Match report: Sheffield United 3 Preston North End 2

Preston North End slipped to the foot of the Championship after coming out on the wrong side of a dramatic finale against Sheffield United.

Saturday, 22nd September 2018, 5:08 pm
Updated Sunday, 23rd September 2018, 9:18 am
PNE centre-half Paul Huntington wins a header at Sheffield United

Going into the last 10 minutes at Bramall Lane, North End trailed 2-0 to goals from Billy Sharp and Chris Basham either side of half-time.

But two goals in three minutes brought them level, Callum Robinson and substitute Daniel Johnson finding the net - the first goals PNE had scored away in the league this season.

A point looked on the cards and with the momentum they had, you even wondered whether they could grab a third to win it.

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Alan Browne gets a shot away

Unfortunately the contest's fifth and decisive goal came at the other end, David McGoldrick side-footing the Blades' winner from six yards.

In the first half, North End had shown little of the spirit they did later in the game.

Sharp's opener was firmly with the run of play but annoyingly came on the counter after a rare Preston attack had broken down.

The visitors looked down and out when Basham met an Oliver Norwood free-kick to head the second.

Andrew Hughes holds off a challenge from David McGoldrick

Robinson's 80th minute goal offered up, DJ's deflected equaliser delighting the 628 travelling fans who had made it through horrendous Sheffield traffic to get to the ground - late in many of their cases.

But to lose it from that position was sickening, the fact they dropped to the foot of the division merely rubbing salt into the wounds.

The North End side had again shown changes - five from the one beaten at Leeds last Tuesday night.

Chris Maxwell, Andrew Hughes, Paul Huntington, Paul Gallagher and Ryan Ledson came into the starting XI, Declan Rudd, Josh Earl, Johnson, Louis Moult and Josh Harrop dropping to the bench.

Alex Neil also changed systems, using a 3-4-1-2 formation with Robinson partnered up front by Tom Barkhuizen.

The first half largely saw North End sitting behind the ball, attempting to stay solid and frustrate when their hosts had possession.

There were a couple of chances which came the visitors' way, Alan Browne dragging a low shot well wide while Robinson went closer with a curling shot from the edge of the box which just cleared the bar.

But the Blades were in the main doing the attacking, coming up against a yellow wall of Preston players.

A header from McGoldrick was on target but Huntington got in the way of it inside the six-yard box to head clear.

The stalemate was broken in the 36th minute as Norwood slid a pass down the right channel for McGoldrick to chase.

McGoldrick got the better of Ben Davies to run on to it in the box and square the ball into the middle to find the unmarked Sharp who swept a shot into the roof of the net from close range.

Four minutes before half-time, Enda Stevens' cross from the left found McGoldrick in the box but the striker angled his header back across goal and wide of the target.

North End fell further behind six minutes into the second half, Huntington's foul on McGoldrick earning the home side a free-kick on the right.

Norwood swung it into the middle where Basham rose to send a header past Maxwell into the far corner.

It was nearly three a couple of minutes later when Mark Duffy's pass sent McGoldrick into space of the right hand side of the box, the United No.17 shooting across goal and wide.

Preston came close to halving the deficit in the 57th minute when a Gallagher corner found its way to Tom Clarke at the back post, the skipper's downward header cleared off the line.

Johnson joined the action after an hour, replacing Gallagher, with Brandon Barker coming on for Barkhuizen 11 minutes later.

Barker had a big hand in PNE's first goal, picking the ball up in midfield and driving at the United defence.

His pass out to the wing found Darnell Fisher who drilled a low cross into the middle where Robinson side-footed home from close range.

Less than two minutes later, North End were level and seemingly on course for a point.

Hughes got down the left and pulled the ball back for Johnson in the box, the substitute's shot catching a deflection on its way into the net.

But in the 87th minute they conceded a third goal at the other end, leaving the back door ajar for the home side to win it.

Stevens was allowed too much room to cut into the box on the left and roll a pass across the six-yard box to McGoldrick who steered home a simple finish.

At the final whistle, many of the PNE players sank to their knees, having come so close to their first away point of the season.

Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham, O'Connell, Egan, Freeman, Fleck, Norwood, Duffy (Clarke 85), Stevens, Sharp (Johnson 74), McGoldrick (Stearman 90). Subs (not used): Lundstram, Woodburn, Washington, Moore,

PNE: Maxwell, Clarke, Huntington, Davies, Fisher, Ledson (Harrop 89), Gallagher (Johnson 61) Browne, Hughes, Barkhuizen (Barker 71), Robinson. Subs (not used): Earl, Moult, Burke, Rudd.

Referee: Scott Duncan (Northumberland)

Attendance: 23,857 (658 PNE)