Nottingham Forest made it seven matches unbeaten as they held Sheffield United to a 0-0 stalemate at Bramall Lane.
With two in-form teams this was always going to be an interesting match-up, and coupled with the blizzard conditions that swept over Bramall Lane it made the match that little bit more unpredictable, but both outfits ended up cancelling each other out.
It was a game that frustrated Blades boss Chris Wilder, with the manager saying he won’t stop his sides from attacking and trying to win games at home.
He said: “We didn’t deserve to win it. We didn’t show enough quality in the final third.
“It’s a missed opportunity for us. I think there has been a few missed opportunities over the last few Saturdays.
“It’s the frustration of not putting these last two games to bed.
“We made so many poor decisions. It is just that decision making and consistency that we need to show week in, week out.”
The Blades made two changes from the side that beat Burton on Tuesday with Leon Clarke passed fit to partner skipper Billy Sharp up front while midfielder Ryan Leonard started in an unfamiliar position on the right-side of defence. Manchester United loanee James Wilson and centre-back Chris Basham sat out of the match day squad, with the latter travelling up to Newcastle as his wife is due to give birth.
With the snow starting to settle on one half of the pitch, Forest’s defence had to be alert with the ball skipping off the surface as visibility became blurred.
Clarke’s header forced Costel Pantilimon into an early save and, despite the former Manchester City shot stopper’s large frame, his reach was tested as he palmed the goal-bound effort away.
Since Aitor Karanka took over the wheels in January he has constructed them into the side that a club with their history should be. A rocky start yielded one win in five, but since then they’ve been unbeaten in six. The club has clearly benefitted from their transfer window strategy and their position in the table is now somewhat deceiving.
Spin that the other way, however, and it’s a testament to Sheffield United’s season as the Blades find themselves flirting with the play-off places. A distant dream, of course, from the years in League One.
Clarke then had an even better chance when he found himself two-yards out, but he couldn’t direct John Fleck’s pinpoint delivery with his header dropping wide of the far post when it looked easier to cause the net to ripple.
Flurries of snow still scattered the pitch and Fleck saw it as an opportunity to test Pantilimon with a shot from the edge-of-the-box which the ‘keeper was equal to.
Forest’s last two results have been 0-0, so it was perhaps no surprise that, despite the hype, the score-line was a carbon copy at half-time.
Lee Evans’ first-time shot ten-minutes before the interval, however, temporarily threatened to loop into the corner but the curling effort had too much on it and dropped onto the roof of the net, before Matty Cash forced Jamal Blackman into his first save of the afternoon.
Two point-blanc saves in quick succession from Blackman denied Daryl Murphy the honours of breaking the deadlock after the break, and Chris Wider reacted to that near-miss by introducing David Brooks – who scored against Burton in the last match in his return for illness – for Sharp.
A Lee Evans slip in midfield gave Forest a counter-attack and, as Wilder looked down at the ground cursing his luck while the visitors bombed forward, Murphy wasted the chance by slicing into the side netting.
The Blades then switched to four at the back as Ricky Holmes came on for Leonard in an attempt to take the game to Forest who were playing far too comfortably on United’s home turf, but it reaped no rewards as they searched for a decider.
The snow didn’t clear, so much so that the referee called for a break with ten minutes left to give the groundsmen chance to clear the pitch markings.
After the re-start, another close-range save from Blackman denied Ben Brereton this time as Forest thought they’d claimed a late winner.
An afternoon of missed chances for both sides, then, as the international break beckons next weekend.
Forest boss, Karanka, said at full-time: “We are really consistent.
“I think a draw was a fair result but we’re a little bit disappointed as we had some good chances to score, particularly in the second half. We battled hard as a team in difficult conditions but the challenge now is to play as well with the ball as we do without it.
“The man of the match was their keeper. It’s a sign he has done really well. When the keeper is a man of the match it shows you had chances to win the game.”
Sheffield United: Blackman; Leonard (Holmes, 71’), O’Connell, Stearman; Baldock, Fleck, Leonard, Evans, Stevens; Duffy (Donaldson, 81’); Clarke, Sharp (C) (Brooks, 60’). Subs not used: Moore, Lundstram, Wright, Lafferty.
Nottingham Forest: Pantilimon; Darikwa, Figueiredo, Fox, Osborn; Cash (Vellios, 90+2’), Watson (C), Colback, Dowell (Lolley, 62’); Murphy (Tomlin, 74’), Brereton. Subs not used: Mancienne, Guedioura, Kapino, Worrall.
Referee: Mr Paul Tierney
Bookings: Sheffield United: Fleck
Nottingham Forest: Fox, Colback, Watson
Scorers: Sheffield United: None
Nottingham Forest: None
HT Score: Sheffield United 0-0 Nottingham Forest
FT Score: Sheffield United 0-0 Nottingham Forest
Man of the Match: Jamal Blackman (Sheffield United)