Play-Off Years: 2002/03

Last updated : 17 May 2009 By @blades_mad1889

Not many fans would have thought that a first day defeat at Coventry City (1-2) would end in the Blades reaching two domestic cup semi-finals whilst completing in the end of season final for promotion to the Premier League which at that time was worth a cool £30,000,000.

Blades boss Neil Warnock had been little busy in the summer transfer market with notable incoming player Paddy Kenny, who was a mere £47,500 transfer from Bury, yet despite being unknown he turned out to be a very shrewd buy.

In the League Cup the manger predicted that a Division One club would be good enough to make the grade and reach the semi-finals at least, little did he know that it would be the Blades who would contest the round before the final in both domestic cups.

They played Liverpool in the two-legged semis but it was in the early rounds where all the excitement happened. They saw off York City (1-0) and Wycombe Wanderers (4-1) at home before being drawn to Yorkshire rivals Leeds United in round three. The Blades had a spot of bad luck in the past and hadn't ventured into round four for more than ten years, but things were about to change.

The Elland Road club fielded a side with ten full internationals whilst keeper Paul Robinson would later represent England - Steve Yates (24 minutes) scuffed a ball into his own net in the first half which looked set to win the game for the visitors until two minutes to go when the tables turned.

In desperation Phil Jagielka (89) unleashed a stunning volley which is still talked about today; he controlled a cleared ball before smashing on the half volley a good 30 yards from goal straight past the keeper which flew in like a bullet. United pressed and pressed as extra-time loomed but it wasn't needed when in a goal mouth scrambled Peter Ndlovu (90) stabbed home the winner.

In the following round they powered past a poor Sunderland side (2-0) and Crystal Palace (2-1) to set up a tie with Liverpool. In the home leg Neil Mellor (35) headed home at the far post to hand the Reds the lead, but two second half goals from Michael Tonge (76 & 82) handed the home side a 2-1 advantage.

However it was always going to be tough at Anfield, though the Blades took them to extra-time after El Hadji Diouf (9) gave them the lead to make it 2-2 on aggregate, Michael Owen netted in the further 30 minutes to win the tie.

The FA Cup also brought some glory for United as they reached the semi-final stage; only to lose 1-0 to Arsenal at Old Trafford (Manchester United) in what was a very talked about game. Freddy Ljungberg (34) netting for the Gunners.

Like the Carling (League) Cup the Blades were drawn at home in all possible ties; they dispatched Cheltenham Town (4-0), Ipswich Town (4-3) and Walsall (1-0) before they once again faced Leeds United in the Quarter-Finals. It was a fantastic game which the Blades marched into the semis with Steven Kabba's 78th minute strike.

In the League the Blades lost away from home against Sheffield Wednesday (0-2) but made amends at Bramall Lane when they won 3-1 despite going a goal down to Alan Quinn's strike early in the second half; Steven Kabba (62), Michael Brown (65) and Wayne Allison (89) putting the Owls to rest.

United finished 3rd that season behind Portsmouth and Leicester City who were both promoted via the automatic spots.

League Division One
2Leicester City4626146734092
6Nottingham F46201412825074

The Play-Offs turned out to be an exciting encounter for Sheffield United fans after they saw off Nottingham Forest 5-4 on aggregate but were to concede humiliation after Wolves romped to a 3-0 lead before half-time in what was a particular poor performance.

During the league campaign the Blades had lost 3-0 at the City Ground in a game where future Blade Jack Lester netted twice, whilst Marlon Harewood also scored; but at the Lane on a Tuesday night in April the home side won 1-0 when Carl Asaba (62) scored.

As mentioned the Play-Offs drew each other together with the tie being played first in Nottingham, and the two teams returned to the Steel City after contesting a 1-1 draw. Another future Blade David Johnson struck first (55) but United hit back and three minutes later Michael Brown scored from the penalty spot after Dean Windass was fouled in the area. In the closing minutes of the game Reds defender Andy Dawson was shown a straight red card for violent conduct.

In the return game in S2 it turned out to be one of those magical nights, and is usually listed as any fans greatest game ever seen. Though United were to make heavy weather of it and no doubt the travelling Forest fans thought that had booked an early trip to the Millennium Stadium when David Johnson (30) and Andy Reid (58) had smashed them into a 2-0 lead.

However straight from the re-start Carl Asaba wondered up field only to be fouled on the edge of the penalty area; Michael Brown (60) netted after his free-kick cannoned off former Sheffield Wednesday defender Des Walker and past a help less Darren Ward; it was Brown's 21st goal of the season.

Eight minutes later the scores were level trickery from Steven Kabba allowed him to chip over Walker and smash the ball on the volley into the top left hand corner of the goal. The game went into extra-time where the first fifteen minutes ended 2-2 with all the action occurring near the end where three goals flew in to set up a frantic finale.

Paddy Kenny booted the ball forward to a lonely Paul Peschisolido (112), he weaved past Walker and Louis-Jean and single headedly fired the ball home past Ward. Five minutes later Asaba got on the by-line top cross only to see his cross headed into back of his own net by Walker and on 117 minutes Robert Page put in back of his own net under pressure but the game was won 4-3.

Wolverhampton Wanderers had beaten Reading 3-1 on aggregate (2-1 & 1-0) to reach the final in Cardiff. They had lost to the Blades (3-1) at Molineux with a brace by Michael Tonge and one from Wayne Allison, whilst at Bramall Lane it ended 3-3.

However the final was a sorry ending to what was a fantastic season by United, some suggested that it was a game too many after a glorious cup run in both domestic competitions but never the less it ended with Wolves winning 3-0. Mark Kennedy (6), Nathan Blake (22) and Kenny Miller (45) put them into a comfortable lead before half-time.

Sheffield United had there chances too, Matt Murray saved Michael Brown's spot kick and Robert page saw his header smash the post which Wolves also cleared off the line, but it wasn't to be the Blades day as it was Wolves whom won promotion to the Premier League.

:: Match Reports ::

Sheffield United 0-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Rankine (1)5Butler
Asaba (2)9Kennedy
Ndlovu (3)10Blake (1)
Kabba11Miller (2)
McCall (1)SubProudlock (1)
Allison (2)SubSturridge (2)
Peschisolido (3)SubOakes