SIR Anthony Eden held the keys to Number 10 and a crisis was brewing over Suez the last time Portsmouth triumphed at Bramall Lane.
Their 57 year wait for victory at this stadium continues after another workmanlike performance saw United climb to second in the League One table and ensured the division’s only unbeaten record remained intact.
Nick Blackman was responsible for breaking the deadlock after 66 minutes of sometimes thrilling, sometimes fractious but always whole-hearted action.
The youngster is far from the finished article but possesses the energy and enthusiasm to enjoy a long career in the game.
He is also cool under pressure and converted from the spot in clinical style after Chris Porter, sent darting clear by Kevin McDonald, tumbled to the turf following Lubomir Michalik’s challenge.
Referee Mike Russell’s decision appeared harsh on the Slovakian. But Danny Wilson, whose side have mastered the art of winning ugly, did not care one jot. As United discovered to their cost last term, points not performances deliver promotion. And, despite feeling an obligation to entertain, their manager will not care one jot how they are attained.
Portsmouth’s slide into administration has disguised the fact that, while they might be potless off the pitch, on it Michael Appleton has a wealth of valuable assets.
Akos Buzsaky, previously of QPR and Hungary, was the pick of a talented bunch although Scott Allan, captured on loan from West Brom, also demonstrated a polished technique and excellent positional sense.
Wilson’s call for Lee Williamson, one of four former United players in the squad, to receive a warm welcome from the crowd fell on deaf ears.
A supremely talented footballer, Williamson is nevertheless no diplomat.
While Wilson might have been willing to forgive and forget after the midfielder rebuked him for not providing his “backing” after being offered a “ridiculous” deal, United’s supporters were in less charitable mood.
Williamson’s every touch provoked a chorus of disapproval. From hero to zero courtesy of a few stinging, ill-chosen words.
Appleton, as Wilson also reminded beforehand, has conducted himself in far more dignified fashion since watching his first foray into management descend into farce. Having cobbled together a squad of free agents embellished with names begged and borrowed from elsewhere, the 36-year-old’s placid demeanour masks a ruthless, determined streak which, for long spells, was mirrored by his team.
United, who made two changes to the starting 11 which had beaten Walsall six days earlier, failed to hit the heights until Blackman broke the deadlock just past the hour. But they did forge arguably the two best opportunities of the first half.
Like Appleton, Wilson also boasts an eye for a bargain in the transfer market.
One of those, former Portsmouth marksman Dave Kitson, was ruled-out because of a hamstring complaint.
Porter was responsible for creating the first minute chance which saw another - Blackman - drill a low shot against the advancing Mikkel Andersen’s legs.
Blackman went close again but Buzsaky’s near 40 yard effort, which beat George Long but not the woodwork, stopped United’s advance in its tracks. Then Neill Collins, restored to the heart of Wilson’s rearguard, justified his selection with a perfectly timed tackle to deny Izale McLeod a clear sight of goal.
With McLeod blazing high and wide and Harry Maguire inches away from connecting with Tony McMahon’s free-kick, openings continued to be in plentiful supply at both ends. By far the best opportunity of the first period, though, fell to Porter but the United striker glanced his header wide.
Allan followed suit albeit with a looping shot before Buzsaky showcased his Premier League pedigree again with another long-range attempt.
As the interval beckoned, so United became increasingly ragged with passes going astray and the cohesion which had seen Porter and Blackman combine so effectively during the early exchanges threaten to vanish. However United were persistent with McMahon and Kevin McDonald continuing to pepper Andersen’s penalty area. The majority of those efforts sailed wastefully into touch. But one, delivered by McDonald in the 44th minute, was only millimetres away from finding Porter.
Portsmouth responded when Johannes Ertl connected with a Buzsaky corner immediately after the re-start but Long clawed the ball away.
Maguire sent Anderson scampering across his line with a curling attempt as United showed glimpses of the quality which exists within their ranks.
Allan, for once, fluffed his lines with a free-kick just before McDonald sent in the motion the chain of events which ended with Blackman claiming his eighth of the season from the spot.
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Long 7, Maguire 6, Hill 7, Flynn 6, Doyle 6, Porter 7, Blackman 6 (Miller 89), McDonald 6, Collins 7, McMahon 7 Williams 7 (Cresswell 89). Not used: Westlake, McAllister, Cofie, Ironside, Willis.
PORTSMOUTH: Andersen 6, Dumbuya 7, Harley 6 (Harris 74), Williamson 6, McLeod 6, Dickinson 7, Gyepes 6, Buzsaky 7, Ertl 7 (Rodgers 78), Michalik 6, Allan 7. Not used: Thompson, Walker, Compton, Eastwood, Webster.
Cautions: Dickinson (62)
Red cards: None