Sheffield United's automatic promotion dreams came to an end when their result at Selhurst Park didn't combine correctly with the score at the Madejski Stadium...

Blackie and the players applaud the fans at the end
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The 0:0 stalemate in South London proved to be pointless when news filtered through that Birmingham City were 1:2 victors at Reading and were promoted to the top flight. Moving on to United's encounter with Palace, Jamie Ward was denied by Julian Speroni on two occasions, while Chris Morgan struck the post in added time in the second-half. Referee Chris Foy waved away several penalty claims throughout the game, especially in the second period, which sparked the 7,500 travelling Unitedites.

A completely unchanged side was named by Blades gaffer Kevin Blackwell. Anthony Stokes began the game for the Eagles against the club he was on loan at earlier in the season.

The pitch was littered with balloons when the first chance of the encounter arose. Greg Halford drilled a 30 yard free-kick wide of Julian Speroni's woodwork. United had the upper hand in the opening stages, when Jamie Ward broke into the box and was appeared to have been nudged to the ground, but no spot-kick was awarded.

Nick Carle who netted a 94th minute equaliser in the reverse fixture at Bramall Lane had a nice opportunity, but Kenny calmly collected. The ball was swiftly hammered down-field by the Irishman where Darius Henderson was ready to pounce at the back-post, but his diving-header was diverted wide.

Naughton and Danns both had speculative efforts, but both strayed wide. With half-an-hour gone, Cotterill blasted over from a difficult position. The deadlock was almost broken, Jamie Ward nodded Chris Morgan's flick-on towards the roof of the goal but Speroni who was on top of his game tipped over.

Cotterill was clearly United's main threat, and he tried his luck from outside the box - unfortunately for him the ball rolled inches wide. Palace had a late battle towards the end of the half, but Stokes fired over.

In the second-half, Palace broke early when Victor Moses was put through on goal by former Owl Shefki Kuqi, Kenny had to dive down low to saved Moses' shot which he perhaps should have buried.

Ertl blasted over and then with 13 minutes gone in the second-half, Ward couldn't capitalise. Two efforts from Neil Warnock's troops troubled Kenny slightly but both thankfully didn't hit the netting.

Stephen Quinn sweetly knocked the ball down to Jamie Ward, who had the goal gaping in front of him, but he poked the ball straight at the rushing Speroni, who to be fair, made himself big.

United continued to surge, especially down the wings through David Cotterill. He chipped in a delicious ball to the back post where Greg Halford's goal-bound header was once again denied by the goalkeeper, he touched over.

The strike partnership was swapped by Kevin Blackwell, Jamie Ward and Darius Henderson departed for Arturo Lupoli and Craig Beattie. Clint Hill and Patrick McCarthy both had strikes saved by Kenny, as United continued to gamble by pushing at least two defenders up field for every Blades attack.

Danny Webber came on for Stephen Quinn, and soon put Craig Beattie in on goal but he failed to record his second United goal at the ground where he played his trade earlier in the campaign.

In the four added minutes indicated, it was clear that the fans and the players knew the latest score from the Madejski (1:2 Birmingham), but the Blades stuck to their beliefs of 'Never Say Die'. Chris Morgan's curling header flicked off the back-post and was shortly cleared.

Despair
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Chris Foy who waved away plenty of tussles in the penalty area soon blew his whislte for full-time. The lads applauded the 7,500 fans packed in the Arthur Wait Stand who made the long journey to South London. Birmingham's result at Reading sees them promoted to the Premier League, and congratulations to them and the best of luck. United will face Preston next Friday (8th May) at Deepdale for the first leg of the Play-Off Semi-Finals. The final score from Selhurst Park is Crystal Palace 0:0 Sheffield United.