Sheffield United 3 Fulham 3: Dead-and-buried Blades show spirit aplenty but dozy defending cancels it out

Sheffield United are bottom of the Premier League table because they lack a lot of things but against Fulham on Saturday, nobody could question their spirit.

The Blades' recent home form – four games lost by a 21-2 aggregate has been absolutely horrendous, the way the roof has caved in when they conceded goals alarming.

In the South Yorkshire sunshine they rolled their sleeves up to bolt the door shut in a reassuringly dull first half, took the lead in a frenetic second, came back from a demoralisingly poor equaliser, thought they had made it 4-1 and ended up drawing 3-3.

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He has to stop himself admitting it when he speaks to the media, but even Blades manager Chris Wilder knows his team and dead and buried when it comes to Premier League survival.

That they did not play like it – in terms of effort, rather than the poor quality of snippets of their otherwise admirable defending – should be a given but these are human beings, after all and to play as they did was a credit to their professionalism.

The first-half was pretty much a non-event, which was just what the Blades needed at Bramall Lane.

Fulham hit a post in the 38th minute when Ivo Grbic tipped a Rodrigo Muniz shot Anel Ahemdhodzic might have smothered slightly onto his woodwork. Muniz struck it again three minutes into the second half, looping an Andreas Pereira cross onto the back post.

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That apart, the hosts were happy to concede possession and concentrate on defending. It was the first time since Wilder's first win of his second spell as manager – 1-0 over Brentford on December 9 – that they had made it to the break without conceding at Bramall Lane.

GOAL: Ben Brereton Diaz puts Sheffield United in frontGOAL: Ben Brereton Diaz puts Sheffield United in front
GOAL: Ben Brereton Diaz puts Sheffield United in front

Ben Brereton Diaz was a lively presence but it took until the second half for anything to come off for him. When a sixth-minute free-kick bounced around the Fulham area, he was unable to get on the end, and when he attempted a backheel when picked out by Grbic, the crowd groaned at his failure to make contact.

Not that it mattered much: had the furthest man forward done so it would have gone into an empty patch of grass, anyway.

Mason Holgate, in his first game back since a horror tackle against Brighton and Hove Albion, put in a good tackle on Willian after the winger had got past him in the penalty area and Gustavo Hamer curled a shot wide seconds before the whistle but there was far more perspiration than inspiration.

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Fulham carried more punch after the break, but the Blades kept throwing themselves in the way, Jack Robinson and Oliver Arblaster in the line of Sasa Lukic, with the defender making the block but catching his teenage team-mate has they fell to earth.

BOUNCE GAME: Ben Brereton Diaz challenges Fulham's Sasa Lukic for the ballBOUNCE GAME: Ben Brereton Diaz challenges Fulham's Sasa Lukic for the ball
BOUNCE GAME: Ben Brereton Diaz challenges Fulham's Sasa Lukic for the ball

Arblaster was back on the pitch after lengthy treatment to block Alex Iwobi's effort.

And then the game went nuts.

When Ben Osborn spread the ball out to Oli McBurnie, Diaz got his reward, keeping his composure to finish a lovely outside-of-the-boot cross.

That was 58 minutes in, but with four Fulham had been gifted an equaliser, Joao Palhinha left free to head in a corner.

GOTCHA: Oli McBurnie  tackles Calvin Bassey of FulhamGOTCHA: Oli McBurnie  tackles Calvin Bassey of Fulham
GOTCHA: Oli McBurnie tackles Calvin Bassey of Fulham
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The Blades and especially their front two, refused to take the hint, a quick free-kick finding Brereton Diaz to pay back McBurnie.

The kerfuffle to regain the ball got the video assistant referee all excited but try as he might, Andy Madley could not find anyone to send off as he scrolled the footage back and forth whilst the home fans slow-handclapped their frustration. It would be a theme of the second half.

It looked like McBurnie had made it 4-1 after the ball ping-ponged around the area but eventually VAR decided it was offside.

So instead of signing, sealing and delivering the three points, the Blades conceded twice in quick succession.

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Bobby De Cordova-Reid used his first touch afer coming on as a substitute to control the ball, his second to find the net.

Then in the third of what turned out to be 16 added minutes (we were promised a minimum of 14), Muniz stood still as Holgate just drifted far enough away from Muniz that he was able to score an acrobatic volley.

It was Fulham who pressed from there, and yet more poor Sheffield United defending should have seen them lose with one of the last touches but when Willian picked out the unmarked Tom Cairney on the edge of the area from a free-kick, he shot straight at Grbic.

A draw was the least the Blades' effort deserved. The less said about their defensive concentration, the better.

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Sheffield United: Grbic; Bogle, Holgate, Ahmedhodzic, Robinson, Osborn; Souza (Trusty 85), Arblaster (Norwood 85), Hamer; McBurnie (McAtee 89), Brereton.

Unused substitutes: Foderingham, Slimane, Larouci, Curtis, Osula, Brooks.

Fulham: Leno; Castagne (Tete 85), Tosin, Bassey, Robinson; Palhinha, Lukic (Traore 63); Iwobi (Cairney 74), Pereira (De Cordova-Reid 85), Willian; Carvalho.

Unused substitutes: Rodak, Reed, Wilson, Ream.

Referee: T Robinson (West Sussex).

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