Sheffield United match report: Blades 1 Leyton Orient 1

Jamie Murphy celebrates
Jamie Murphy celebrates
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Nigel Clough is expected to enter the transfer market this summer as he seeks to address Sheffield United’s problems in front of goal.

However, after watching Jamie Murphy’s clinical finish secure a deserved point against promotion-chasing Leyton Orient, the former England international might discover the solution lies within his own squad.

Murphy excelled as an auxilary centre-forward after being switched inside during the second period of a match which, until Dean Cox pounced towards the end of a subdued first half, was meandering towards stalemate.

And with a profligate attack arguably the greatest threat to United’s hopes of challenging for the Championship next term, Murphy’s admission that he is well accustomed to working through the middle could provide their manager with food for thought should a suitable option fail to materialise elsewhere.

“I grew up as a striker,” Murphy, previously of Motherwell, said. “But, when I started playing professionally, people thought I was too skinny to be given that role so I gradually got shifted out wide.

“Craig Brown used me there when he came to Fir Park but then I went back out onto the flank and have pretty much stayed there ever since. That’s what I’m known as now - a winger - and perhaps if I hadn’t been put in that position then things might not have worked out as they have and I might have not got a move like this one here.

“I enjoy playing as a striker but I enjoy playing where I usually do as well. Really, ao long as I’m involved it doesn’t really bother me.

“But I suppose it gives the manager the chance to change things around a bit if that’s what he wants now and again.”

Whisper it quitely, but Orient, now fourth in the table, are the team United would probably quite like to be.

Russell Slade, Clough’s counterpart across the technical area, has fashioned a disparate collection of individuals with something to prove into a cohesive unit capable of brutally efficient football, as Cox’s 41st-minute effort demonstrated.

United, despite unveiling HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad of Saudi Arabia as their new co-owner earlier this season, have adopted a similarly blue-collar approach since appointing Clough in October.

Murphy, crediting the player he replaced at the apex of United’s frontline with creating the perfect environment for him to claim the club’s 7,000th league goal, said: “You can see the effort that Ports (Chris Porter) puts in.

“Okay, I got the goal, but he was the one who made that chance for me because their defenders had been battling him all day. He made it really hard for them.

“Then, when he went off and I went in there they probably got a little bit complacent, and that’s what let me in.”

“I know I’m not the biggest but I’m used to getting kicked,” Murphy, who grew up in Glasgow, continued. “I had it all the time when I was little and coming through the ranks.

“There were some tough defenders in Scotland, especially when you came up against the Old Firm. People like Charlie Mulgrew and Mark Wilson at Celtic and Steven Whittaker who was at Rangers. I definitely learned the hard way.

“But, the way I look at it is, if you get knocked down then the best thing to do is get straight back up again. “The person who has whacked you over wants you to be rolling about on the floor and making a big deal of things.

“So why would you do what they want?”

United have made significant progress under Clough’s tutelage. 11th in the table, compared to 21st when he arrived, their climb up the rankings has been built on solid defence, with Cox’s effort only the fifth time it has been breached in nearly 22 hours of football.

Orient, who have accumulated a remarkable 41 points on their travels during the present campaign, enjoyed less possession and mustered fewer shots. But the fact that Kevin Lisbie and David Mooney made the journey north having scored more goals betweenn them than United have claimed in the league at Bramall Lane this season illustrates why Clough wants to complement the attacking options already at his disposal.

The turning point of Saturday’s fixture, the 17th United have contested since travelling to Crewe Alexandra on February 1, was the introduction of Stefan Scougall and Ben Davies, combined with Murphy’s change in role.

Until then, Orient were shading a hum-drum game which, from United’s perspective at least, seemed to be an irritating addition to the fixture calendar ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Hull City.

Moses Odubaju emerged as Orient’s most potent threat and was instrumental in the move which saw Cox, who was also on target when United visited London five months ago, edge the visitors in front following John Lundstram’s shot.

The youngster, together with Conor Coady and George Long, represented England at last summer’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup and set in motion the chain of events which ended with Odubajo recycling the ball into Mark Howard’s penalty area before Cox turned his marker and deposited it in the back of the net.

But, as the 20-year-old’s influence waned, so United’s grew, with John Brayford unleashing a vicious shot before Davies, whose set-piece delivery caused Orient all manner of problems, sent Murphy scampering through.

Having left Mathieu Baudry trailing in his wake - “I thought we should have done better there,” Slade later admitted - he drew the onrushing Jamie Jones and slide home into an empty net.

United, who entertain Rotherham tomorrow before preparations for Wembley can begin in earnest, saw Ryan Flynn test Jones with a looping attempt before Brayford glanced Davies’ centre wide.

Davies went close himself soon after but was unable to engineer a breakthrough.

“We’ve come a long way in a relatively short space of time,” Murphy said.

“We’ve dragged ourselves up the table and got ourselves into a much better position now, a position much closer to where we wanted to be all along.

“We’ve shown that we can compete with the best teams lately.

We started slowly and that was disappointing.

“But once we got going in the second half I thought there was only ever going to be one winner.”

Hero: John Brayford and Kieron Freeman both impressed but Jamie Murphy stole the headlines - and a place in Sheffield United’s history books - by scoring the equaliser and the club’s 7,000th league goal.