FT: Sheffield United 1-0 Coventry City - Adkins praises ‘resolute’ Blades

Billy Sharp stepped off the bench to score the goal that earned Sheffield United an unlikely, but welcome victory against one of their biggest rivals for promotion.

Sheffield United v Coventry City
Sheffield United v Coventry City

After a week in which Blades fans had felt the full range of emotions - from the elation at drawing Manchester United in the FA Cup to the deep sorrow at the loss of their former goalkeeper Alan Hodgkinson and club photographer Martyn Harrison within the next two days - a much-needed three points was a timely conclusion.

Not that they merited victory on the pitch. For this was another unconvincing home performance from the Blades, who were second best against a side that exerted greater control and pressure.

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Tony Mowbray’s Coventry could well have been awarded a goal on 69 minutes when Jacob Murphy’s cutback from the byline struck a Blades defender and bobbled over the line.

But George Long, the United goalkeeper, dived on the ball, and after a moment’s pause, picked himself up and carried on playing with no whistle from the referee or flag from the linesman.

United, resolute and organised but lacking confidence going forward, turned that slice of fortune into a winning advantage, Sharp meeting a 79th-minute corner with his shoulder, the ball bouncing over the line after City goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook had made a hash of coming to collect Paul Coutts’ centre.

The Blades had Long to thank for denying the livewire Adam Armstrong in the first half and then Ruben Lameiras with a similarly smart save.

Coventry, frustrated at how they had thrown away a game they dominated, were reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when captain Sam Ricketts received his second booking for a foul on Chris Basham.

A sixth home victory, a first win in seven league games, moves Nigel Adkins’ side up to 11th in League One, four points adrift of the play-offs and nine shy of Coventry, who remain in the second automatic promotion place.

Adkins said: “We played against a very good footballing side, we had a game plan, the lads worked very hard and we kept a clean sheet. That’s what we have to do.

“We were solid, we were resolute.”

Before kick-off, a minute’s applause was held to mark the loss of former Blades and England goalkeeper Alan Hodgkinson, who died at the age of 79 last Tuesday, and club photographer Martyn Harrison, who died on Wednesday, aged 60.