Walsall 0 Sheffield United 1

Last updated : 24 April 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Walsall's hopes of First Division survival suffered a severe set-back as Sheffield United boosted their play-off hopes with a crucial win.

The vital goal came from Sheffield's leading marksman, Jack Lester, in the 48th minute from the penalty spot to send Walsall into the bottom three for the first time this season.

It was a win the Blades deserved as they were often the better team in tension packed game.

Walsall, under care-taker manager Paul Merson, were unable to put Sheffield under any pressure and it is now four games since they last scored.

This form and off the field problems has plunged the Saddlers into deep relegation trouble and on this performance there appears little light at the end of the tunnel.

United battled hard for their belated success. There was little real skill but manager Neil Warnock was happy with the result.

Walsall's anxiety was evident from the opening minutes. A re-vamped side, however, displayed little real pressure on a Sheffield United side desperate to regain winning form to spark a late promotion push.

Neither team appeared to be particularly dangerous in the opening half hour although Walsall were far from secure in defence.

Goalkeeper James Walker produced a fine diving save to keep out a header from Andy Gray following a good cross from Rob Kozluk but this proved to be a lone goal attempt.

In sharp contrast the untried Walsall strike force of Matt Fryatt and Jermaine McSporran were largely ineffective against Chris Morgan and skipper Rob Page.

Merson began at a hectic pace but tailed off in the sunshine and as a result the Blades were able to slowly dominate the opposition.

Ominously Walsall became badly organised but they were able to survive because United likewise lacked the cutting edge to put the game out of the Saddlers grasp.

Morgan became the first player to be booked following a tackle which put Fryatt into the Walsall dug-out.

But in the 48th minute Ian Roper needlessly fouled Lester who promptly hammered home the resultant penalty to give the Blades their vital win.