Sheffield United match verdict: Blades 2 Swindon Town 0

Jamie Murphy scores
Jamie Murphy scores
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This result was made in Scotland. From guile, a twist of fate and girders.

United changed nearly their entire starting11 for a match which pitted them against opponents on top of the table and confident of securing a first win at Bramall Lane for nearly 45 years, but two goals from Jamie Murphy ensured they, not Swindon Town, won Saturday’s pivotal League One contest.

Murphy, manager Nigel Clough admitted afterwards, is in a good place right now.

And, having extended his contract before kick-off, che uts an altogether different figure to the apprehensive, callow youngster who arrived in South Yorkshire two seasons ago.

“My little daughter, Sophie, was born two weeks back. It was her first game today,” Murphy said. “It’s strange because, when I first came here, I couldn’t have forseen how things would turn out.

“I’ve gone from wanting to go home all the time and not really being that happy to the complete opposite. I’m loving it here now; it’s a great place for me to live and a great place for me to bring up my family.”

Clough’s predilection for signing Scottish players has, as Murphy conceded, helped him adjust to life south of the border, with former under-21 colleague Paul Coutts and Jason Holt the latest recruits to United’s Tartan Army.

Following Murphy’s exuberant display during Wednesday’s Capital One Cup tussle with Tottenham Hotspur, this could be a moment of huge professional signficance too as the clamour for him to be awarded a first senior international cap when Scotland face Northern Ireland at Hampden Park next month grows.

“I’m always looking to try and catch the eye,” he acknowledged. “It’s been the same ever since I broke into the team at Motherwell. You always want to impress people who might be watching and representing your country is something every player wants to do.

“All I can do is work hard, try and perform well and train the right way. But, really, all of that is out of my hands, which is why my sole focus is doing well for Sheffield United. Everything else will follow from that.

“Thankfully the manager and the club wanted me to stay. I wanted to stay and the fans wanted me to stay so I was delighted to sign and didn’t really have to think twice.”

“There’s probably as many Scots here as back home now,” Murphy added. “But most of them are from Edinburgh so we need a few more Glaswegians in.

“I know quite a few of them already. I played with Couttsy for the U-21s.

“It definitely helps you settle in when you know a few people. We’ll try and get them integrated as soon as we possibly can and there won’t be any problems there, I can assure you of that.”

Murphy’s intervention saw Swindon drop from first to third and United climb three places to sixth. But the irony, from the visitors’ perspective at least, was that he probably would have remained on the bench had they not invested so much effort into persuading referee David Coote that Michael Higdon should be sent off.

The centre-forward, correctly cautioned for a tackle on Jack Stephens midway through the opening period, then became increasingly irritated as every half-hearted challenge was met with a theatrical response.

Given Coote’s erratic officiating, Clough was left with no option but to withdraw the striker and introduce Murphy instead. It turned out to be the defining moment of the fixture, although Swindon, demonstrating they posssess a cunning as well as impressively creative streak, were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty when Jordan Turnbull appeared to be fouled in the box moments before Murphy’s completed his brace.

“You can’t have that many chances, not score, and then expect to win the game,” Mark Cooper, the Swindon manager, said. “We just needed to be calm and roll the ball into the goal.

“‘Frustrating’ I think is the word. Full credit to Sheffield United, though, because they’ve done a job on us.”

Murphy added: “The referee wasn’t giving Michael anything so the manager asked me if I was okay to come on because he’d picked up a yellow and I said ‘of course’. I’ve played as a striker before, I did it for Motherwell in big European games.”

United, whose selection policy was prompted by a congested fixture schedule which sees them host Preston North End in an FA Cup fourth-round replay tomorrow, certainly had to show character during the early skirmishes when the otherwise excellent John Swift spurned two glorious opportunities.

They were also indebted to former Scotland B goalkeeper Iain Turner, making his first appearance in an English league fixture since October 2011, thwarting the teenager, on loan from Chelsea, with a fine reaction save.

United boast some talented young midfielders of their own and, after Che Adams had wrestled back the momentum, Louis Reed was responsible for the pass which enabled Murphy to sweep the ball home.

The 25-year-old was then sent darting clear by Terry Kennedy, who has also agreed a new contract, before chipping the advancing Wes Foderingham.

“The clubs have got same ambitions as me,” Murphy said. “To get promoted and get us back where we belong.

“If we play like we did today, in the second half, then we’ll be pushing back up towards that top two.

“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen.

“We’ve got a great squad and you could see that by the way the gaffer set us up.

“Everyone trains hard, everyone puts in the right effort and everyone of us is capable of playing.

“We all know anyone of us can step in at a moment’s notice and that gives us great belief going forward.”

SHEFFIELD UNITED: Turner 8, Brayford 7, Basham 7, Kennedy 7, Freeman 6, Davies 6, Reed 8, K Wallace**7, Coutts***7, Higdon*6, Adams 7. Substitutes: Alcock, Doyle, Murphy*(43) 8, Scougall**(60) 6, Baxter***(79), McNulty, Long.

SWINDON TOWN: Foderingham 7, Branco 6, N Thompson 7, Turnbull 7, Byrne 6, Swift 8, L Thompson 8, Stephens 7, Toffolo 7, Williams** 6, Obika* 6. Substitutes: Smith*(63) 6, Barthram, Hylton**(82), Belford, Rodgers, Marshall.