Sheffield United 2 Oldham 0: Billy Sharp at the double for Blades

Billy Sharp slides home his first (Photo: Sportsimage)
Billy Sharp slides home his first (Photo: Sportsimage)
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Billy Sharp produced a moment of magic to earn Sheffield United a Boxing Day victory over struggling Oldham Athletic.

The Blades captain pounced with a superb volley in the 72nd minute to finally break a stubborn Oldham rearguard display.

Sharp then pounced with a late second, his 16th goal of the campaign, to secure a deserved victory.

A crowd of 25,821 - United's best of the season by 5,000 - packed in, expecting a home win, but for long periods it seemed the visitors would spoil the festive mood in South Yorkshire.

The Blades were unchanged from the side which beat Coventry City, 11 days previously, as they looked for their third successive league win in December.

Oldham, bottom of League One, featured former Blades midfielder Ryan Flynn.

Blades captain Billy Sharp celebrates (Photo: Sportsimage)

Blades captain Billy Sharp celebrates (Photo: Sportsimage)

Ethan Ebanks-Landell came close to giving United a fourth-minute lead, but seemed to be nudged in the back as he looked to head home a right-wing corner.

Blades goalkeeper Simon Moore denied Flynn - a Blades stalwart for the last five years before a summer exit - a dream return when he tipped the midfielder's deflected long-range effort for a corner.

United nearly broke the deadlock on the half hour, after some slick passing down the left flank.

The ball eventually found Matt Done, whose perfect cross picked out Billy Sharp - the only United player in the box - and his header was goal-bound before Charles Dunne deflected it wide.

The Blades were building up a head of steam, and a superb cross-field ball from Mark Duffy was headed back across goal by Daniel Lafferty.

Done and Sharp, though, were unable to connect with the loose ball and the chance was gone.

It had been a first half of half chances for United, who needed a win to keep the pressure on leaders Scunthorpe United.

The pressure continued to build in the second half, and substitute Leon Clarke was denied when Brian Wilson cleared off the line.

But the goal United had been threatening all afternoon arrived on 72 minutes.

Duffy's ball picked out captain Sharp who smashed home a stunning volley, which left Oldham goalkeeper Connor Ripley helpless.

Moore had to be alert at the other end, to keep out Freddie Lapado's 20-yard effort.

But United wrapped up the points in the 88th minute.

Clarke did well to put Ripley under pressure, and as the ball broke clear - with the visitors appealing for a foul - Sharp was on hand to drill the ball home.

In stoppage time, Clarke somehow contrived to fire over from eight yards out with the goal at his mercy.