The Blades were dealt a further blow in their bid to make ground on the play-off pack, as leaders Burton Albion took the spoils at Bramall Lane on Tuesday evening.
A goal from Lucas Akins proved the difference between the sides on a bitterly cold night in South Yorkshire, as Nigel Clough won on his return to his former club.
Boss Adkins made three changes for the clash against the league leaders, Collins, Coutts and
Done were all recalled to the starting XI. Woolford missed out through injury, whilst Flynn and Reed dropped to the bench, where they were joined by new loan signing Alex Baptiste and 19-year-old Academy graduate Ben Whiteman.
The returning Clough got a good reception before kick-off and it was United who started brightly. Only positive goalkeeping from McLaughlin denied the marauding Done, then after Adams and Brayford had combined down the right, Sharp saw his goal bound header blocked by the retreating Edwards.
In response, the Brewers had two shot in quick succession tipped round the post by Long. Firstly, Butcher was denied at the near post, before Duffy scuffed his effort from a promising position. Albion skipper Mousinho was the first name in the referee's book, after Done and Basham had combined to rob Weir and set up a counter attack.
Edgar moved back into a more accustomed defensive role on the half hour with Basham advancing into midfield, but the Blades then had a scare as Akins headed just wide from Mousinho's cross field ball. Coutts became the first Blade to be booked for a challenge on Butcher. The visitors had certainly come into the game as the first-half entered and with the last meaningful action Beavon fired
inches over from long-range.
Burton were quickly out of the blocks in the second-half and took the lead within five minutes of the restart. United turned over possession high up the pitch and McCrory freed AKINS who advanced down the left before cutting inside and firing into the far corner, giving Long no chance. The Brewers buoyed by scoring the opening goal continued to attack and Akins was denied a second by Long after Beavon had worked hard to put Collins under pressure.
Prior to the hour, Adkins made two changes, Academy graduates Calvert-Lewin and Whiteman replaced Cuvelier and Coutts. Akins saw another shot saved by Long, before Baptiste was handed his United debut, replacing McEveley who appeared to have picked up a knock.
With six minutes remaining the Blades had a chance, but Basham was unable to connect with Brayford's deep cross. As six minutes of added time were signalled by the fourth official, Collins headed towards goal, but McLaughlin saved comfortably. But despite applying some late pressure, United slipped to defeat.
Blades: Long, Brayford, Basham, Coutts (Calvert-Lewin 58), Sharp, Done, Collins, McEveley (Baptiste 65), Adams, Cuvelier (Whiteman 58), Edgar.
Unused: Howard, Flynn, Sammon, Reed.
Burton: McLaughlin, Edwards, Cansdell-Sherriff, Mousinho, Weir, Beavon (Bennett 74), Akins, Butcher (Flanagan 90), McCrory, Naylor, Duffy (Reilly 85).
Unused: Harness, O'Connor, Bywater, Coudhury.