Sheffield United’s wobbly form continued with a 1-1 draw at Bramall Lane against Tranmere.
With rivals Wednesday winning again, the margin between the sides has all but evaporated and with a tough away game to come, it would not be a surprise if the two Sheffield teams were to swap spaces in the next week. United need to find some fresh impetus, and quickly.
The Blades restored Neil Collins to the line-up, with Marcus Williams dropping down to the bench and Matt Hill moving to left-back. Chris Porter kept his place up front with Will Hoskins again operating wide right. There was still no Kevin McDonald in the match-day squad.
The game began with an injury. Tranmere took the kick-off and hit a long ball towards Matt Lowton. As the right-back jumped, he seemed to be caught and fell awkwardly and had to have treatment for several minutes before hobbling to his feet and continuing.
The first chance came for United when Goodison dithered and Porter nipped in smartly but his instinctive shot flashed across the goal. This apart, United were struggling to get into their game, whereas Tranmere were fighting hard and playing the better football.
United had the ball in the net when Porter won an aerial a challenge and Evans slotted home, but the referee judged that there had been a foul from by Porter.
Finally making a move of note, United got in front on the half hour. Porter and Quinn linked well, and Evans reacted the quickest after his attempted flick was blocked, to stab home from close range for his 26th goal of the season.
Soon after, Buchanan and Bakayogo bumped into each other in a comical clash as they tried to clear the ball and, as the players lay on the floor injured, United broke. However, Hoskins took too long and his eventual ball across evaded two United players who would probably have been offside if they had connected.
Tranmere had a strong finish to the half and Brunt shot wide again before Welsh had an effort deflected wide amidst a scramble in which Tranmere players were convinced a hand had been used. Showumni then nearly stole in at the far post and United were pleased to hear the half-time whistle.
United began the second half poorly, giving the ball away continuously and hardly venturing into the Tranmere half. The visitors sensed they could get an equaliser and, after a few crosses had whizzed across the Blades box, did just that. Welsh’s corner came right into the six-yard box, where Akins lost his marker and powered the ball goalwards. Simonsen tried to scoop it out but the ball had clearly crossed the line. It was dreadful defending in terms of the marking but once again Simonsen had opted to stay on his line.
United had a chance straight after this and won a corner, with Williams booked for kicking the ball away. When the corner was delivered, Collins’s header was cleared off the line, Maguire nodded back in and Porter’s close-range header was saved.
Tranmere then had a golden chance to go in front when Hill played Brunt onside and a simple through-ball saw the Rovers man in the clear. He was one on one with Simonsen but, to his credit, the keeper stayed on this feet and saved not once but three times before eventually forcing the player wide and seeing the chance away.
After this let off, the game became really scrappy. United created little and were not keeping the ball; Tranmere seemed caught between settling for a point or going for the win.
However, Evans got away from his man and the Taylor’s clearance fortunately scuffed into the deck and into the keeper’s hands, when any kind of decent contact would surely have resulted in an own goal.
Williams replaced Porter with Hoskins going more central and the substitute playing on the left and Quinn moving to the right, then Cresswell and Beattie came on for Hoskins and Hill. This saw the team move around again, with Cresswell on the left, Williams going to left-back and Beattie partnering Evans for the final stages.
A chance came for Cresswell but his header was comfortable for Williams and Tranmere then had a break and won a corner, from which Cassidy should have scored but headed wide. United ran out of time and ideas, and after the additional four minutes, a desperately disappointing afternoon came to an end.