Sheffield United 4 Plymouth 3: Quick-thinking Cresswell is the hero

CAST your mind back through the years and not many goalkeepers have committed the sort of blunder that gifted Sheffield United victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Only pantomime theatres should really be the venues for shouts of 'He's behind you!' and any goalkeeper who forgets to look over his shoulder before rolling the ball onto the floor is always asking for trouble.

Yet Plymouth's David Stockdale still walked straight into one of the oldest traps in football and that allowed Blades striker Richard Cresswell to emerge like a villain from the shadows and take centre stage.

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After cheekily stealing the ball off his toe, the Blades striker rolled it into an unguarded net – teaching Stockdale a lesson he will never forget.

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Just four years ago, Leeds-born Stockdale was playing non-league football for Wakefield and Emley but this season he has played in both the Premier League and the UEFA Cup for Fulham.

The 24-year-old was released by York City in 2006 after being dubbed 'too fat' by manager Billy McEwan but has slimmed down and got his career moving again.

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What happened at Bramall Lane will only be of benefit to Stockdale going forward but his blunder may also be a major turning point in the season for the Blades.

For Cresswell's goal secured a victory that lifts the Blades back onto the shoulders of the top six – anything less than three points would have been damaging to morale.

"I had a feeling their goalkeeper was going to drop it so I hid behind him," recalled Cresswell, who had gone beyond Stockdale after trying to reach a pass from Jamie Ward.

"You don't see goals like that too often but it was a nice one to get and a vital one too. I am sure he will only make that mistake once and never again in his career."

It can, of course, happen to the best in the business.

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Shay Given was still learning his trade at Newcastle United in 1997 when he allowed Coventry City's Dion Dublin to score a carbon copy of Cresswell's goal in a Premier League game.

Former Manchester City goalkeeper Andy Dibble, meanwhile, must still have nightmares about the afternoon 20 years ago when Nottingham Forest's Gary Crosby nodded the ball out of his right hand before hitting the net.

In truth, the Blades should have wrapped this game up long before Stockdale's 83rd-minute blunder but lost the plot when

3-0 ahead early in the second half thanks to goals from Henri Camara and Jamie Ward (two).

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Plymouth substitute Yannick Bolasie poked the ball into an empty net after a horrible mix-up between Blades goalkeeper Mark Bunn and defender Chris Morgan.

Joe Mason, who had also been introduced at half-time by Plymouth manager Paul Mariner, then made it 3-2 by escaping the attention of his marker to bundle the ball home from five yards.

Even though Cresswell scored with just seven minutes to play to restore the two-goal advantage, there was still time for another twist in the tale.

Plymouth striker Jamie Mackie – whose tussle with Morgan was one the best duels of the afternoon – fired home in the 85th minute to set up a nail-biting finale.

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The Blades held on and, with 13 games to play, are now just a point behind sixth-placed Cardiff City whose season appears to be falling apart.

The Bluebirds still have a game in hand but suffered a shocking 3-0 defeat against 10-man Preston North End on Saturday and have now won only one of their last seven games.

"Hopefully, we can get a settled team now and that will give us a better chance," said Cresswell, reflecting on his side's well documented injury problems over the last few months. "It has been difficult because of the amount of players who have come in and gone and there have been 20 debuts this season so the gaffer deserves praise for shuffling his pack. Now we need to get on a good run. The aim has got to be to go unbeaten until the end of the season."

Ironically, the Blades' victory was also good news for arch-rivals Sheffield Wednesday who are locked in a battle with Plymouth to avoid relegation to League One.

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The Pilgrims are still five points behind the Owls in the bottom three but have a game in hand.

Manager Paul Mariner said: "We showed plenty of bottle to come back from 3-0 and that's what we're going to need between now and the end of the season."

Asked if he had spoken to his goalkeeper after the game, Mariner said: "What can you say to the kid? There's not a lot you can say because he probably feels like shooting himself after that mistake."

Sheffield United: Bunn; Nosworthy, Bartley, Morgan, Kallio; Ward, Montgomery, Williamson, Yeates (Harper 86); Cresswell (Stewart 90), Camara (Evans 78). Unused substitutes: Bennett, Taylor, Quinn, Fortune.

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Plymouth Argyle: Stockdale; Duguid, Arnason, R.Johnson (Summerfield 51), Barker; Clark, D.Johnson, Fletcher, Noone (Bolasie 45); Fallon (Mason 45), Mackie. Unused substitutes: Larrieu, Wright-Phillips, Judge, Cooper.

Referee: CD Sarginson (Staffordshire).

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