Blades FT: Sheffield United 1, Gillingham 2

Sheffield United's Chris Porter (right) celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the League One match at Bramall Lane
Sheffield United's Chris Porter (right) celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the League One match at Bramall Lane
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A below-par Sheffield United missed their chance to move out of the League One relegation zone after suffering a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Gillingham.

The season is still only 16 games old with 90 points left to play for.

But, given their positions entering this fixture, both managers acknowledged the three on offer here could prove hugely significant for their respective clubs.

Nigel Clough saw his team slip to 23rd in the table after being beaten by Shrewsbury Town a fortnight ago.

His opposite number Peter Taylor, meanwhile, made the journey north acknowledging Gillingham are also embroiled in a relegation battle only seven months after securing promotion from League Two.

The visitors made a positive start with Maguire and Collins combining to prevent Whelpdale enjoying a close-range shot after two minutes.

Sheffield United lost on Prince Abdullah's first visit to Bramall Lane

Sheffield United lost on Prince Abdullah's first visit to Bramall Lane

But, for the most part, the early exchanges proved to be something of an arm-wrestle as both sides looked to establish a foothold in the contest.

Miller, though, seemed destined to edge the hosts in front when he wriggled his way into a scoring position, before a heavy touch saw the chance go begging.

Then, in the seventh minute, another error, this time from Maguire, gifted Gillingham the lead.

The centre-half’s back pass sold Long short and when the United goalkeeper dashed to the edge of his area to clear, KEDWELL, who had chased the ball down, was able to bundle it over the line.

Gillingham were forced to make a substitution just before the 25 minute mark when the injured Gregory made way for Dack.

The sight of a ‘Clough’ and ‘Taylor’ sharing a technical area will have been a poignant moment for older supporters present.

But, as well as that nod to the past, those in the home sections of this stadium had one eye on the future, too, with Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad watching his first home fixture since becoming United’s co-owner.

Soon after Dack’s introduction, Lappin sent Porter through but Legge recovered.

White saw a shot deflected behind for a corner after more good work from the United striker and from Lappin’s resulting set-piece, Hewitt cleared Maguire’s glancing header off the line.

No matter as, sixty seconds later, PORTER claimed his second in as many games after rising to meet another Lappin delivery.

Gillingham’s disappointment at conceding the equaliser was made even more acute by the fact that, just before the re-start, Kedwell succumbed to the knock he sustained tangling with Long and made way for McDonald.

Miller had another effort turned behind as United began to exert huge pressure on their opponents’ back four before Maguire was inches away from turning home another Lappin set-piece at the near post.

Gillingham redressed the balance by enjoying some good spells of possession as the interval approached.

Indeed, Fagan wasted a glorious chance after powering past Collins, only to send his cross behind the onrushing McDonald.

Gillingham regained the lead two minutes after the re-start and, again, Clough will have been disappointed with the chain of events which led to McDONALD’S goal.

Long turned Mousinho’s header onto the crossbar and, when the ball bounced loose, the substitute was on hand to nudge it across the line.

Flynn led the United response with a driving run which ended with the winger flashing a low angled drive beyond Nelson, but also the far post.

Then in the 61st minute, Hewitt became the first player to be cautioned after hauling down White as the on-loan winger, having done well to escape his marker’s clutches, looked to power into the penalty area.

The action continued to ebb towards Nelson’s goal but, as the afternoon progressed, Gillingham’s defending had become more assurred.

So, in an effort to change the dynamics, Baxter entered the fray in the 65th minute with Lappin making way.

But it was Miller, again demonstrating excellent balance, who immediately came closest to claiming an equaliser with an angled drive which fizzed inches wide.

Porter had anticipated the move but was just too far away to intervene.

With 19 minutes remaining, Clough attempted to increase United’s attacking options by withdrawing Hill - a full-back - in favour of midfielder McGinn.

But, as Gillingham’s rearguard continued to impress, so frustration levels among the home supporters grew.

Clough made his third and final chance in the 79th minute when Taylor was introduced at the expense of Flynn moments after Porter had flicked a header just wide.

Gillingham replaced Fagan with Weston 60 seconds later before successfully negotiating four minutes of added time.