MATCH REPORT: Sheffield United 1 Stevenage 0

Glory goal: Chris Porter heads United's 85th minute winner.  PICTURES: STEVE PARKIN, MARTYN HARRISON AND nick potts/PA
Glory goal: Chris Porter heads United's 85th minute winner. PICTURES: STEVE PARKIN, MARTYN HARRISON AND nick potts/PA
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IT might not reverberate around the world quite the same way as events at the Etihad Stadium 24 hours earlier but, for Sheffield United, the result of last night’s League One play-off semi-final second leg was every bit as significant as that remarkable afternoon in Manchester.

There were nervous moments and chewed fingernails aplenty.

Indeed, until Chris Porter converted the only goal of the contest with five minutes remaining, there seemed destined to be extra-time and penalties too.

But when the striker pounced from close-range during the closing stages of a match which his team had dominated for long periods, Stevenage simply had nothing left to give.

Danny Wilson’s side are on the way to Wembley.

And deservedly so.

For Porter it was a wonderful moment of redemption.

Having spent much of the campaign in the shadow of Richard Cresswell and Ched Evans, the former Derby County striker has struggled to cement a place in United’s starting 11 since arriving at Bramall Lane.

But Porter grabbed his opportunity in emphatic fashion by scoring his eighth - and most important - effort of the season to send the home crowd wild and United one step closer towards the Championship.

“I couldn’t really miss,” he said.

“It was such a wonderful cross and that’s just the way I like them.

“I can’t wait for the final now. I’ve never played there. But there just can’t be a bigger stage.”

Wilson had used his programme notes to warn that, despite being “delighted with the commitment” of the performance which had secured a goalless draw at The Lamex Stadium three days earlier, United would “not be foolish enough” to think progress had been achieved: “We expect Stevenage to be strong again and will afford them all the respect they deserve,” he added.

“We will have to work every bit as hard.”

Gary Smith, who took charge of the visitors following Graham Westley’s departure in January, had fired the first shot in the psychological war following Friday’s first-leg by insisting all the pressure was on United’s shoulders alone.

However, when Stevenage emerged from the tunnel and heard the roar of the crowd, they too will have been under no illusion about the magnitude of the prize at stake.

Keeping faith with the experimental system which effectively subdued one of the division’s most confrontational teams, United saw it come within a whisker of paying dividends during the opening exchanges when a raking pass found Porter whose header fell inches short of Stephen Quinn.

The Irishman, again deployed in a roaming role behind the former Derby striker, continued to make his presence felt by instigating a series of promising moves.

But it was Porter who came closest to breaking the deadlock when, in the seventh minute, Lee Williamson barged through Stevenage’s rearguard to create a chance for him, and Chris Day was forced to parry the striker’s header wide.

In Luke Freeman, Stevenage possess one of several players clearly capable of gracing a higher stage.

Indeed it was the former Arsenal youngster who forced Michael Doyle to make the first of several perfectly executed tackles after breaking clear on a 30th minute counter-attack. With fellow centre-forward Cresswell ruled-out due to illness, Porter was charged with spearheading United’s attack and, but for a foul by visiting captain Mark Roberts, a delicate touch would have sent him scampering clear.

Joe Ashton, who had earlier sliced wide of his own net while attempting to make a clearance, did so again as the hosts gathered momentum.

Stevenage’s Jamaal Lascelles survived Ryan Flynn’s appeal for a penalty as the interval approached after felling the United winger whose colleague Kevin McDonald failed to appear for the start of the second.

The loss of the supremely gifted Scot was undoubtedly a blow and increased United’s reliance on graft rather than guile to break their opponents stubborn resistance. But for Lawrie Wilson’s intervention, Flynn, who later went close from long range, would have done so in the 50th minute with Williamson flashing wide from Porter’s centre soon after.

Freeman drew a smart near post save from Steve Simonsen after an exchange with Laird before Roberts - again - escaped a caution for a body check on Porter.

If Wilson looked set to explode then he appeared positively fit to burst moments later. Simonsen, who expertly tipped Laird’s thunderbolt over the crossbar, acquitted himself well again to smother Michael Bostwick’s free-kick before Matt Hill sent Day scampering across his line with a rasping long-distance drive.

But Porter ensured United’s periods of dominance told when he headed home Lowton’s centre after combining well with Montgomery.

“We wish Sheffield United the best,” Smith said.

“They had the better chances and I always felt one goal might do it. But of course this is difficult to take.”

SHEFFIELD UNITED: Simonsen 7, Lowton 8, Doyle 8, Flynn 7, Williamson 8, Collins 7, Maguire 7, Porter 7, McDonald 6 (Montgomery, 46), Quinn 7, Hill 6. Not used: Howard, Taylor, McAllister, O’Halloran.

STEVENAGE: Day 6, Wilson 7, Laird 6, Ashton 6, Byrom 6 (Reid 84), Roberts 7, Freeman 7, Bostwick 6, Agyemang 6 (Beardsley 63), Lascelles 6, Shroot 6 (Mousinho 55). Not used: Julian, Charles.

Cautions: Lowton (79)

Red cards: None