Sheffield United are ultimately denied by an inspired display from Watford's Ben Foster

Sheffield United were far from their rampant best but it still required an inspired display from Ben Foster to prevent them beating Watford in the final match of the decade at Bramall Lane.

Thursday, 26th December 2019, 5:28 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th December 2019, 6:33 pm

Foster made a series of fine saves, most notably from John Fleck, as Nigel Pearson’s side thwarted the hosts’ ambitions of climbing back to fifth in the Premier League table.

Instead they ended this contest in sixth, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, after Oliver Norwood’s penalty cancelled out Gerard Deulofeu’s opener.

Pearson’s men, meanwhile, moved off the bottom following Norwich City’s defeat by Aston Villa.

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Watford had made their intentions clear within seconds of kick-off, pumping a series of long balls towards their captain, centre-forward and talisman Troy Deeney.

But United weren’t interested in subterfuge either, with centre-halves Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell both charging upfield at every given opportunity as they persisted with their policy of trying to overwhelm defences rather than pick them apart.

But for Foster, that bold approach would have paid dividends inside the opening 10 minutes with Oli McBurnie, again preferred to Lys Mousset, denied twice by the former England goalkeeper.

With United threatening to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, those saves proved crucial when Deulofeu fired Watford in front midway through the opening period.

The Spaniard produced a clinical finish, sliding home inside the near post. But from United’s perspective, it was a desperately poor way to concede, with Nathaniel Chalobah’s header sending his team mate darting through before Dean Henderson started and then stopped to advance.

United’s rearguard made amends soon after when wing-back George Baldock raced into the area and was tripped by Will Hughes, which allowed Norwood to equalise from the spot.

Fleck came within another superb Foster block of edging United in front after combining with substitute Mousset. The Frenchman had only been on the pitch a matter of seconds when he turned on the after-burners and left Watford’s defenders trailing in his wake. Fleck, recalled following suspension, connected with Mousset’s centre but Foster, somehow, scrambled clear from close range.

Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Baldock, Stevens, Norwood, Fleck, Lundstram, McBurnie (Mousset 63), McGoldrick. Not used: Verrips, L Freeman, Sharp, Robinson, Jagielka, Besic.

Watford: Foster, Mariappa, Deulofeu, Chalobah (Dawson 88), Cathcart, Hughes, Femenia, Sarr (Pereyra 46), Kabasele, Capoue, Deeney (Gray 80). Not used: Gomes, Quina, Success, Whelan.

Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).

Attendance: 30,222.