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Late Winner Keeps Blades Automatic

Hartlepool United
0 - 1
Sheffield United

Victoria Park

Saturday 31st March

Attendance: 5825


Danny Wilson returned from one of his previous clubs with three massive points in the race for automatic promotion, but after scoring 9 goals in their 2 previous outings, The Blades had to settle for a hard fought single goal win.

The home team enjoyed good possession in the first half, playing neat football and getting the ball wide at every opportunity. Crosses and a string of free kicks - referee Boyeson putting the whistle to his lips at every opportunity - ensured a continuous stream of balls into United`s box which kept Maguire and Collins busy.

Up front, Evans and Cresswell had to battle for possession as very little was getting to them from midfield where the home side were limiting the impact of McDonald`s match winning potential. It took The Blades 25 minutes to string a decent move together, Evans firing over from a McDonald pass.

A nonsense booking for Collins at the end of the half summed up a half of little cohesion from the Blades, Pool ending with nothing to show from a half where they had been the better side. Encouragingly for the sell out travelling support, The Blades had stuck to their task and worked hard despite a stuttering first half performance.

As is normally the case in recent matches, United`s second half performance was much improved. The tempo was higher with McDonald noticeably pushing further forward, and the Lowton and Williamson link up beginning to work down the right.

After 55 minutes Evans, Quinn and Williamson had chances which came to nothing. Whilst at the other end Monkhouse had a shot saved then Lowton`s mistake offered Noble a chance which Simonsen tipped over, then from the corner the keeper was beaten by Hartley`s header only to see Lowton clear off the line.

Cresswell was replaced by O'Halloran who had a glorious chance almost immediately as he received a miss kick from keeper Flinders but he hesitated in a one on one situation and fired over. Mid way through the half The Blades were noticeably controlling the game more and pushing forward looking for the goal which would win the game.

With 10 minutes to go, the deadlock was broken. O`Halloran squared to Evans at the edge of the 6 yard box and the striker was hauled down from behind for a certain penalty. EVANS got up to stroke the ball low into Flinders left corner.

The home side continued to threaten, Boyd with a chance before MOTM Hartley was sent off for dissent in a silly display of petulance. Then in the 4 minutes of added time Harry Maguire`s header was tipped over when the centre back really should have killed the game off.

Sweeney`s effort in the final minute gave the Blades fans a scare, before the whistle blew for United`s third win on the trot and take them back into the automatic position.

Star Player

Neil Collins. Towering performance. He dominated the centre of the back line, didn`t miss a ball all afternoon. Harry Maguire took time to settle back into his position but as the game wore on the partnership began to look as secure as it had all season.

Gloucs's View

Hard going in the first half. Little cohesion, giving too much ball away and often beaten to the second ball by a lively home side. Doyle and McDonald got pushed too deep to be effective. The strikers received very little from midfield and had to resort to falling deep to search for the ball.

I was glad to hear the half time whistle, not because of Pool`s threat, but because United needed some re-organisation and direction for the second half. That duly happened, the tempo increased and United`s passing game was better even though they were forced to mix it up in the strong breeze.

Despite struggling to get to grips with the game, United`s work rate was always high. The determination to get the win was obvious as the second half progressed and the home side were pushed back deep to defend. McDonald`s influence increased and the strikers came into the game.

No doubt about the penalty, and Maguire had one equally as certain turned down.

Date:Sunday April 1 2012
Time: 2:39PM

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