Sheffield United failed to climb out of the League One relegation zone after drawing 1-1 at home to Walsall tonight.
Chris Porter put the Blades in front on the stroke of half-time from the penalty spot after James Chambers was controversially adjudged to have handled Tony McMahon’s cross. It was the striker’s third goal in his last four outings.
But Walsall, sitting just outside the play-off positions, equalised two minutes into the second half through Craig Westcarr’s planted a powerful header out of Long’s reach.
The result leaves United fourth from bottom, a point adrift of safety.
United manager Nigel Clough made two changes to his starting line-up. With England Under-21 international Harry Maguire serving a one-match ban having collected five yellow cards, Clough recalled Matt Hill to his back four.
The Blades chief also opted to hand Shaun Miller a start at the expense of Lyle Taylor.
Both sides cancelled each other out in the opening skirmishes at Bramall Lane. There was plenty of endeavour but forward forays kept breaking down in the final third.
Out of nothing, the hosts almost broke the deadlock just after the quarter of an hour mark when Conor Coady’s glancing header from Stephen McGinn’s corner was hacked off the line by Walsall captain Andy Butler.
Then Simon Lappin’s free kick narrowly evaded the onrushing Chris Porter at the back post.
Walsall briefly threatened on the counter attack through James Baxendale, who burst forward at pace before flashing his shot from distance well wide.
United survived a major scare in the 39th minute as Milan Lalkovic, on loan from Chelsea, latched on to Aidy White’s weak back header and he tried to lob George Long from close range but the young shot-stopper was equal to it.
Moments later, Clough’s men appeared to be denied a blatant penalty when White was tripped by Lalkovic but referee Christopher Sarginson waved away their penalty claims. His decision was greeted by loud boos by the home faithful.
But Porter’s penalty ensured United went into the interval with their noses in front.
It took the Saddlers just two minutes to level things up after the break as Westcarr nodded in James Baxendale’s fine delivery.
United nearly regained the lead after the hour mark but Coady’s dangerous centre narrowly avoided Jose Baxter, brought on as a substitute for the ineffectual Miller, in the centre and drifted agonisingly off target.
With 15 minutes remaining, Ashley Hemmings tested the reflexes of Long, who punched his rasping drive to safety.
Clough threw on Lyle Taylor for Porter and he nearly made an instant impact, heading McMahon’s cross inches wide.
United: Long; McMahon, Collins, Hill, White; Coady, McGinn, Doyle, Lappin (Murphy 78); Miller (Baxter 61), Porter (Taylor 82). Substitutes: Howard, Cuvelier, King, McGinty.
Walsall: O’Donnell; J Chambers, Downing, Butler, Taylor; Featherstone (Hewitt 86), A Chambers; Baxendale (Sawyers 76), Mantom, Lalkovic (Hemmings 64); Westcarr. Substitutes: Purkiss, Lewis, Benning, Gray.