Sheffield United 2-1 Preston North End
Ched Evans put Preston North End to the sword with two goals after being behind to gain a vital three points in what was a richly successful week for Sheffield United.
After their 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town at the Galpharm in midweek and Sheffield Wednesday’s loss at home to Stevenage followed by a 1-0 loss away at Chesterfield in Saturday’s early kick-off, the Blades had the chance open up a five-point gap between themselves in the second automatic promotion place and their arch-rivals in third.
The tone was set for a slightly ill-tempered game as early as the third minute when a crunching tackle on Blades captain Michael Doyle came in from Alex Marrow, who consequently received a yellow card. Westley also felt aggrieved on several occasions in the first half, inducing a warning from the referee and his fourth official.
The first-half was a vey poor affair; Graham Westley’s tactics of hoofing the ball and hoping that working hard would pay dividends dictated the way in which the game was played, meaning a largely lacklustre display from both sides in the first-half, the epitome of which was Ched Evans’ awful penalty in the 28th minute.
The penalty itself came from a long free-kick from Blades goalkeeper inside his own area which the Preston side failed to deal with; Ched Evans managed to get round and get the better of North End defender Aaron Brown and got to the ball first before subsequently getting pulled down by Brown, the ref quickly pointing to the spot. However, the penalty from Evans was appalling; no power, placement or conviction as he sloppily dragged the ball straight into the grateful arms of Preston goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann.
Ten minutes later and completely against the run of play, Preston managed to put themselves in front. A wonderful curling cross from the right-hand from Nicky Hunt was met with a glancing header from lone striker Greg Cummins, the ball floating over Simonsen in goal and into the back of the net.
Only three minutes later though and the Blades scored their deserved equaliser and Evans put his shocking penalty miss behind him. Stephen Quinn played in Ryan Flynn whose misplaced shot managed to fall to Evans who made no mistake in putting the ball past Stuckmann and drawing the Blades level.
The second half saw sustained United pressure, including a hooked shot from Matthew Lowton in the 37th minute which was somehow clawed away from goal by Stuckmann and then headed out from under his bar by Aaron Brown.
With five minutes left to play though, United scored the winner with Evans completing his brace of goals. From the resulting corner, the ball was only partially cleared and the ball landed at Evans feet in the penalty area before slamming an almighty volley into the back of the Preston net to make it 2-1 to the Blades.
As a result, not only did United open up a five-point gap between themselves and their city neighbours Wednesday but after Charlton Athletic’s draw at Tranmere, they closed the gap to six points at the top of League One.