Sheffield United 2 Gillingham 1: Murphy’s magic crowns late show for Blades

Jamie Murphy
Jamie Murphy
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Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough is hoping to follow in the promotion footsteps of neighbours Rotherham United with their late, late shows.

As the Millers went up from League One last season, late goals became a key feature of their season.

The Blades have inherited that knack of grabbing late goals this season, exemplified by strikes from Michael Higdon and Jamie Murphy earning a 2-1 win over Gillingham on Saturday.

Already this season, late goals have brought league winners against Peterborough United (Ben Davies, 84th minute), Rochdale (Jamal Campbell-Ryce, 84), Colchester United (Davies, 88) and Mansfield Town (Mark McNulty, 86) in the League Cup.

Murphy’s ‘97th-minute’ winner against Gillingham saw United climb to seventh in the table, just three points off second-placed Peterborough.

The Blades had dominated the match but looked to have suffered the perfect sucker-punch when Gills substitute Luke Norris volleyed home on 84 minutes in a rare attack from the visitors.

But United – who netted three times in the last seven minutes to overturn a 2-0 deficit at Colchester and win 3-2 – showed their resilience, as Higdon pounced at the near post to convert Craig Alcock’s low cross.

Then, with the match heading into the seventh minute of stoppage time, Murphy picked up the ball before waltzing through the opposition defence and sliding the ball beyond a stranded Stephen Bywater.

It left Clough – who attended the club’s 125th anniversary dinner on Saturday night alongside a 1,200 sell-out party – a relieved man.

“Late goals are very important,” said Clough. “I think at Rotherham last year, it was a feature of their season – a big part of their promotion push.

“It feels more than just a win when you do score late on. We did it at Colchester, too.

“What we would like to do is play a bit better in the first half and play with the same intensity we had in the second half, in the first period.

“If any game sums up 125 years of turbulence at a football club, it’s probably that one with all the ups and downs in the last 10 minutes of the game.”

Clough admitted he thought it was going to be “one of those days” when Norris hammered Gillingham in front.

“When we went 1-0 down, we have seen enough of those games over the years which you dominate but the opposition put one in the top corner with their only shot of the game,” he said.

“It would have been a travesty if we hadn’t got something. I think the fact the goals came late shouldn’t take anything away from it being a very good performance.

“Somebody said we had 27 shots, four or five kicked off the line, hit the woodwork a couple of times. But the nice thing was we kept persevering and got our rewards with a brilliant individual goal.”

It was Murphy’s first goal of the season, his energy to launch a late individual attack they key to United’s victory.

The former Motherwell winger is a key player under Clough, and accepts wearing the No 9 shirt means he wants to accumulate more goals.

Murphy said: “It was a nice goal. I couldn’t quite believe it, I thought we were the better team and had much the better chances.

“It just shows you if we don’t put our chances away and play up to the standards we have set that we can be punished. It feels great to get the two goals late on.

“Andy Garner, the assistant manager, had a word with me with five minutes to go and said if I had a chance to run at them. I managed to do that and squeeze the ball through the ’keeper’s legs.

“It was a great moment for myself and I’m sure the fans enjoyed it as well.

“I grew up playing up front and if I can score more goals great, although, hopefully, they are not all in the last minute.

“Hopefully, we can get a lead earlier on and win games comfortably. That’s what we need to do.

“We are obviously good enough, we just need to start games a bit better.

“There is a camaraderie in the team, all the boys like hanging out with each other, some of my best friends are in the team.”

Sheffield United: Howard, Alcock, Collins, McGahey, McEveley (Harris 70), Doyle, Wallace, Davies (Flynn 71), Scougall, Murphy, McNulty (Higdon 75). Unused substitutes: Turner, Basham, Porter, Reed.

Gillingham: Bywater, Martin, Egan, Hause, Davies, Hoyte, Loft, Linganzi (Hessenthaler 89), Pritchard, McDonald (Norris 70), Dickenson. Unused substitutes: Morris, Fish, McGlashan, Dack, German.

Referee: K Wright (Cambs).