BLADES’ MORGAN PREDICTS NERVY PLAY-OFF
SHEFF UTD ......0 PRESTON ........0 United boss looking at Wembley date
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
HANDS OFF: Sheffield United’s Neill Collins, left, challenges Jack King
EYES ON THE PRIZE: Blades’ Dave Kitson, right, holds off Paul Huntington