner.
Town held firm against the red and white tide over the closing stages, with Skuse prominent, Judge forcing a save from Dean Henderson before a final blast of the whistle from referee Tim Robinson sent Bramall Lane into party mode.
Sheff Utd: Henderson, Baldock, Stevens, Fleck, O’Connell, Basham, Hogan (Sharp 62), Egan, Norwood, McGoldrick (Madine 77), Duffy (Lundstram 85). Subs not used: Dowell, Stearman, Moore, Cranie.
Town: Gerken, Bree, Chambers, Nsiala, Kenlock, Skuse, Bishop, Downes, Judge, Jackson (Dozzell 68), Keane (Chalobah 7). Subs not used: Bialkowski, Emmanuel, Elder, Ndaba, El Mizouni. Booked: Judge.