Blades FT: Sheffield United 2, Port Vale 1

Febian Brandy tussles with Jennison Myrie-Williams

Febian Brandy tussles with Jennison Myrie-Williams

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The search for their next permanent manager continues.

But Sheffield United entered this afternoon’s League One fixture against Port Vale with a more pressing item on their agenda.

Points.

Taylor was only centimetres away from ensuring they got off to a flying start when, having seen Hill’s first’s minute free-kick launched deep into the visitors’ penalty area, he nearly took full advantage of the confusion which ensued by hooking home from close range.

But when, at the other end, Hughes also got a touch to a fourth minute corner, it became apparent any which did come their way would be hard-earned.

Morgan, a fierce competitor as a player, has imposed his personality on United’s squad after beginning his second spell in caretaker charge.

Neill Collins heads Sheffield United in front

Neill Collins heads Sheffield United in front

Doyle squared-up to Griffith as the hosts responded and Maguire headed wide from McGinn’s set-piece.

Vale were dangerous on the break but United, as COLLINS would later underline, were positive from the outset.

Having slipped to the foot of the table when they were beaten by Coventry City last weekend, Morgan acknowledged during Friday’s weekly media briefing that the time has come for United to begin translating some encouraging passages of play into wins.

The sight of Miller’s name appearing on a senior team sheet for the first time since December had provided a welcome boost ahead of kick-off while the return of McMahon, one of Bramall Lane’s most experienced defenders, strengthened a rearguard which has come under increased scrutiny of late.

Micky Adams’ presence on the Vale bench, his coach Robert Page also boasts stong ties with United, represented another intriguing sub-plot.

But, as Morgan had reminded ahead of kick-off, friendships would have to be briefly set aside and, in the 12th minute, he hugged assistant Mick Wadsworth in the dug-out when Collins’ header, after Maguire had attempted to seize on McGinn’s corner, nestled in the back of Neal’s net after glancing off a post.

It was a lead that United, with McMahon and Brandy also trying their luck from acute angles, were well worth.

Vale were left ruing theirs’ when, in the 21st minute, Jones collected his second caution for a scything challenge on Flynn in front of the assistant referee.

Reduced to 10 men, the visitors had developed a potentially hazardous habit of conceding free-kicks around their penalty area.

Midway through the opening period, McMahon enjoyed another sight of goal but his effort hit the wall.

Adams seemed keen to throw Myrie Williams against one when, soon after, he was involved in a row with his manager after being hauled off to make was for Duffy. Mutiny continued to seep through the Vale ranks as, soon after, a flurry of team mates were involved in a spat with each other following another United attempt.

Taylor thought he had claimed his third in two outings after flicking Hill’s centre goalwards but Neal intervened, before Collins also went close with first-time shot.

Then, in stoppage-time, YATES claimed a fortuitious equaliser when his cross creeped into the top of Long’s net almost from the by-line.

Robertson was cautioned for hauling back King just outside the ‘D’ in the 50th minute as United, kicking towards the Kop, darted forward on the break.

Taylor, bristling with purpose and confidence following his brace against Coventry City last weekend, drilled just past the post from the resulting free-kick.

Adams had used the break to good effect with Vale appearing far more organised than at any point following Jones’ exit. Nevertheless, Brandy’s darting runs continued to cause problems while Taylor and Flynn were always willing runners. Understandably, given their results this term, the manner of Vale’s equaliser had dented United’s confidence and their play lacked the conviction which had been displayed before the interval.

Hughes was substituted moments after being booked in the 65th minute following a tangle with Collins as Adams feared being reduced to nine.

With 22 minutes remaining, three quarters of the stadium rose to its feet when Miller made his long awaited return from injury. King was the player to make way.

McMahon and Hill both fired wide from long-range but, as play became increasingly stretched, so Vale increasingly came into the game.

They were particularly dangerous from set-pieces with Robertson heading over from a 74th minute corner.

But, two minutes later, DOYLE restored United’s advantage with a powerful 20 yard shot. Long had instigated the move, rolling the ball out to Flynn who darted forward and found McMahon who, in turn, presented the ball to the midfielder.

There were ugly scenes in the away end of the ground as at least fans were duly escorted from the stadium.

Vale, who replaced Griffith with Birchall for the closing stages, nearly conceded a third when Flynn’s effort rebounded off Neal’s shins, before Neal denied Miller what would have been a fairy-tale goal from point blank range.

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