Sheffield United claw back some faith with show of fight despite the defensive errors

On a weekend to celebrate redemption and faith, Sheffield United clawed a little back at Bramall Lane.

The Blades ought to have lost to Fulham, the non-existent marking which pushed them three brilliantly-taken goals closer to Derby County's record for the most conceded in a 38-game Premier League season rearing its ugly head again in the last of 16 minutes added to the second half. Instead, Tom Cairney shot straight at Ivo Grbic.

Sadly, they are not good enough for top-division football.

But after four consecutive horrendous home defeats, they at least showed the discipline and refusal to accept the inevitable which brought a creditable, if insufficient, 3-3 draw.

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A lifeless first half was about the former, battening down the hatches to make Grbic touching a shot from a combination of Rodrigo Muniz and Anel Ahmedhodzic onto a post its only notable feature.

The breathless second was all about the latter – scoring, conceding and scoring three more – or at least they thought so until video assistant referee Andy Madley found a hair's-breadth offside to cancel out Oli McBurnie's second goal.

McBurnie had an extra layer of motivation, inspired by his brother Xander, who will need all the fight the Blades showed having recently begun chemotherapy treatment.

FIGHTER: Ben Brereton Diaz of  celebrates opening the scoring for Sheffield United against FulhamFIGHTER: Ben Brereton Diaz of  celebrates opening the scoring for Sheffield United against Fulham
FIGHTER: Ben Brereton Diaz of celebrates opening the scoring for Sheffield United against Fulham

But everyone had a point to prove after losing the last four home games by a 21-2 aggregate.

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"There's a lot of pride running through the football club and a lot of hurt on the back of that," said their manager Chris Wilder.

"I've been critical of the players because you have to go the extra yard, do the dirty stuff, block shots and stop crosses to keep the ball out.

"We had to give our supporters something to hang onto.

STUNNER: Rodrigo Muniz scores Fulham's third goalSTUNNER: Rodrigo Muniz scores Fulham's third goal
STUNNER: Rodrigo Muniz scores Fulham's third goal

"That hopefully will become the norm. It has to be if you want to give yourself an opportunity to succeed in whatever division you're in.

"Getting the message over has been a little bit difficult because there's been a few players away on international duty but we've been working on certain things – that attitude of basic defending, getting up to people, stopping crosses, going with runners, getting blocks in, being first to the ball in the penalty area."

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International absentees cannot have been that much of a problem. Ben Brereton Diaz was with Chile but two goals and an assist showed he understood better than anyone.

The six-goal game only kicked into life after 58 minutes – although there were 48 left thanks in no small part to boring VAR checks which had fans slow-handclapping.

QUICK THINKING: Gustavo Hamer (right)QUICK THINKING: Gustavo Hamer (right)
QUICK THINKING: Gustavo Hamer (right)

Brereton Diaz bubbled with energy from the start but when a free-kick bounced around Fulham's penalty area in the sixth minute he failed to make contact and when he tried a backheel 20 minutes later, the crowd groaned as he missed it. Not that it mattered – it would have gone nowhere near a team-mate.

But when McBurnie served up a lovely cross with the outside of his boot, Diaz calmly buried his finish.

Within four minutes, though, it was same old, same old.

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The second half had started with a Muniz header against a post and a series of tremendous blocks led by Oliver Arblaster on a first Premier League start on his home ground and Jack Robinson, confirmed in as captain for the rest of the season.

Yet it looked like Robinson was the guilty part when Joao Palhinha headed in a corner from a ludicrous amount of space.

Bramall Lane braced for disappointment but Diaz, McBurnie and Gustavo Hamer had other ideas.

The Chilean centred from Hamer's quick free-kick and the Yorkshire-born Scot restored the lead, then converted a Hamer cross.

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Madley could not find a reason to chalk off the goal or send anyone off after the scrum as the Blades tried to get the ball back and go for a third. Given how long he looked, it cannot have been for lack of effort.

He managed in the 83rd minute, spotting Vinicius Souza in Bernd Leno's eyeline as McBurnie put the ping-ponging ball in at the second attempt. From 4-1 to 3-1 was a big comedown and worse was to come.

Bobby De Cordova-Reid only came off the bench once the VAR nitpickathon was over and having controlled the ball with his first touch, scored with his second. He was somehow in even more space than Palhinha. When will they learn?

Not in the third added minute, when Muniz held his position and Mason Holgate just drifted close enough to the crosser to give the former Middlesbrough loanee space to execute a brilliant scissor kick.

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Cairney's coup de grace would have taken the biscuit, a midfielder with an eye for goal in acres of space just outside the area as Willian played a free-kick straight to him.

Fortunately he had not got that eye in and the 78th league goal shipped this season was made to wait, though probably not for long. Derby's 89-goal record is in danger.

Not being good enough is one thing, not trying hard enough is another. Sheffield United gave their all on Easter Saturday.

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.

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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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