Sheffield United finally found winning ways as they scrapped their way to a crucial 1-0 victory against bottom of the table Peterborough United at a wet and windy Bramall Lane.
The performance was certainly not vintage but, thanks to a predatory strike from Henri Camara on his first full start for the club and a penalty save from returning keeper Mark Bunn, the Blades were able to take the three points.
Kevin Blackwell brought back Bunn for the injured Bennett and also could call on returning captain Chris Morgan. Lee Williamson made his Blades debut and Camara began alongside Ched Evans up front. Peterborough had new manager Mark Cooper on the sidelines and had brought a healthy following of supporters as they looked to move off the bottom.
United began the game well with Camara looking very lively and linking well twice with Ward. The home side made a strong start in appalling weather conditions. Boyd then hit a fierce shot after United had coughed up possession but fortunately for the home fans it went just wide of the post.
United went back on the offensive and were very unlucky not to get the lead they deserved on 25 minutes. From a corner, Ward drove in the ball to the edge of the box where Evans met it and hit a thunderous shot that smashed the underside of the bar, bounced down and away to safety.
Playing good football, United had another chance when a clever dummy by Ward almost set up Camara, whose speed and alertness was at the heart of most of the Blades’ opportunities.
Peterborough were trying to get Boyd into the game at every opportunity but Walker was winning that battle and, from one such tackle, he was able to turn defence into attack and create the opening goal. The right-back played a delightful chipped ball over the top of the full-back and Ward darted onto it.
The winger pulled the ball back right into the path of Evans, who hit a fierce first-time shot that Lewis did well to parry. However, Camara reacted the quickest and slammed the ball past the prone keeper into the goal. It had been almost two months since the Blades had led in a game, and they were soon back on the attack. Camara had two more shots blocked before Davies ought to have done better when Morgan returned a half-cleared corner with interest.
The second half saw Peterborough come out early and, unusually, warm up by the side of the pitch with organised springs. Although unorthodox, the routine seemed to work, as the Posh started to see more of the ball in midfield. However, an excellent move that featured Ward, Evans, Williamson and Walker saw the latter’s pinpoint cross headed over by Camara.
McLean had an effort on goal saved by Bunn and then Mackail-Smith had an opportunity that went just wide. The Blades suddenly looked nervy, and those who had impressed in their first starts for some time were now tiring and loosing possession.
It was only a matter of time before a clear chance came for the Posh, and so it proved as poor defending led to McLean back-heeling the ball into the path of Mackail-Smith. The striker was challenged by Davies, who had gone to ground and, as Mackail-Smith hit the ground, the referee waited for a few seconds before pointing to the spot. After the appeals had been waved away, Boyd took the kick but Bunn guessed right and sprang to his left to push the ball away.
Treacy replaced Camara but United were being pegged back. Two more long-range efforts from the visitors went wide and they forced two corners. United introduced Reid for Williamson and France for Ward. Harper should have done better after Walker’s surging run but completely miskicked the ball.
In the four extra minutes, Treacy was sandwiched by two challenges as he darted in the box but the referee waved away any penalty appeals. United still seemed anxious but the closest Peterborough came was Batt’s low effort that saw Bunn slip, but fortunately the ball squirmed past the post with United’s supporters holding their breath.