Substitute Callum McFadzean claimed his first senior goal to hand Sheffield United a 1-0 victory in the first leg of their League One play-off semi-final clash with Yeovil Town, writes Dom Howson.
The winger, brought on as a replacement for the injured Barry Robson, fired a deflected shot in from 12 yards a minute into the second period after superb play from Chris Porter and Jamie Murphy on the left flank.
It was United’s first goal in over five hours of football and given them a slight advantage heading into the second leg on Monday at Huish Park, kick-off 1.30pm.
United manager Chris Morgan made two changes to his starting line-up, recalling Robson and Porter at the expense of promising academy duo McFadzean and Joe Ironside.
Tony McMahon was not named in the 18-man match-day squad having failed to shake off an achilles problem, meaning Darryl Westlake kept the right-back spot. Jonathan Forte (hamstring) missed out.
United, beaten by Huddersfield Town on penalities in the Play-Off final last year, dominated the early skirmishes and Dave Kitson, their leading goal-scorer, nipped in front of Byron Webster but, off balance, headed wide Robson’s dangerous cross.
Ed Upson clumsily fouled Robson in the seventh minute and the cultured midfielder curled the resulting free-kick narrowly off target.
Five minutes later, United had a good penalty claim turned down as Dan Burn appeared to hold on to Kevin McDonald’s shirt and drag him to the floor but referee Stuart Attwell wasn’t interested.
Yeovil, well-organised and hard to break down, created little as an attacking force in the opening half an hour.
It was Morgan’s men who continued to press for the opener, with Jamie Murphy blazing a shot over when well-placed after sloppy marking from the visitors. He was forced into taking off Robson, who sustained a suspected fractured rib following a collision Jamie McAllister, and putting on McFadzean.
Out of nothing, Yeovil went close to breaking the deadlock in the 35th minute but Kevin Dawson dragged his effort wide when he should have done better.
Things got a bit heated just before the interval, with Kitson and McAllister yellow carded after late tackles.
Yeovil almost hit back immediately after going behind as George Long spilled a speculative long range drive from Upson but United managed to snuff out the danger.
James Hayter had a goal disallowed for offside as the visitors continued to up the tempo. On the counter-attack, Murphy’s strike was comfortably gathered by Marek Stech. Attwell then booked Michael Doyle after United’s skipper fouled Joe Edwards.
McFadzean, making just his 11th appearance for United, tricked his way past McAllister on the right midway through the half and burst into the area and his fierce shot from an acute angle was well blocked by Stech.
It was McFadzean who was at the heart of United’s next move, rolling a nice pass into the path of Murphy, who cut inside and flashed a right foot effort agonisingly off target.
With 18 minutes remaining, United survived a major scare when Luke Ayling swung in an inviting delivery which Madden nodded into the ground, allowing Collins the opportunity to head it out for a corner.
Yeovil felt hard done by in the 79th minute when McFadzean appeared to handle Ayling’s cross in the penalty area but, again, no spot kick was given. Moments later, Long, diving to his left, smothered Webster’s tame header.
In the dying minutes, Long produced a smart stop to tip over Webster’s shot on the turn.
Sheffield United: Long; Westlake, Maguire, Collins, Hill; Murphy, McDonald, Doyle, Robson (McFadzean 31); Porter (Whitehouse 90), Kitson (Ironside 74). Substitutes: Higginbotham, Chappell, Barry, Coyne.
Yeovil Town: Stech, Ayling, Webster, Burn, McAllister, Dawson, Upson, Edwards, Foley, Madden, Hayter (Balanta 73). Substitutes: Hinds, Blizzard, Williams, Stewart, Maksimenko, Young.
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)