Match Report: Sheffield United 0, Nottingham Forest 0

At any other time of the season, this would have been an okay-ish result.

Saturday, 17th March 2018, 4:49 pm
Updated Saturday, 17th March 2018, 4:50 pm
Blades v Forest

But, as manager Chris Wilder's demeanour on the touchline proved, Sheffield United expected and perhaps needed more from today's game against Nottingham Forest than a draw.

In snowy conditions and with a biting wind swirling around inside Bramall Lane, the hosts were unable to build on a bright beginning and, as Aitor Karanka's men improved as the contest wore on, found themselves indebted to goalkeeper Jamal Blackman for averting the possibility of defeat.

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The result saw United remain only two points behind sixth-placed Middlesbrough with eight matches remaining. However Wilder, who spent the afternoon pacing irritably around his technical area, cleared viewed it as an opportunity missed with Bristol City and Preston North End bothy moving ahead of his side in the race for Championship play-off qualification.

John Fleck thought he had broken the deadlock in added time but Costel Pantilimon palmed his shot away.

With an already difficult match on paper made even tougher by the conditions, a positive start was important for both teams. It was something Wilder had clearly spoken about in the dressing room beforehand as, with his words still ringing in their ears, United were only a Pantilimon save away from taking a second minute lead.

Enda Stevens, who links-up with the Republic of Ireland for the first time following this game, forced an early corner with a driving run down the flank and, when Fleck took it short, Leon Clarke read the situation almost perfectly only to see his header parried away.

Forest responded in exactly the manner you would expect of a club which, despite languishing in mid-table, have a wealth of talent at their disposal. But again, after repelling several counter-attacks, it was United went close again when Clarke somehow conspired to nod Fleck's centre across the line rather than into the back of the net.

Fleck, whose continued absence from the Scotland set-up is a source of mystery, found himself at the heart of United's next move of note midway through the opening period. Mark Duffy seized possession but, with Forest's defenders limiting his passing options, shot only to see his drive blocked. Fleck scooped up the loose ball and also tried his luck. Karanka's men eventually relieved the pressure but only after Lee Evans had drawn a routine save, if indeed there is such a thing on a snow covered surface, from long-range

The midfielder unleashed another shot, this time from even further out, as United continued to press without ever quite managing to get behind Forest's defence. Careless in possession, the opposition kept providing them with plenty of encouragement. But there were moments when it appeared United were too determined to try and carve the perfect opening rather than simply shoot.

It was a habit which, in the 56th minute, nearly proved costly when Blackman produced a superb one-handed save to deny Kieran Dowell. He excelled himself again, in the 79th, by preventing Ben Brereton's effort from crossing the line with his legs.

Sheffield United: Blackman, O'Connell, Stearman, Leonard (Holmes 72), Baldock, Stevens, L Evans, Fleck, Duffy (Donaldson 81), Clarke, Sharp (Brooks 59). Not used: Moore, Lundstram, Wright, Lafferty.

Nottingham Forest: Pantilimon, Figueiredo, Murphy (Tomlin 74), Osborn, Fox, Cash (Vellios 90), Brereton, Colback, Dowell (Lolley 61), Dariwka, Watson. Not used: Mancienne, Guedioura, Kapino, Worrall.

Referee: Paul Tierney (Lancashire). Attendance: 28,095. Star man: Jamal Blackman.