Sheffield United v Bournemouth: Blades thwarted by Mark Travers' brilliance and woeful penalty decision

Okay, so they weren’t quite as slick as Scott Parker’s touchline attire.

Saturday, 9th April 2022, 3:13 pm

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But while AFC Bournemouth’s manager rocked the touchline, resplendent in his drainpipe grey chinos and ice white shirt, Sheffield United emerged as the dominant force within the actual football game.

Had it not been for Mark Travers’ brilliance between the posts, which saw him twice thwart Morgan Gibbs-White during this breathless Championship contest, then Paul Heckingbottom’s side would surely have been rewarded with all three points rather than the one which was scant reward for their performance.

Morgan Gibbs-White of Sheffield United and Nathaniel Phillips of Bournemouth: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“It was a decent outcome, I suppose,” Gibbs-White said afterwards, having also been denied a cast-iron penalty when he was felled by Nat Phillips. “Things aren’t going our way decision-wise. But we’re fighting.”

Fifth in the table at the final whistle, while Bournemouth remain second, United should also have snatched victory with the final action of the match when Filip Uremovic scooped wide following a scramble in the area.

Having already recorded one important result earlier this week, it was no surprise to see United name the same starting eleven as they went in search of another. But there was still no sign of captain and leading scorer Billy Sharp who, after also missing Tuesday’s defeat of Queens Park Rangers, revealed just before kick-off that he hopes to return after the Easter break.

Filling the 36-year-old’s boots is a tough ask for any centre-forward. Let alone one struggling for fitness and, following a 19 match barren run, probably a little bit of confidence too. But Oli McBurnie has made a decent fist of this most unenviable of tasks. Following his combative shift during the meeting with Rangers, the Scotland international quickly made his presence felt again; showing commendable determination to fling himself at Enda Stevens’ delightful first time cross. On that occasion, McBurnie’s header flew well wide of Travers’ left hand post. Just before the interval, he did get his angles right. But Bournemouth’s skipper Lloyd Kelly, who had earlier enjoyed a lucky escape when clearing a set-piece, deflected the shot wide. McBurnie has lashings of perseverance and totally rotten luck.

AFC Bournemouth manager Scott Parker before the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane: Zac Goodwin/PA Wire.

John Fleck is also showing signs of rediscovering the form which once made him such an irresistible member of United’s midfield. Always tenacious, Fleck also spent long periods of the first half teasing Bournemouth’s defence. Indeed, midway through, it was his corner which saw their captain Kelly hit his own post as Heckingbottom’s men began to apply real pressure.

Fleck was also the architect of the move which saw Gibbs-White denied by a superb Travers save soon after Kelly’s intervention; the 22-year-old correctly guessing the United man would shoot high.

As you would expect of a team seemingly destined for automatic promotion, Bournemouth improved after the break. But as an undercurrent of animosity crept into the contest - thanks, in no small part, to some fussy officiating - United continued to carve the better openings. Gibbs-White found himself clean through on Travers following one of his many forays forward. But the Republic of Ireland youngster came to Bournemouth’s rescue again, this time scrambling away with his legs.

Gibbs-White was left screaming in anguish when Phillips’ clumsy challenge escaped censure. Likewise Uremovic when, with second remaining, he failed to hit the target from inside the box.

Philip Billing of Bournemouth battles with Philip Uremovic of Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Sheffield United: Foderingham, Baldock, Stevens, Uremovic, Egan, B Davies, Norwood, Fleck (Osborn 72), Berge (Hourihane 82), Gibbs-White, McBurnie. Not used: A Davies, Robinson, Ndiaye, Norrington-Davies, Jebbison.

AFC Bournemouth: Travers, Phillips, Cook, Kelly, Lerma, Solanke, Christie, Smith, Billing, Zemura (Brady 89), Dembele (Anthony 73). Not used: Woodman, Mepham, Cantwell, Lowe, Pearson.

Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire).