Birmingham City 2 Sheffield United 1: Blades suffer play-offs setback

David Stockdale of Birmingham City saves at the feet of Billy Sharp. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
David Stockdale of Birmingham City saves at the feet of Billy Sharp. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
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SHEFFIELD UNITED’S play-off hopes suffered a potentially fatal blow on an afternoon when Birmingham City gave their own survival push a massive lift.

Despite taking an early lead through Mark Duffy, the Blades slipped to a defeat that now makes gate-crashing the top six a tall order.

Goals from Marc Roberts and Jacques Maghoma did the damage, ensuring United finished the afternoon three points adrift of the play-offs.

With just two games remaining and no less than four sides between Chris Wilder’s men and Millwall in sixth place, it will need plenty of help from elsewhere to keep alive the dream of Premier League football next term.

United will also have to be much better in those final two fixtures than they were at St Andrews.

Once Roberts had pegged back the visitors just after the half-hour, there only ever looked like being one winner as the Blades lost their way.

United had taken just six minutes to open the scoring. A swift attacking break that culminated in Lee Evans releasing Duffy left the Blues defence wide open.

Against his former club, Duffy needed no further invitation as he stepped inside his marker before shooting past David Stockdale.

The Blues goalkeeper was at fault for the goal but he made amends moments later with a fine save to deny Lee Evans from 25 yards.

It was a let-off that the hosts duly capitalised on just after the half-hour, albeit with a helping hand from the Blades.

A drilled corner from Jacques Maghoma hardly seemed threatening but neither the Blades defence nor Lukas Jutkiewicz at the front post could get a touch and Marc Roberts duly fired in from a yard out.

Once level, the hosts took control and it was no surprise when Garry Monk’s men went ahead 20 minutes from time.

A delightful lobbed pass released Maghoma, and he did the rest with an accomplished finish past Blackman.

TALKING POINT

Such are the fine margins that characterise life in the Championship, the Blades slipped from seventh to 11th in the space of ten minutes towards the end of the first half.

Having reached the half-hour mark a goal ahead, United had moved up two places from their morning standing of ninth in the ‘in-game table’.

Once pegged back, however, Chris Wilder’s men started to slide as, first, Brentford went in front and then Bristol City came from behind to lead 2-1.

Sadly for the Blades, that seventh place standing was as good as it got on an afternoon when they tailed off badly.