Hitman Ward's debut delight

SHEFFIELD United manager Kevin Blackwell lavished praise on his players after watching them warm-up for Saturday's Steel City derby with a stunning victory at Southampton last night.

Andrew Surman looked to have denied the visitors their 14th win of the season when he cancelled-out Greg Halford's opener on the stroke of full-time.

But United, who had Darius Henderson sent-off before the interval following an off the ball clash with Jan-Paul Saeijs, climbed to fourth in the table when substitute Jamie Ward smashed home his first goal for the club in the 93rd minute.

Despite seeing their preparations thrown into disarray by the snow, United pulled-out all the stops against Mark Wotte's side and Blackwell said: "That was all about spirit.

"We've been cruelly punished late on in games ourselves and so that's testament to the character of the lads.

"It shows how much it means to them and shows they're prepared to roll-up their sleeves and battle.

"Everyone played their part and that was something they totally deserved.

"We couldn't do any work beforehand because of the snow. In fact, the only thing we could do when we got to the hotel was have a snowball fight.

"I got absolutely hammered during that but I know who was responsible and so there will be some fines handed-out when we get back!"

But Blackwell's joy could be shortlived when he reviews video footage of the incident which led to Henderson's dismissal.

The former Watford striker is set to miss United's next three games, including this weekend's clash at Bramall Lane, meaning Arturo Lupoli, signed on loan from Fiorentina just hours before Monday's transfer deadline, could be asked to lead the line against the visitors from Hillsborough.

The Italian, who represented Arsenal, Derby and Norwich earlier in his career, met-up with his new team mates at St Mary's but was omitted from the 16 man squad.

"I'm not sure about the sending-off," Blackwell admitted. "I was talking to one of my coaches when it happened so I'll have to look at it on the DVD.

"I was telling the fourth official just before it happened that he (Henderson) needed some protection because he was getting his shirt pulled and climbed all over.

"So I can understand his frustration but there's no excuse if he's done what they're saying he's done."

Southampton 1 v Sheffield Utd 2: CLICK HERE FOR MATCH REPORT AND PICTURES

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