Blades FT: Stevenage 0, Sheffield United 0

Aidy White attacks for United
Aidy White attacks for United
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A combination of graft and guile saw Sheffield United emerge from a tough trip to Stevenage with a point, after a goalless draw.

But, as Sheffield United have discovered to their cost at the Lamex Stadium in recent years, reputations count for nothing in the hurly burly of League One.

Stevenage, who just five seasons ago were playing their trade at Conference level, recorded a 4-0 victory in the corresponding fixture last term.

Nigel Clough, the visitors’ manager, predicted courage and character would be important qualities against Graham Westley’s side.

But it was United’s creativity that enabled United to wrestle control of the early exchanges with two good opportunities forged within the opening six minutes.

First, White saw a fierce angled effort parried onto the far post by Day after the on-loan midfielder had out-witted Heslop following Maguire’s long crossfield pass.

Stevenage v Sheffield United  21.12.13'Pic : Martyn Harrison'Jon Ashton  - Stevenage &  Chris Porter- Sheffield United ''� BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Stevenage v Sheffield United 21.12.13'Pic : Martyn Harrison'Jon Ashton - Stevenage & Chris Porter- Sheffield United ''� BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Then, Miller saw another effort deflected behind for a corner after wriggling beyond Freeman.

McGinn was responsible for engineering United’s third chance when he drew a foul on the edge of the box but, when the resulting set-piece was dragged back towards the ‘D’, McMahon mistimed his shot and the ball flew high over Day’s bar.

Although Stevenage looked capable of threatening on the counter-attack, the action continued to ebb towards their box.

Morais, the former Chelsea winger, was cautioned for a 13th minute foul on McMahon and was fortunate to escape a red soon after when he deliberately shoved White to the floor as he darted forward.

Westley admitted as much when he withdrew Morais in the 23rd minute with Jones entering the fray.

Baxter nearly edged United in front moments before Morais’ exit with a free-kick which, given the swirling wind, nearly fooled Day.

Westley, now in his third spell with Stevenage, wsas still re-organising his options when Collins forced the Stevenage goalkeeper to scramble clear again.

The centre-half went close with another header, this time from Baxter’s 30th minute corner, but failed to divert it beyond the player guarding Stevenage’s near post.

However Long, again underlining his growing maturity, did superbly well to prevent Burrow from giving Stevenage a shock 33rd minute lead; Freeman’s shot spiralling off Hill and the England under-21 international bravely darting off his line to punch clear.

White responded by clipping across goal after Baxter’s slide-rule pass pierced the home side’s rearguard but a superb piece of skill from Zoko allowed Burrow to fire just wide during gthe closing stages of the first half.

Having enjoyed the benefit of the wintery conditions in the first-half, United found themselves battling against them after the break.

Indeed, Clough could have been forgiven for cursing his bad luck when the wind and rain grew worse moments before the two teams emerged from the tunnel.

Baxter, though, drilled just wide after expertly adjusting his body after Doyle and Hill had combined in the 46th minute before powering against the woodwork from an acute angle less than 60 seconds later. Miller, ghosting to the opposite edge of the six yard box, was inches away from seizing upon the rebound.

Westley, unhappy with the way his team were being over-run in midfield, made a like-for-like change in the 51st minute when Parrett made way for Dunne.

Porter’s intelligent touch forged another opening for Baxter but, on this occasion, the former Everton forward lost his balance and poked the ball high and wide.

Stevenage continued to edge their way back into the contest and, with a little over a quarter-of-an-hour remaining, Long acrobatically palmed clear when Zoko’s looping effort threatened to sneak under the bar.

United made their first change soon after with Murphy replacing White before Maguire, robbed of possession by Burrow, surviveda scare when Zoko failed to connect cleanly at the far post.

Chorley was cautioned for tripping Baxter before Miller, who had performed well, inexplicxably checked his run rather than touch home Porter’s header from close range.

But, despite demonstrating plenty of graft and guile, United were forced to settle for a point.