Close shave required sooner rather than later by Sheffield United's Jack O'Connell

Sheffield United goalscorer Billy Sharp takes on Scunthorpe United's David Mirfin (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage).Sheffield United goalscorer Billy Sharp takes on Scunthorpe United's David Mirfin (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage).
Sheffield United goalscorer Billy Sharp takes on Scunthorpe United's David Mirfin (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage).
JACK O'CONNELL'S family are hoping Sheffield United clinch promotion swiftly '“ so the Blades defender can shave off his beard.

The 22-year-old former Blackburn Rovers and Brentford defender is refusing to take a razor to it – much to his family’s disappointment – until League One leaders United are promoted.

Saturday’s 1-1 draw with second-placed Scunthorpe United meant the Blades missed a chance to stretch their advantage to eight points.

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So the O’Connell clan may have to wait a little longer to see Jack clean-shaven.

“It’s a superstition,” said O’Connell. “If we get over the line, then I’ll shave it. But, until then, it stays on.

“I’m getting a bit of stick from the family about it. The missus doesn’t like it either but, hopefully, she won’t be living with it too long. We’ve got some big games coming up.”

Saturday’s stalemate means United maintained their five-point buffer over the Iron, although the Lincolnshire side have a game in hand.

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Third-placed Bolton Wanderers trail by seven points, with two games in hand, following their 2-2 draw at Bradford City.

Saturday’s top-two encounter was a terrific advert for League One football.

The only thing missing from a dominant opening 45 minutes from the home side were goals.

With John Fleck outstanding in midfield, Billy Sharp and James Hanson reunited together up front and Mark Duffy probing from the flanks, the Blades will wonder how they reached the interval scoreless.

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The two best chances saw a shot over the crossbar from Sharp, who then played a one-two with Duffy before the latter drilled his effort wide.

The Blades were made to pay for their missed chances when Scunthorpe took the lead two minutes after half-time, Stephen Dawson’s low cross being tucked home by Paddy Madden.

United, though, showed the resilience which has seen them rise to league leaders, Hanson heading down and Sharp pouncing for his 21st goal of the season.

But, despite facing 10 men for the final 39 minutes after Harry Toffolo was sent off for two yellow cards, United could not find a winner.

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“We started very well and on the front foot,” said O’Connell, impressive in a back three alongside Chris Basham and Jake Wright. “If we had put our chances away then it would have been a different game.

“We started the second quite sloppily and we’ve got to cut out those type of goals.

“First and foremost, it was a scrappy goal, it took a deflection. But you can always find a way of stopping a goal, as defenders you have to think like that.

“But we responded straight away. It’s disappointing to concede but we did well to come back.

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“The mental side of it is one of our biggest strengths. We are showing that during games.

“Obviously, there are some massive games coming up and we’ll need that at this stage.”

In a frenetic finale, both sides hit the post and the Blades once again failed to convert their chances.

Fleck was blocked on several occasions, substitute Caolan Lavery was thwarted by goalkeeper Luke Daniels, and Sharp saw his effort go the wrong side of the post.

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Madden should have given the Iron an undeserved lead on 88 minutes, but his shot from a cross from the left from Sam Mantom hit the post and rebounded to safety.

The woodwork would also frustrate the hosts in five minutes of stoppage time, substitute Jay O’Shea placing his shot only to see it hit the inside of the post and rebound into the arms of a relieved Daniels.

“Jay was wheeling away and getting ready to jump in the Kop at the end,” said O’Connell. “We’re disappointed only to take a point but, at the end of the season, we might look back on it as a big one. In reality, it could be really important.

“We’ve got to play Bolton, and Scunthorpe and Bolton have got to play each other, so there’s still a lot of football to be played and a long way to go yet.”

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A crowd of 27,980 – the Blades’ highest of the season – created what Wilder labelled an “unbelievable atmosphere”.

“To have 26,000 home fans in February – it’s not a title-decider, it’s not the last few games where you’re looking to win promotion – the support we have had this week, and today, has been magnificent,” enthused the Blades chief.

“We have Bolton, Charlton, Millwall and Bradford coming up, these are games you want to be involved in. We are relishing being top of the division.

“Bolton will be a tough old game, but I would take another performance like this. If we had had a bounce of the ball, or a little bit more quality when we needed it, then we would be a tough team to stop.

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“We played well. I don’t think there was much in the performance to the Wimbledon game, which we won 4-0. And yet we only scored once today. I thought we made Scunthorpe look decidedly average.”

Sheffield United: Moore, Basham, Wright, O’Connell (Done 90), Freeman, Duffy, Coutts, Fleck, Lafferty (O’Shea 83), Sharp, Hanson (Lavery 79). Unused substitutes: Long, Riley, Ebanks-Landell, Carruthers.

Scunthorpe: Daniels, Sutton, Wallace, Mirfin, Toffolo, Crooks (Mantom 78), Dawson, Bishop, van Veen (Hopper 71), Madden (Davies 90), Morris. Unused substitutes: Anyon, Holmes, Goode, Toney.

Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).