Match Report: Sheffield United 1, Birmingham 1

Match Report
Match Report
Have your say

Leon Clarke scored his 13th goal of the season as Sheffield United were held to a draw by Birmingham City.

Chris Wilder's side were trailing to Jeremie Boga's effort when the centre-forward pounced to restore parity.Although they controlled the vast majority of the game United, who remain third in the Championship table, were unable to translate possession and chances into three points.

It is the first time they have been forced to share the spoils since March and only City's second point on the road this term.

"I felt we should have won," Clarke admitted afterwards. "I thought we did enough but it wasn't to be."

Despite lacking their usual zip and tempo, United dominated the first-half only to find themselves trailing at the break. John Lundstram twice went close before Clarke, whose finishing has been immaculate of late, wasted a fine opportunity from close-range.

Boga, who had quickly emerged as City's most dangerous attacking threat, made no such mistake with a superb strike six minutes before the break. There will be questions about whether he should have been closed down quicker or, ignoring the slight deflection it took, Blackman should have kept out the 25 yard shot. But rather than indulge in the type of analysis which would see every match end goalless, any neutrals among the near 30,000 crowd should simply admire the quality of the finish.

Quality was the operative word for United who engineered countless promising positions only to pick the wrong pass or execute the right one poorly until Clarke drew them level in the 71st minute. It was a deserved goal and, given that he has now hit the target nine times in four outings, came from a gloriously predictable source too.

Unlike Wilder, who acknowledged before kick-off his team are definitely "in the promotion race", City manager Steve Cotterill elected to change City's starting eleven in a bid to guide them away from the relegation zone. Goalkeeper David Stockdale and Lukas Jutkiewicz were among four players handed recalls while Che Adams and David Cotterill, the former United players, were named on the bench.

Cotterill must have been wondering whether Jonathan Grounds and Jota should have been sat next to them when, within the first five minutes, both were guilty of making clumsy clearances. But after surviving some early United pressure, Boga served notice that City would be a threat with a surging run which put the hosts on the back foot.

Clarke entered the contest fresh from scoring his second hat-trick of the season and, in the 12th minute, he enjoyed his first real sight of goal. Jack O'Connell and Enda Stevens combined to work the ball into Stockdale's area but, ghosting in front of his marker, the United centre-forward headed wide.

Although Jake Wright made a timely intervention to deny Jutkiewicz, United's grip on the contest began to tighten midway through the half. Lundstram drew a save from Stockdale, moments after forcing Harlee Dean to make a brave and painful block when John Fleck's free-kick was only half-cleared. Fleck was in the thick of things again when, after being released by Mark Duffy, he produced the centre which Clarke should have converted but instead scooped wide.

Duffy, who joined United after being released by City, showcased his intelligence and agility with some intricate play in the 33rd minute only to be crowded out as he prepared to shoot. But after Chris Basham had nearly found Billy Sharp at the far post, Boga turned the contest on its head when, after Jota's corner had been cleared, he powered home from around 25 yards out.

Lundstram tried his luck from distance at the beginning of the second period but sliced well wide. Clarke, however, calculated the angles perfectly when he finally broke City's resistance after combining with substitute David Brooks.

Sheffield United: Blackman, O'Connell, Wright, Carter-Vickers (Carruthers 67), Stevens, Basham, Lundstram, Fleck, Duffy, Sharp (Brooks 67), Clarke. Not used: Moore, Donaldson, Hanson, Stearman, Lafferty.

Birmingham City: Stockdale, Nsue, Grounds, Roberts, Kieftenbeld, Jutkiewicz (Gallagher 90), Dean, Ndoye, Boga (Adams 87), Jota (Maghoma 79), Morrison. Not used: Cotterill, Kuszczak, O'Keeffe. Gleeson.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).

Attendance: 27,427.

Star Man: Leon Clarke