Blades 1 Swindon 1: Sharp again but United are held
Sheffield United endured a frustrating afternoon as they were held to a draw at Bramall Lane.
Billy Sharp edged the hosts in front but, having held the lead for over 70 minutes, they finally succumbed to Swindon Town’s pressure game when Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill pounced during the closing stages.
Swindon dominated possession as they passed the ball well throughout the first-half. But, as Claudio Ranieri would argue, possession is sometimes overrated and it was United who led at the break courtesy of Sharp’s penalty kick. The centre-forward, scoring for the 14th time since returning to South Yorkshire from Leeds, was involved in the move which led to referee Trevor Kettle’s decision after exchanging passes with Paul Coutts. Kettle awarded a second spot-kick just before the hour mark, this time to Swindon, when George Long tangled with an opposition player but was forced to back track after realising an offside flag had already been raised. United’s dynamic changed when first Chris Basham and then Dean Hammond were withdrawn midway through the second-period. Their replacements - Ryan Flynn and Jose Baxter - rely on poise rather than power. Swindon fought their way back in using guile when, with 11 minutes remaining, Ormonde-Ottewill turned home from close range following Jonathan Obika’s clever pass. As the final whistle approached, the mood inside the stadium altered too.
There were no further twists but sections of the home crowd left Nigel Adkins’ charges in no doubt they had expected more.
United were unchanged for their 35th match of the campaign. The lines of communication established over recent weeks were required as Swindon, who confirmed Luke Williams as their manager until the end of the season before this game, passed the ball with confidence during the opening exchanges. But it was United, in the fifth minute, who came close to creating the first chance of the game in the fifth minute when Done was within a whisker of collecting a slide-rule pass. It was a warning Swindon failed to heed and, three minutes later, Sharp fired them in front from the penalty spot following Jordan Turnbull’s clumsy challenge on Paul Coutts. The midfielder was upended as he burst into the box and Kettle immediately signalled a foul. Swindon continued in much the same vein, working the ball well and appearing dangerous on the counter-attack with Jay McEveley twice making two fine interceptions. Given their position in the table, it was a luxury United did not enjoy but Adkins’ players pieced together some promising moves themselves with George Long’s kicking - seemingly much improved - also causing problems for Swindon. Opening the scoring did nothing to soften Sharp’s edge with the striker berating both Kettle and his assistant after missing an offside call which could have led to an equaliser until Nicky Ajose blazed well wide.
United’s tempo increased immediately after the interval with Sharp twice drawing saves from Lawrence Vigouroux. But they breathed a sigh of relief when Kettle signalled for another spot-kick only to realise a Swindon player had strayed offside. Turnbull shot well over the crossbar from long range as Swindon gathered momentum. They pulled level when Obika lured United’s back four across the box before finding Ormonde-Ottewill who shot home past Long. The United goalkeeper got a touch but was powerless to keep the ball out.
Sheffield United: Long, Brayford, Basham (Flynn 58), Coutts (Reed 74), Sharp, Done, Collins, Woolford, McEveley, Edgar, Hammond (Baxter 68). Not used: Howard, Sammon, Campbell-Ryce, Adams.
Swindon Town: Vigouroux, Ormonde-Ottewill, Robert, Turnbull, Kasim, Ajose, Doughty (Balmy 86), Obika, Rodgers (Traore 61), Barry (Thompson 61), Rossi-Branco. Not used: Smith, Brophy, Belford, Iandolo.
Referee: Trevor Kettle (Rutland).