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Town 0-3 Sheffield United
Town 0-3 Sheffield United
Sunday, 2nd May 2010 14:56

Town’s miserable season came to a disappointing end as Sheffield United defeated Roy Keane’s 10-man Blues 3-0. The Blades were two goals up through Mark Yeates and Ched Evans when debutant Tom Eastman was harshly dismissed for a second bookable offence, Richard Cresswell adding the third soon after.

Boss Roy Keane handed 18-year-old Eastman his first senior appearance alongside Gareth McAuley at the centre of the defence with Tommy Smith moving to left-back and David Wright, who is set to leave the club in the summer, dropping out.

Owen Garvan returned to the centre of a five-man midfield with Daryl Murphy missing due to injury, Jack Colback moving to the left and Jon Walters to the right with Connor Wickham up front.

Mark Yeates curled a second minute freekick wide, referee Andy D’Urso having done little to enhance his reputation amongst Town supporters with the decision to award the foul to the visitors.

The game began in an understated manner not too far away from the recent Doncaster match. Nevertheless, Town were playing some decent stuff and Grant Leadbitter forced Paddy Kenny into his first save of the game with a 13th minute shot from the edge of the box.

On 22 there was a long and loud cheer from the away supporters as Crystal Palace scored their first goal against their soon-to-be-relegated rivals Sheffield Wednesday. Three minutes later Leadbitter, playing a more advanced role than usual, hit a shot through to Kenny from 25 yards.

Town were close to going in front in the 27th minute when Leadbitter found Walters wide, the skipper sending in a cross which Owen Garvan headed against the post, the ball striking a defender and going behind for a corner. Town felt they ought to have been awarded a spotkick from the corner with Gareth McAuley being held but D’Urso waved the appeals away.

Just before the half hour, Wickham’s cross aimed towards Leadbitter was cut out, moments before the visitors went in front with their first serious shot of the game.

Former Colchester man Mark Yeates hit a shot which struck Jaime Peters and rebounded back to him giving him greater space for a second opportunity. This effort deflected off Gareth McAuley and gave Brian Murphy little chance.

Ched Evans, reportedly a Town target last summer, tried to catch Murphy off his line from 40 yards on 35 but his effort sailed wide.

Town should have got back on terms in the 37th minute when a freekick from deep was nodded down to Jack Colback 10 yards out but the loanee from Sunderland, playing his last game for the Blues, sent his shot well into the South Stand. On 40 Tommy Smith’s header from a corner was cleared from the six-yard area.

Moments later Eastman picked up his first senior yellow card for a pull on Nyron Nosworthy on halfway.

Evans curled a shot over from the edge of the area in the 41st minute, then Wickham flicked Peters’s cross from the right well wide.

Town were a touch unfortunate to be behind at the break, having been the better side for much of the half with Wickham impressive as the lone striker, as he was at Newcastle last week, and with Owen Garvan appearing more effective in a central three. However, once again opportunities weren’t taken, while the opposition took the first chance, half-chance perhaps, which fell for them.

The Blades started the second half strongly and Yeates, who was giving Jaime Peters a very tough afternoon, hit a shot from a tight angle which Murphy saved with his feet. On 55, Connor Wickham hooked on a Jon Walters shot but Paddy Kenny saved sharply.

The visitors immediately broke quickly with Town caught with two of their three central midfielders in the Sheffield United box. Yeates crossed low from the left and Evans netted the Blades’ second of the game. Boss Roy Keane switched Tommy Smith and David Norris for Shane O’Connor and Billy Clark.

The game was all but ended by two incidents either side of the hour mark. First referee D’Urso, putting in his usual inconsistent and frustrating performance, adjudged Eastman to have fouled Matthew Lowton on the Sheffield United right and gave the debutant his second yellow and then first red card in senior football. It looked particularly harsh as the defender appeared to have got the ball.

Troy Brown became Town’s second debutant of the afternoon, taking over at the centre of the defence with Jack Colback making way, the loanee from Sunderland applauding the fans as he left the field and receiving a standing ovation after his outstanding season.

On 63 the Blades sealed their first win at Portman Road since March 1975 when Yeates again beat Peters and sent in a cross which Cresswell headed over the line off the crossbar.

From there the game was all but dead, the Blues huffed and puffed but without showing too much quality or threatening Paddy Kenny’s goal too often. Walters shot wide, then Wickham headed straight at Kenny.

Walters shot across the face before Troy Brown forced Kenny into a rare save down to his left with a header from a Leadbitter freekick.

Late on, Yeates, who had been the outstanding performer for the visitors, shot across the face.

After the final whistle, the Town players went on their usual lap of honour, but round a Portman Road which had rapidly emptied after the third Sheffield United goal.

It had been another afternoon of frustration for Blues supporters. Town failed to make the most of a decent first half performance but were unable to replicate that display after the break. The early second Sheffield United goal and then the sending off pretty much ended the game while the Blues showed no signs of being able to repeat the 2003 10-man comeback against the same opposition.

The promising Eastman had had a steady game before his red card. The first yellow card was a definite booking, while a more sensible referee would probably have given him the benefit of the doubt for the second challenge even if he felt he hadn’t got to the ball, which it appeared he did.

Overall, a performance which sees what has been a disappointing season end on a low note with plenty of supporters sceptical whether next year will be any better.

Town: B Murphy, Peters, Smith (O'Connor 56), Eastman, McAuley, Leadbitter, Norris (Clark 56), Garvan, Walters, Colback (Brown 60) Wickham. Unused: Lee-Barrett, Martin, Edwards, Hyam. Att: 23,003.

Photo: Action Images

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