Blades snatch victory

Last updated : 28 December 2009 By BladesMadeditor @ Bramall Lane

1253302184_spt_ai_sheffutd_sheffwed_07A drab encounter by two of last season's play-off finalists was decided by Jamie Ward's fortuitous goal in the 86th minute in sub-zero conditions at Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane. Sheffield United had the better of the play in the first-half, but the second was a completely different kettle of fish. Neither side looked up for the battle, and ultimately, Jamie Ward's inswinging free-kick eluded everyone and reached the far-corner of Andy Lonergan's goal.

Kevin Blackwell made three changes, all enforced, although, Henri Camara was expected to start anyway because of his pretty neat performance at Leicester City on Saturday. James Harper missed out because of sickness and diarrhoea, Andy Taylor because of an injury he's still suffering with, and Kyle Walker who picked up an injury at the Walkers at the weekend. Ched Evans, Henri Camara and Derek Geary all replaced the injured and ill trio; Geary making his first start for over a year and a half. Meanwhile, Michael Tonge started for the visitors, making his first appearance at the Lane since moving to Stoke.

Henri Camara continued his liveliness from the televised game when he was presented with a hatful of chances early on; one effort blocked and another he booted wide.

John Parkin, already receiving a grilling from the home faithful due to his Barnsley connections and his, well, to put it nicely, size, embarrassingly powered a shot wide of Bunn's goal. You could have had another three or four goals next to the actual goal and the ball still wouldn't have found one of the nets!

Parkin was involved again, this time because of a needless bashing to Blades right-back Derek Geary - he received a yellow card for the rash challenge.

The supporters, who weren't at all happy with the referee's performance so far, had a giggle when Mr Kettle left the field because of an injury. After much discussions with one of his linesmen and the fourth official, the latter eventually entered the field and officiated the remainder of the game.

United were comfortably on top but couldn't find guile to put the ball into the opposition's net. Ched Evans shrewdly looped the ball from behind him and successfully got a volley off towards Lonergan's goal, but the Preston 'keeper, a Blades target in the summer, wasn't troubled with the ball going directly at him.

The Blades were presented with a glorious opportunity but Camara fluffed it. He was put through on goal by Geary, but the Senegalese lofted his effort over with Sean St Ledger's presence perhaps putting him off.

Stweart was then well off target from 25-yards, and then six minutes of added time was indicated. Parkin, already on a yellow which was dished out by the original referee Trevor Kettle, was fairly lucky to stay on the pitch after another heavy challenge on Geary. Half-time arrived and Parkin was unsurprisingly substituted by his manager Alan Irvine.

Michael Tonge, a former Blade who produced so many memorable memories down the years, had a lame effort saved by Bunn. Two throws of the dice by Kevin Blackwell then followed; Quinn and Camara off, Williamson and Little on. Jamie Ward moved up front with Ched Evans, Little went onto the right and Cresswell the left.

Jamie Ward's free-kick was cleared, only to Evans who nodded a dangerous ball back across goal; Richard Cresswell was destined to score until St Ledger intervened with a terrific last-ditch tackle to head over the crossbar.

With 86 minutes gone, and a draw on the cards, a goal arrived - the only one of the game. A foul on Stewart meant Jamie Ward could try his luck again with a cross from a free-kick near the touchline in front of the Family Stand. The former Chesterfield marksman dinked the ball into the box, only to evade absolutely everyone and bounce up into the far-corner of North End's goal. It was definitely Ward's goal, but Cresswell and Evans were claiming it, whilst Chris Morgan clattered with Lonergan in the process. The skipper was soon back on his feet in front of a jubilated Blades faithful.

Five minutes of added time pleased Preston, but they didn't threat the Blades goal too much and Mark Bunn, making his last appearance for United in his current loan spell, received the ball and booted it into the heavens as the referee blew for full-time. The game wasn't one a neutral would have loved to have sat through, but Unitedites will be delighted with maximum points which lifts them back up to 7th in the table. The final score from Bramall Lane, is, Sheffield United 1:0 Preston.

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