BLADES’ MOR­GAN PRE­DICTS NERVY PLAY-OFF

SH­EFF UTD ......0 PRE­STON ........0 United boss look­ing at Wem­b­ley date

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Steven Chicken

SH­EFFIELD UNITED care­taker boss Chris Mor­gan be­lieves form will go out of the win­dow in the play-offs af­ter a goal­less draw with Pre­ston se­cured a semi-fi­nal tie with Yeovil.

The Blades had looked strong con­tenders for au­to­matic pro­mo­tion for most of the sea­son but one win in their last eight games has re­sulted in a fifth-placed fin­ish.

Mor­gan is un­con­cerned about re­cent re­sults, how­ever, say­ing: “I’m not wor­ried about our form at all.

“You go into a knock­out com­pe­ti­tion and it’s who­ever is strong enough to hold their nerve and see the job through that goes up.

“What I’ve said to the play­ers in the dress­ing room is ‘con­grat­u­la­tions for se­cur­ing a play­off place’, be­cause we’ve had to work damned hard this year to get that.

“With a club this size ev­ery­body al­ways thinks your bud­get’s mas­sive and you should be get­ting au­to­matic pro­mo­tion but that’s not the case.

“Th­ese play­ers have had a fan­tas­tic reaction to los­ing the play-off fi­nal last year and come back just as hun­gry to get pro­moted again.”

United were de­nied a tenth minute penalty when Joe Iron­side went down in the box un­der pres­sure from Bai­ley Wright, but ref­eree Steve Rush­ton waved away the protests.

That one mo­ment rep­re­sented all of the ac­tion in a truly aw­ful first half in which nei­ther goal­keeper was tested.

The sec­ond half started in a brighter spirit, with De­cland Rudd rac­ing off his line well to block Cal­lum McFadzean’s ef­fort on the edge of the box.

Ge­orge Long was fi­nally forced into ac­tion shortly be­fore the hour mark, do­ing su­perbly well to keep out a Jack King header that the bois­ter­ous North End fans were sure was head­ing for the top cor­ner.

Blades striker Chris Porter had the ball in the net within mo­ments of his in­tro­duc­tion from the bench as he beat Rudd to Jamie Mur­phy’s near post ball on 62 min­utes, but was awarded a yel­low card for hand­ball rather than the goal he craved.

Lee Holmes went close to giv­ing Pre­ston a 67th minute lead with a curl­ing free-kick but his ef­fort bounced off the top of the bar and over the goal.

The Blades would have fin­ished fourth with a win, and only John Welsh’s 89th minute clear­ance off the line de­nied Neill Collins the goal that would have achieved that.

Pre­ston boss Si­mon Grayson said: “I thought it was a half de­cent game as it was the last game of the sea­son for both teams.

“Ob­vi­ously we had noth­ing to play for but Sh­effield United did and we com­peted well.

“We were well or­gan­ised and hard to beat.We limited them to few op­por­tu­ni­ties and on an­other day, if we’d been more clin­i­cal in the fi­nal third, we’d have won the game.We’re glad the play­ers

have per­formed.”

PIC­TURES: Mar­tyn Har­ri­son

HANDS OFF: Sh­effield United’s Neill Collins, left, chal­lenges Jack King

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Blades’ Dave Kit­son, right, holds off Paul Hunt­ing­ton

NEILL COLLIN

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