MURPHY GIVES THE BLADES AN EDGE
NIGEL CLOUGH saw a new striking option score a landmark goal on the eve of an historic week for Sheffield United with the manager expecting another boost before the big Wembley date.
Jamie Murphy was pushed up front in the second half from his midfield role and responded with United’s 7,000th league goal as they get ever closer to next Sunday’s FA Cup semi final with Hull City.
A frustrating point apiece, however, left United well short of and the visitors almost certainly condemned them to the play-offs but Clough has reason to be optimistic.
“Jamie offers us something different up there and took his goal really well,” said Clough.“One on one chances aren’t easy and after that we were pressing downhill for the winner.
“We don’t have too many forward options but Jose Baxter should be fit for Wembley. We’re juggling players because of the large number of games.
“We were too slow in the first half.The best we could hope for was 0-0 but then we conceded a sloppy goal and coming back from 1-0 down is difficult.
“The gap (to the play offs) may be too great but we’ve gpt six games to go and need two or three quick wins now to be in with a chance.”
Clough’s side passed a character test in their 17th competitive match since February 1 – a spell that has revitalised their season.
The fresh legs and minds of Stefan Scougall and Ben Davies, brought on by the Blades boss after the break, helped them back into contention after Dean Cox’s 13th goal of the season edged Orient in front after 41 minutes.
The first half was subdued and dreary as crowded midfields led to very few opportunities. Full back John Brayford often looked United’s chief goal threat, producing the first effort to test Jamie Jones after 36 minutes. Uncharacteristically muddled defending then gave Cox the chance to slide past Mark Howard from a tight angle.
Murphy’s goal was laid on by Davies within two minutes of the loan signing from Derby coming off the bench. But it also owed much to a costly mistake by Mathieu Baudry who allowed his raking long pass to find its way through the heart of the defence.
Jones saved from Ryan Flynn and a Davies free kick before the latter shot over in injury time.
With only three goals in five games and no striker on target since March 1, Orient boss Russell Slade could also do with boosting his forward line.
Slade said: “We tried something different and I was pleased with the way we started. Some of our passages of play were good in the first half, although neither side created too many chances. Cox has kept his cool to score a great goal but we’ve helped them back into the game with an individual mistake – things like that have been costing us recently.
“Automatic promotion is going to be very difficult now but we are still playing with the right attitude, desire and enthusiasm, so we’ll look forward to our last five games.”
STAR MAN JOHN
SheffUtd FIST FIGHT: Jamie Murphy celebrates Sheffield United leveller