Sheffield United 0 Scunthorpe 1

Posted Monday, March 29, 2010 by

Scunthorpe's Paul Hayes blunts the Sheffield United play-off push

Sheffield United 0 Scunthorpe 1
Sheffield United's Henri Camera, left, holds off Scunthorpe United's Sam Togwell at Bramall Lane.

As the final whistle blew, there could not have been greater contrast in the dugouts. While Kevin Blackwell disappeared down the tunnel with ire pouring down from the home terraces and his United side's play-off hopes in tatters, Nigel Adkins basked in the adoration from the handful of travelling fans in the away end. This was the Iron's third successive victory, their first ever at Bramall Lane and, crucially, one that gives Adkins's side ample breathing space at the foot of the Championship.

Paul Hayes's goal in first-half injury time secured a win that, while not a season-ending result for either side, with Scunthorpe now eight points clear of the relegation zone and the Blades seven points adrift of the play-offs, goes a long way to ensuring that both sides will be playing at this level next season.

"We've got momentum now," said Adkins. "We've won three games, with two clean sheets back to back and the whole squad has been utilised. We've been decimated with injury, illnesses and suspensions, but it just shows that everyone has contributed. The spirit is there for all to see."

Such was the paucity of quality some sections of the home support booed, tongue in cheek, when the fourth official displayed four minutes added time at the end of the first half. They had real cause for disquiet two minutes later. As Joe Murphy's goal-kick skittered through midfield, Donal McDermott, on loan at Scunthorpe from Manchester City and bright throughout, skipped away on the right, before pulling back to Hayes, whose shot wrongfooted Steve Simonsen in the Sheffield United goal.

It was harsh on the home side, who should have taken the lead when Richard Cresswell's deep cross found Mark Yeates unmarked at the far post, but the winger headed narrowly over from close range. That proved their best chance, though it took a superb rearguard display from the visitors to keep United at bay as they threw players forward with increasing abandon in the latter stages.

Darius Henderson clipped the top of the bar with a header and it took two excellent Murphy saves to deny first Yeates from a dipping free-kick and then Kyle Bartley as Glen Little swung in a cross in stoppage time. Scunthorpe, though, continued to carry a threat on the break, with Simonsen forced into two excellent saves of his own to deny Garry Thompson in the first half and Grant McCann in the second.

"We gambled today," said Blackwell, who admitted that his side probably now need six wins from their remaining six games to have any chance of extending their season. "You have to go for wins and you're having to throw players on who aren't fully fit and are just a yard off in certain areas, but for all that we still had enough chances to win the game two or three times over."

Man of the match Donal McDermott (Scunthorpe)

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