Sheffield Utd 4 Scunthorpe 0: Baxter’s penalty double consolidates Blades’ grip

Sheffield United's Jose Baxter keeps his eyes firmly on the ball as he scores one of two penalties which helped his side to a 4-0 win over Scunthorpe (Picture: Martyn Harrison).
Sheffield United's Jose Baxter keeps his eyes firmly on the ball as he scores one of two penalties which helped his side to a 4-0 win over Scunthorpe (Picture: Martyn Harrison).
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NOT many teams in League One will run out this season to the sounds of Runrig and that traditional dance-floor filler at the end of a tartan wedding, Loch Lomond.

Sheffield United, however, did so last night and it clearly inspired a recent recruit from north of the border and his Scottish brethren.

Jason Holt, a January arrival on loan from Heart of Midlothian, opened the scoring with a quite brilliant strike to set the Blades on the way to a victory that strengthened their iron grip on a play-off place by taking all three points from Scunthorpe United.

Jamie Murphy, a son of Glasgow, also got on the scoresheet, while even the penalty double by Liverpool-born Jose Baxter came as a direct result of fouls on Ryan Flynn and Marc McNulty.

It was Flynn, in fact, who had been behind the unusual choice of music that had been played over the PA system ahead of kick-off as the Blades continued with the practice of letting an individual player choose three songs each week.

Loch Lomond – described by Flynn in the matchday programme as one to “get everyone up dancing to” – was the last of those picks and it clearly resonated with Holt, one of six Scots named in the starting line-up by manager Nigel Clough.

The loanee, collecting the ball out wide on the right, cut inside before unleashing a right-foot shot from 20 yards that was so fierce that Iron goalkeeper Luke Daniels had not even managed to dive when the ball hit the net.

United’s Caledonian influence had already sounded a warning to the visitors by the time of Holt’s 14th-minute opener through Bob Harris, the full-back having raced clear down the left before drilling a cross that Daniels did well to collect cleanly at his near post.

Once ahead, the Blades continued to dictate matters as, first, Baxter fired over and then Flynn’s cross intended for Steven Davies was cleared in the nick of time by the Iron’s defence.

United’s second arrived five minutes before the break. Murphy, once again showing great agility to cut in from the left, helped create the opening with a slide rule pass for Flynn, who was unceremoniously dumped to the floor by a poor challenge from Jordan Clarke.

Baxter did the rest from 12 yards by firing down the middle of the goal as Daniels dived to his right and another three points were all but on their way into the Blades’ account.

Scunthorpe offered precious little going forward, one of their few threatening moments coming 10 minutes after the break when Iain Turner made a hash of an attempted punch from Gary McSheffrey’s free-kick.

Even then, though, it was a United foot that hacked the ball to safety as it bobbed around the penalty area.

Otherwise, all Mark Robins’s side could muster was Kevin van Veen’s free-kick that flew wide of Turner’s post.

The Iron’s insipid attack meant the only question for the 19,442 crowd during a largely forgettable second half was whether United could add further goals.

Murphy, after serving notice of his intent with two wonderfully tricky runs, duly obliged nine minutes from time.

Released by Kieron Freeman’s intricate pass, the Scot raced clear of the Iron backline before cleverly dinking a shot over the advancing Daniels.

Three minutes later, United’s total dominance received its just reward when a fourth goal arrived courtesy of another Baxter spot-kick.

McNulty had been the Blade crudely fouled by Miguel Llera, the former Wednesday defender receiving a red card for his troubles from Mark Heywood.

With a biggest win of the season safely claimed, Rochdale’s defeat in the Lancashire derby at Oldham Athletic brought further cheer to all but the 745 Scunthorpe fans in a crowd of 19,442.

Clough’s United now sit six points clear of seventh-placed Barnsley.

It is a more than useful advantage with eight games to go and only Rochdale of the half dozen teams immediately below the Blades in the table have a game in hand.

It should bring an eighth tilt at the play-offs and if it is one of the nine Scots who currently reside at Bramall Lane who ends up getting the decisive goal at Wembley that takes United up, expect Runrig to get a few more airings in S2 come the evening of May 24.

Sheffield United: Turner; Harris, Brayford, Basham, Freeman; Coutts (Doyle 89), Baxter; Flynn (B Davies 82), Holt, Murphy; S Davies (McNulty 75). Unused substitutes: Alcock, Willis, Done, Adams.

Scunthorpe United: Daniels; Clarke, Llera, Canavan, Townsend; Osbourne (van Veen 60), O’Neil, Lundstram; Adelakun (Wootton 76), McSheffrey (Boyce 86), Madden. Unused substitutes: Evans, Williams, Davey, Anyon.

Referee: M Heywood (West Yorkshire).