Blades FT: Sheffield United 0, Preston NE 1

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A new-look Sheffield United side slipped to their fifth successive league defeat at Bramall Lane today, at the hands of Preston North End.

this week, manager David Weir pitched both of the club’s new signings straight into the starting eleven against the visitors from Deepdale.

Debut striker Marlon King

Debut striker Marlon King

Hall thrust the hosts immediately onto the front foot with a darting run down the right flank which forced the visitors to clear before

McMahon’s long-range shot flew into the Preston fans behind Rudd’s goal.

Then, in the sixth minute, Baxter went close with a curling effort after King and McMahon had combined to build a promising move.

There was real tenacity and purpose about United’s play during the opening exchanges but the score still remained deadlocked at the interval.

Ryan Hall on the ball for United

Ryan Hall on the ball for United

Baxter was among those to impress.

King’s presence has been the source of much debate among the home support since his arrival on Wednesday afternoon.

The 33-year-old’s chequered past, which includes two prison sentences, prompted some United followers to claim they would never set foot inside Bramall Lane so long as his name remained on Weir’s roster.

But whatever the rights and wrongs of that decision, King’s prowess on the pitch is beyond dispute.

The former Birmingham City centre-forward’s name met with more cheers than jeers when it was announced moments before kick-off and it quickly became apparant what, in footballing terms, he will bring to the team.

Baxter, relishing the freedom created by King’s power and running off the ball, was a threat while Hall also showed a willingness tio cut inside.

In the ninth minute, McMahon saw a free-kick parried around the post by Rudd before Hall’s angled effort was deflected behind for a corner and Brandy, again the victim of some heavy tackles on his return from suspension, nearly scrambled home at the far post. King exchanged words with Wright midway through the half when the two tangled as they shadowed a powerful run from Baxter.

Preston, who saw Hume cautioned in the 31st minute, began to edge their way into the contest as the afternoon progressed. Nevertheless, Hill could have done better when he drove a first-time shot over the bar after seizing possession just outside the box.

King’s short pass threatened to put Baxter through but the United midfielder ran into traffic.

Davies, released by United after joining them on schoolboy terms at the start of his career, had enjoyed a good tussle with both Collins and Maguire as they battled for aerial supremacy when the second-period got underway.

Hall continued to look lively along the wing but, in the 52nd minute, Brandy, showing great intent to help out his defence, was forced to intervene when Hume wriggled into space on the penalty spot.

Just as the Preston forward primed to shoot, the former Walsall attacker nipped-in to sweep the ball clear.

Collins joined Hume in referee Graham’s notebook after 56 minutes.

The United centre-half, though, was more concerned by the fact Preston were now enjoying much more territory and ball.

King, though, released the pressure just before the hour when he intercepted Laird’s pass and sent Hall bearing down on goal.

Four quick-fire corners followed as volume levels inside the stadium grew.

Preston, however, held firm. Just.

Once again, it was United’s turn to press as Weir cajoled his troops from the touchline.

In the 64th minute, however, the manager exploded with rage when Brandy’s shot appeared to hit Wright on the hand but his appeals for a penalty were waved away.

Then, having seen Maguire head over from a set-piece, Preston scored against the run of play in the 69th minute.

Davies, profiting from Hill’s stumble, found BEAVON inside the box and, cutting inside, he stroked a simple finish beyond Long who had been left horribly exposed.

It was tough luck on United but symptomatic of the errors which have cost them so dear of late.

With 18 minutes remaining, Hall was withdrawn and Taylor entered the fray.

McGinn came on for Doyle in the 90th minute but Preston returned home celebrating their first win at this stadium since 1978.