Sheffield U 0 Leyton O 0: Blades are knocked off perch following stalemate

Sheffield United were knocked off the top of League One last night after a Bramall Lane stalemate against Leyton Orient.

The Blades came closest to breaking the deadlock when Ryan Flynn hammered against a post, but a point was not enough to prevent South Yorkshire neighbours Doncaster Rovers leapfrogging them at the summit.

“Making Bramall Lane a fortress is going to be key between now and the end of the season because if you win your home matches, you won’t be far away,” said Wilson before the game.

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But last night the Blades could not break down a stubborn Orient side, despite the late introduction of Italy Under-18 youngster Diego De Girolamo, bringing an end to their four-match winning streak.

United suffered a blow before kick-off when Jamie Murphy, who scored the winner at Bournemouth at the weekend, was ruled out with a groin injury.

With Jonathan Forte also out with a similar injury it meant a first start for on-loan Leeds United striker Dominic Poleon, while 19-year-old centre-half Harry Maguire earned his 100th start for the Blades.

The defender nearly created a goal after 14 minutes when he headed back a far-post cross into the path of Neill Collins, but the defender could only prod the ball the wrong side of Jamie Jones’s right-hand post.

United were so nearly made to pay for that miss as Orient broke away and Shaun Batt, with Maguire giving chase, was thwarted by goalkeeper George Long.

Dean Cox looked the visitors’ biggest threat, heading behind a teasing cross by Tony McMahon, and Poleon showed his trickery for the Blades as he shimmied his way into the box only for Nathan Clarke to clear the danger.

Former Middlesbrough midfielder Barry Robson led the way for United, remaining calm in possession and boasting some astute passing, never more so than when he threaded the ball through for striker Dave Kitson, only for the striker to lose control.

That summed up United’s first half in which they saw plenty of the ball, but could not break down a resilient Orient, who employed five across midfield.

The visitors threatened briefly just before half-time with several corners from Cox, but the closest they came saw Maguire head away under pressure from Batt six yards out.

With just two points separating the top six in League One before kick-off, it was always going to be an evening where several sides could lead the table during the course of the 90 minutes.

At half-time, that honour went to Tranmere Rovers, who went above the Blades courtesy of their interval advantage at home to Notts County.

Greeted back with the PA announcer re-enforcing the point by blasting out ‘We stay top if we win’, United kicked off attacking the Kop in front of the expectant 16,540 crowd. Even the hardy 163 Orient fans huddled in the Bramall Lane stand must have feared a second-half onslaught.

But Wilson’s side were struggling to build up a head of steam and Long had to show a safe pair of hands when he plucked out Leon McSweeney’s teasing cross.

Robson was again at the centre of United’s attacks and his clever ball sent Poleon racing away with just Jones to beat.

But the on-loan striker committed himself early, and his prodded shot beat the goalkeeper only to roll just wide of the left-hand post.

That proved to be Poleon’s last contribution as Wilson threw on youngster Callum McFadzean and, as the game opened up, 
Orient became more adventurous and some slick passing resulted in Long producing a stunning double save.

First the 19-year-old former Academy youngster reacted well to palm away Romain Vincelot’s low drive, before quickly leaping to his feet to deny substitute David Mooney.

Blades midfielder Ryan Flynn was unlucky when his right-foot effort from 20 yards hammered against the foot of a post and rebounded to safety.

With 20 minutes remaining, Wilson introduced Richard Cresswell and teenager De Girolamo for Kitson and Robson, in his last throw of the dice.

Mooney went close to breaking the stalemate when his angled effort curled just wide of Long’s goal, before Michael Doyle forced Jones into a stunning acrobatic save to tip over his fierce 25-yard drive.

Sheffield United: Long, McMahon, Maguire, Collins, Higginbotham, Flynn, Doyle, McDonald, Robson (De Girolamo 72), Poleon (McFadzean 64), Kitson (Cresswell 72). Unused substitutes: Westlake, Hill, Ironside, Coyne..

Leyton Orient: Jones, Cuthbert, Baudry, Clarke, McSweeney, Odubajo, Vincelot, Smith, James, Cox, Batt (Mooney 57). Unused substitutes: Griffith, Macdonald, Grainger, Obafemi, Cook, Omozusi..

Referee: P Gibbs.