The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Michael Beard­more

FOR such an en­thralling game, it was a shame ref­eree Ge­off El­tring­ham was the post-match fo­cus.

Af­ter be­ing com­pletely dom­i­nated by high-fly­ing Wal­sall for the best part of an hour, United fought back to earn a point in a thriller.

But it was El­tring­ham’s per­for­mance – wav­ing away two big United penalty shouts but award­ing them a con­tro­ver­sial free-kick in the build-up to Jose Bax­ter’s equaliser – that had both bosses talk­ing. To be fair, both had a point. With United – de­servedly – a goal down, Ro­maine Sawyers’ 66th-minute chal­lenge on Paul Coutts out wide was never a free­kick.

But it was given and mo­ments later, Bax­ter found the bot­tom cor­ner from 20 yards.

Any in­jus­tice Wal­sall felt, how­ever, should have been bal­anced out by the two penalty in­ci­dents ei­ther side of the goal.

Che Adams paid the price for try­ing to hur­dle Sad­dlers keeper Neil Etheridge and stay on his feet be­fore the lev­eller, while Wal­sall de­fender Ja­son Demetriou seemed to han­dle a Bob Har­ris cross late on.

Blades boss Nigel Ad­kins groaned: “The one on Che was a stonewall penalty. And when Bob Har­ris has crossed the ball, their lad has han­dled it, we’ve seen the video.

“Then when our player has done the same at the other end, the ref gives a free-kick. We’re look­ing for that con­sis­tency, aren’t we?

“But the lads have shown char­ac­ter again to come from be­hind. The play­ers have shown they are hav­ing a right go for each other and that’s im­por­tant. There’s a de­ter­mi­na­tion and spirit about the group.

“It’s about fine mar­gins some­times and at the mo­ment they are just not go­ing our way.”

Sad­dlers boss Dean Smith was equally ag­grieved about United’s equaliser.

He com­plained: “It was never a free-kick and then when it was taken Con­nor Sam­mon slipped and brought our de­fender Jim O’Con­nor down.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed we didn’t pick up all three points. It wouldn’t have been an in­jus­tice if we had gone in at half-time three goals up.

“I thought our first-half per­for­mance was ex­cel­lent and that we made a good team look av­er­age.”

Wal­sall twice hit the wood­work in a one-sided first pe­riod, Paul Down­ing’s header strik­ing the post as United keeper Ge­orge Long flapped at a cor­ner be­fore Milan Lalkovic’s 25-yard rocket crashed off the bar.

Long twice kept out lon­grange ef­forts from Wal­sall’s ex­cel­lent Man City loa­nee Ge­orge Evans and made a stu­pen­dous triple save.

Brad­shaw fi­nally broke the dead­lock six min­utes into the sec­ond half, sliding home Sawyers’ cross from close range. But United took over from there and af­ter Bax­ter’s equaliser and those penalty shouts, they al­most pinched it at the death, only for Etheridge to save.

PIC­TURES: Sport Im­age

LEV­ELLER: Sh­effield United’s Jose Bax­ter scores the equaliser OFF AND RUN­NING: Wal­sall cel­e­brate Tom Brad­shaw’s open­ing goal

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