At times Sheffield United were wonderful to watch but anyone who left early was taking a huge risk. Their inability to kill the game off kept it on a knife-edge until the final whistle.
All’s well that ends well, Paul Heckingbottom’s side moving up to fifth in the Championship, but something a bit more efficient than a 1-0 win over a lacklustre Queens Park Rangers would have been better for everyone.
When the games are coming around as fast as they do in April, you need to preserve energy where you can.
Sheffield United ought to have been able to cruise through the second half having played so well in the first against a low-on-morale QPR but their inability to match the quality of their football to the quantity of their goals meant they had to keep their foot down until the very end.
Get well soon, Billy.
But the important thing was, they got the job done.
When things are a bit tough, it is never a bad idea to spend a bit of time at home, and having wobbled either side of the international break, the Blades will be relieved to start a run of four of five matches at Bramall Lane, where they are so formidable. The last time they lost there, Slavisa Jokanovic was the manager.
Last night’s scoreline should have reflected that, but instead of being a dambuster, Oliver Norwood’s ninth-minute goal was not added to, leaving open the possibility of a great QPR escape.
The goal was wonderful, George Baldock dummying John Fleck’s corner through to Norwood, whose shot deflected in off Lyndon Dykes. The flag kick came about when Norwood urged John Egan into the thick of it at a free-kick and landed it on his head.
If only Oli McBurnie’s pass had not been cut out, the second would have been just as good, and 10 minutes later. Morgan Gibbs-White cushioned a header to Fleck, who fed McBurnie but his attempt to return the ball was cut out. It would be a theme.
It was a fair reflection of the football the Blades were playing, with Norwood and Fleck excellent in midfield, McBurnie and Gibbs-White mobile and inventive in front of them.
McBurnie just needs a goal, having scored one in the league since July 2020.
Gibbs-White chipped a ball up for him in the 25th minute but nearer the back than the front of the penalty area, he got plenty of power by arching his neck muscles, but could only head at former Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood.
In the 28th minute Yohan Barbet produced a great block on Sander Berge’s shot as he ran through on goal.
Gradually, a poor Rs side began to realise they were somehow still in the contest.
In the 42nd minute, the unthinkable happened.
“We’ve had a shot!” sang the away end, not that the header troubled Wes Foderingham. Jeff Hendrick’s on the stroke of half-time could have caused more flutters had he put it on target.
The Blades came out reinvigorated after the break, a terrific Berge pass inside the first minute releasing Gibbs-White to put in a cross cut out by Westwood, inevitably given constant but harmless earache when in front of the Kop.
Gibbs-White’s shot was blocked when played through by Berge, but it was going wide anyway.
He was closer two minutes later, floating an effort just over the crossbar.
It took an excellent slide tackle by Barbet to stop Egan picking out the playmaker with an even better threaded pass.
Norwood put him through with a headed pass but again the centre was cut out and there were groans as his pass for Baldock was overhit.
An 88th-minute shot by Gibbs-White lacked power and it looked for all the world as if he would finally kill the game off in the 90th minute, but he curled Fleck’s brilliant pass just wide.
It feels wrong to pick a fault with such a good individual performance but he is no Billy Sharp. Few are.
Every time there was a foul or a corner at the other end, Blades fans must have feared the worst.
Dykes’s mis-hit cross with 17 minutes left had to be touched behind by Foderingham and Ilias Chair’s free-kick hit the wall when he was fouled by Baldock.
In the seventh added minute Foderingham spilled a cross under pressure from Dickie but the ball went wide.
They made it. Just.
Sheffield United: Foderingham; Uremovic (Robinson 63), Egan, B Davies; Baldock, Berge, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; Gibbs-White; McBurnie (Jebbison 73). Unused substitutes: A Davies, Osborn, Hourihane, Ndiaye, Norrington-Davies.
Queens Park Rangers: Westwood; Dunne, Dickie, Barbet; Adomah, Field, Hendrick (Dozzell 68), Wallace (McCallum 72); Chair; Dykes, Gray (Thomas 68). Unused substitutes: Amos, Austin, Sanderson, Mahoney.
Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).