One win is Hall that Blades need

Marlon King tries to lead from the front.
Marlon King tries to lead from the front.
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James Callaghan was Prime Minister and the country in a state of paralysis the last time Preston North End tasted victory at Bramall Lane.

Nevertheless, despite seeing Stuart Beavon’s second-half goal earn the visitors a first win inside this stadium since 1978, Ryan Hall is adamant Sheffield United possess enough quality to avoid their own winter of discontent.

“I can’t believe we are where we are,” the winger, on loan from Leeds, said. “When I came in and saw how much quality there is in training ... there’s no way we should be in the position we’re in.

“We should be at the top of the table the way we play football, without a shadow of a doubt.

“As far as I’m concerned, one win and that’s it. We’ll be on a roll and no-one will be able to stop us.

“Really, there’s the quality here for us to do that. And I genuinely think it’s going to happen too.”

Simon Grayson, the North End manager, seemed equally perplexed by United’s predicament towards the foot of the League One table after watching David Weir’s side control proceedings for long periods.

“They’ve got some very good players and a wealth of experience. I still think they could be up there at the end of the campaign,” he said.

But the moment which decided Saturday’s game - and condemned the former Scotland international’s team to their fifth successive defeat - was symptomatic of the problems which mean they travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday languishing in 22nd place.

Matt Hill, delivering an otherwise solid if unspectacular performance at left-back, lost his footing as he jostled for position with Kevin Davies and the former England international seized the opportunity in ruthless fashion, squaring the ball for Beavon who produced a clinical finish after a clever feint.

“I think Stuart ‘sold’ the entire ground when he checked back,” Davies, released by United as a schoolboy, said. “It was a great piece of skill from him.

“It was nice to come home because I’ve not played here for ages. It feels even nicer after a result like that.

“That was the perfect away display for us. We came under some pressure but the lads showed their togetherness by making some great blocks and putting their bodies on the line.

“United will think they were unfortunate and perhaps they were. But that’s how it goes sometimes when you are down there.”

United’s confidence visibly eroded after watching Beavon claim his second of the season.

However, until that moment, it was impossible to tell which of these two teams is jostling for position towards the top of the table.

Marlon King - who, like Hall, was making his United debut after completing a controversial transfer to South Yorkshire earlier in the week - provided some much-needed presence in attack before tiring towards the end of his first domestic appearance in seven months.

Jose Baxter and Febian Brandy, returning from suspension, produced some clever touches in and around the opposition box.

The latter saw referee Fred Graham ignore his claims for a penalty when a close-range shot appeared to hit Bailey Wright on the arm while Tony McMahon, who twice went close before the interval, was also unfortunate not to be awarded a spot-kick after being sent

sprawling in the box as United chased an equaliser.

Weir acknowledged it was “impossible to criticise” their effort or application before insisting that the contributions of several players, Hall and King included, meant “better times” lay ahead.

But the jeers which greeted the final whistle served to remind that patience is beginning to wear thin.

Hall said: “We’ll probably go to Wolves, where everyone reckons we are going to find it difficult or take nothing, and come away with a win.

“It’s very depressing when you are on a run like this. There’s no point in denying it.

“The main thing is for us to stick to our beliefs, keep doing the right things in training and working hard behind the scenes.

“But, like I say, when

we get that first win everyone here is going to be on a high. Then we’ll be flying.

“I’ve come in from the outside, if you like, and I can see that’s going to be the case.

“We’ll go back to the drawing board and stay focused. All we need to do is starting scoring goals.”

Preston climbed to fourth but, after Grayson had waxed lyrical about the attacking options at his disposal beforehand, were forced to demonstrate their street-fighting qualities here.

Declan Rudd swatted away Baxter’s shot following a clever interchange between King and McMahon who later saw the on-loan goalkeeper deny him from a set-piece.

Brandy was inches away from scrambling home at the far post as Hall continued to tease his marker before McMahon went close with another free-kick and Hill blazed over.

“All I want to do is help out,” Hall said. “I don’t think we deserved that and I’m sure I can contribute. My game is all about getting forward and scoring.

“One break. That’s what we need and, when that happens, I’m sure everything will be okay.”