HAVING accepted they need a miracle to claw themselves out of the relegation zone, Sheffield United will take heart from the fact a player signed from St Patrick’s Athletic helped inspire the win which keeps their slender hopes of survival alive.
David McAllister admitted he had “played this match 100 times over” in his head upon learning that, nearly four months after being plucked from the relative obscurity of Richmond Park, an opportunity at Championship level had finally arrived.
But not even in his wildest dreams did he dare to believe it would be seized in such emphatic fashion.
With friends and family watching from the stands, McAllister capped a tenacious display by scoring the second of three goals which saw the home side move to within six points of safety with three games of the season remaining.
Jordan Slew, another emerging talent, embellished his burgeoning reputation by netting for the second time in as many starts to ensure Bristol City’s miserable run at Bramall Lane continues.
Their immediate prospects still appear bleak but, long term at least, United look set for a bright future.
“I had a bit of a sleepless night,” McAllister admitted. “The manager usually gets his starting 11 together to go through a few ideas on a Friday morning so I had to think twice when he called my name out.
“I didn’t know officially that I was going to be starting, though, until the morning of the game.
“My mum, dad and girlfriend were here and that was great. The trip was booked a few weeks ago so that was good timing.”
Their journey appeared to have been wasted when Steve Simonsen gifted the visitors, who have not won here since 1957, an early lead by palming Brett Pitman’s corner into his own net.
“It was an ordinary goal and an ordinary day,” manager Micky Adams, who has cited a propensity for defensive errors as a factor behind United’s position at the foot of the table, sighed. “There was nothing strange about it.”
But the contest burst into life during a madcap three-minute spell just before the interval.
United drew level when Lee Williamson unwittingly diverted a clearance past David James and, with City reduced to 10 men following Nicky Maynard’s lunge on Matthew Lowton, McAllister converted an unstoppable effort from range.
“The lads were saying I should have had a hat-trick,” McAllister, who moments later forced a fine save from the former England international, continued.
“It’s been tough these past few weeks because results haven’t been great and so of course the atmosphere hasn’t always been great either.
“But that’s a massive lift for us. We know it’s going to be difficult but until we are mathematically
down then we have to keep on believing and keep on battling.
“And that’s what we are going to do.”
With McAllister and Williamson dovetailing well in midfield, United continued to press but lost their numerical advantage when youngster Harry Maguire was dismissed for a fouling City substitute Jon Stead in the box.
Pitman, who had earlier seen a free-kick hit the woodwork, dispatched the resulting penalty before Joe Mattock wrestled back the initiative by testing
James with a good angled effort.
United‘s persistence paid off when Darius Henderson, who moments earlier had inexplicably failed to connect with Rob Kozluk’s cross, chested the ball into Slew‘s path for the teenager to finish.
City manager Keith Millen was exasperated by some aspects of his team’s performance but, like Adams, had “no issue” with either red card.
“It was difficult to know what was going to happen next out there,” he said. “In the end it came down to which ever side made the most of their chances. United got theirs and they took them.”
We have to keep on going. We know what the situation is but we showed character out there. And we needed the crowd behind us. All 14 of the lads who appeared out there helped us to win that game. Not one or two, every single one of them.
SHEFFIELD United manager Micky Adams defended his decision to substitute Lee Williamson during Saturday’s victory over Bristol City.
Chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing” reverberated around Bramall Lane when the midfielder, whose career has been plagued by back problems, was withdrawn just past the hour.
But Adams, speaking ahead of this afternoon’s visit to Reading, said: “The crowd can have their opinion. What I will say is that if Willo had played for the full 90 out there then the chances are he wouldn’t be available for our next match.
“It’s a quick turnaround and his body doesn’t recover as quickly as some of the other lads because of the injury he’s had. But people can say what they like because I’ve got broad shoulders.”
Although Williamson is expected to feature at the Madejski Stadium, United will be without young defender Harry Maguire. The teenage centre-half was dismissed against Keith Millen’s side for a foul on Jon Stead.
Adams, who saw a late strike from Jordan Slew move United to within six points of safety with three matches left to play, said: “Harry and Jordan will have very different emotions.
“They’ll also have both learned very important lessons and be all the better for that.
“I don’t think we can argue with Harry’s red card and there are times when he has to know when to go long and when to go short with his passing. But we don’t want to stop him from knocking the ball around and, despite going off, he still deserves credit.”
United know they must at least match Crystal Palace’s result against Leeds to retain a mathematical chance of survival.
The Londoners, who remained 21st following Good Friday’s draw with Doncaster Rovers, then face Hull City and Nottingham Forest.
United, still propping up the Championship table despite ending a four-game losing streak, host Barnsley this weekend before completing their season at Swansea.
With Ched Evans (knee) and Richard Cresswell (groin) both doubts, Adams is set to continue putting his faith in Bramall Lane’s emerging crop of young talent.
“We picked a young side against City and they’ve helped us to do a job,” he said. “It was hard-fought win over Bristol and we had to show character.
“That’s why I was delighted with the three points.”