Thwarted Blades in no mood to throw in the towel

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL - Robert Gled­hill AT BRA­MALL LANE Email: robert.gled­hill@ypn.co.uk Twit­ter: @RGled­hillYPS­port

SH­EFFIELD UNITED 1

MILLWALL 1

CHAM­PI­ONSHIP

MAN­AGER Chris Wilder and his Sh­effield United side will re­main de­fi­ant to the end.

Many will have left Bra­mall Lane be­liev­ing this stale­mate could ul­ti­mately have wrecked the play-off ambitions of both sides. Yet, by all rights, two clubs who have come up from League One on limited bud­gets should have been out of con­tention a long time ago.

The Blades are three points adrift of sixth-placed Millwall with a home game against Pre­ston (eighth) sand­wiched be­tween trips to strug­gling Birm­ing­ham and Bris­tol City (11th) to con­clude the reg­u­lar sea­son and Wilder be­lieves they can claim max­i­mum points.

“I think we can win the last three. We have a home game ahead of the last game of the sea­son and if we are still in the mix then, which I imag­ine we will be, it will be great,” said the Sh­effield United boss.

“Ev­ery­body is hop­ing we can take it to the fi­nal day. It is a ridicu­lous, un­pre­dictable di­vi­sion. It was my 100th game and I have to re­mem­ber what they have given me as a group, but there is that lit­tle bit at the back of your head say­ing, ‘we should be bet­ter, we should be in a bet­ter po­si­tion’.

“But we will go again and put the pres­sure on the Derbys of this world and the Mid­dles­broughs of the world. Fair play to the Mill­walls of the world and the Sh­effield Unit­eds of the world be­cause of what they are do­ing this sea­son.”

Millwall’s run-in looks tougher than the Blades’ as they face the third-, fourth- and fifth-placed clubs with their trip to Mid­dles­brough a week on Satur­day likely to have an im­por­tant bearing on the Blades, Derby (sev­enth) and Pre­ston’s chances.

On Satur­day, af­ter a spar­ring ses­sion of a first half, Bra­mall Lane’s 27,454 crowd was treated to the sight of two teams of con­trast­ing styles go­ing toe to toe for vic­tory.

Nei­ther goal­keeper was in the mood to be beaten, how­ever, Ja­mal Black­man, back from sus­pen­sion, and Millwall’s Jor­dan Archer pulling off a string of fine saves.

It took both cap­tains to beat them, the goals com­ing within two min­utes of each other.

The Blades took a 74th-minute lead when Lee Evans saw his ini­tial cor­ner re­pelled be­fore he whipped the ball back in and Jack O’Con­nell stretched to knock it back across the six-yard area where Clarke stooped to head home his 18th goal of the cam­paign in front of a de­lighted Kop.

The Blades switched off, though, and a long ball from Jake Cooper was latched onto by veteran striker Steve Mori­son, who struck a first-time equaliser across Black­man to stretch Millwall’s re­mark­able un­beaten run to 17 matches.

Black­man ad­mit­ted: “Yes, it was one of those frus­trat­ing ones where you go one-nil ahead and then it so quickly changes to 1-1. We had worked so hard to take three points, but have to take the one.

“It’s so tight at the mo­ment and any re­sult could change the whole pic­ture, but we still be­lieve we can get into the play-offs.

“We have such a tight group and we know we can do. We have done so well com­ing with the buzz we had from last sea­son and that pushes ev­ery­one to do as well as pos­si­ble and be­lieve we can still make it. We have had a great sea­son so far and we want to push on un­til the end of the sea­son. We all want to give it 110 per cent.”

Millwall man­ager Neil Har­ris, whose side were five min­utes away from miss­ing out on a play­off place last sea­son, be­lieved this was a point gained rather than two lost, although he felt his side should have been awarded an 85th-minute penalty when Chris Basham shoved Jed Wal­lace to the floor – and Wilder agreed.

Former Leeds striker Mori­son said of his equaliser: “That could be one of the most cru­cial goals of the sea­son. We knew it would be a tough game be­cause they had to beat us and we move on with an­other point.

“It was just in­stinct for the goal. I could see the ’keeper com­ing and it was a nice calm fin­ish. I am not go­ing to stand here and say I knew ex­actly what I was go­ing to do, I am a much bet­ter player when I work on in­stinct.

“I am not as good when I have time in the box, but it was a big goal.”

The Millwall cap­tain, rested in mid­week, con­tin­ued by ex­press­ing sen­ti­ments that could eas­ily have come out of the Blades camp. “Ev­ery­one is calm and I said in the hud­dle be­fore the game that we have some­thing unique at this foot­ball club.

“We are lucky be­cause we know we have a dress­ing room with play­ers who are go­ing to run and fight for you and will pull you out of it if you are hav­ing a bad game of it. I was hav­ing a bad game, but man­aged to pull us out of it.

“We are not feel­ing any pres­sure. Ev­ery­one keeps talk­ing about it, but we are not. The only time we will feel pres­sure is when we step out at Wem­b­ley on May 26 be­cause then it’s real, but what is there to feel pres­sure about? We are not ex­pected to be here and ev­ery­one ex­pects us to fall away.

“We are liv­ing the dream right now. There is no one who can tell me they knew this was go­ing to hap­pen. We never planned for this and we can just enjoy the ride now. The ta­ble doesn’t lie and, af­ter 43 games, we are ex­actly where we should be.”

PIC­TURES: SPORTIMAGE

HEAD­ING HOME: Sh­effield United cap­tain Leon Clarke heads home the 74th-minute open­ing goal be­fore sub­sti­tute Billy Sharp, in­set, goes close to be­ing the match-win­ner with an in­step vol­ley that brought a great save from Millwall goal­keeper Jor­dan Archer.

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