MUR­PHY GIVES THE BLADES AN EDGE

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By John Brind­ley To com­ment on this match go to http://boards.footy­mad.net/

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.”

PIC­TURES: Mar­tyn Har­ri­son

STAR MAN JOHN

RD BRAYFO

SheffUtd FIST FIGHT: Jamie Mur­phy cel­e­brates Sh­effield United lev­eller

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