Preston North End were held to a 0-0 draw at Deepdale by Sheffield United.
North End dominated possession against the in-form United but despite Josh Brownhill smashing a shot into the post and a controversial penalty decision the host’s could not find the clinical touch and were blunted by the Blades.
Bailey Wright smacked the ball towards goal on his 100th appearance for PNE but his goal bound effort appeared to be stopped by United captain Michael Doyle’s hand in the 34th minute. And referee Geoffrey Eltringham controversially waved away PNE’s appeal despite the players protestation.
Simon Grayson made five changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Stevenage last Tuesday.
David Buchanan, Neil Kilkenny and Scott Wiseman returned to the starting XI as Jack King and Keath Keane moved to the bench.
Brownhill and Craig Davies started as Kevin Davies was named on the bench and Scott Laird was left out of the 16.
Club captain John Welsh was named as a substitute as Wright was handed the captaincy for the night.
Former PNE player Neil Collins started for Sheffield United whilst former North Ender Matt Hill made a three minute cameo after coming on as a substitute in the 42nd minute before being subbed himself at half-time.
North End were straight out of the blocks, in the first minute Craig Davies’ shot was smothered by Mark Howard.
After a foul on Joe Garner, Paul Gallagher smacked the subsequent free-kick over the bar from 25-yards out in the 14th minute.
Garner’s near post glancing header in the 20th minute agonizingly flashed past the Blades’ far post.
And Garner was in the action yet again as the lively forward appealed for a penalty in the 26th minute - his header appeared to be handled by a Sheffield United player on the edge of the box.
Gallagher fizzed the ball across the box but the teasing ball was blocked by a Sheffield United defender.
But United looked dangerous on the counter-attack and Conor Coady smashed the ball past Rudd in the 32nd minute but the strike was ruled out as the on-loan
PNE should have been awarded a penalty in the 34th minute. Garner’s effort was blocked and fell to Wright, the Australian’s fierce shot was handled by Doyle in the box but referee Eltringham - who had a good view of the incident - waved away PNE’s appeal. The rebound eventually fell to Gallagher but his shot was saved by Howard.
In the second half North End upped the tempo, Brownhill latched onto Gallagher’s lay-off and smashed the ball down into the ground before it crashed into the left-hand post in the 55th minute.
Garner’s sweet first time strike fizzed agonisingly wide of the left-hand post in the 58th minute after the striker connected with Chris Humphrey’s cross.
And Garner received his ninth booking of the season in the 63rd minute.
A slick passing move and a neat header from Garner to Gallagher led to the Scot smashing the ball into the back of the net in the 74th minute, but the goal was ruled out as Gallagher was ruled offside.
Gallagher rose above his man at the back post but his powerful header was saved by Howard in the 85th minute.
But it wasn’t all North End as Sheffield United substitute Chris Porter headed over the bar for the visitors in the 87th minute.
PNE threw everything forward but could not break Sheffield’s stern defence as North End maintained their unbeaten run.
PNE: Rudd, Clarke, Wright (c), Humphrey (Holmes, 78), Gallagher, Garner, C Davies (Beavon, 78), Wiseman, Brownhill (Davies, 85), Buchanan, Kilkenny. Subs: Stuckmann, Keane, K. Davies, Beavon, Holmes, Welsh, King.
Sheffield United: Howard, Harris (Hill, 42, Davies, 45), Maguire, Flynn, Doyle (c), Baxter (Porter, 74), Collins, Coady, Scougall, Murphy, Freeman. Subs: Porter, Miller, McGinn, Paynter, Davies, Long.
Referee: Geoffrey Eltringham (Tyne and Wear)