Blades 2-0 Swindon - report
An impressively disciplined performance saw the Blades return to league action with a deserved win over top-of-the-table Swindon Town.
Jamie Murphy - on as a first half substitute - scored both the goals as United made it two home victories in the league in January.
Returning hero Brayford started and captained the side. Freeman also started, whilst Coutts made his debut as boss Clough made no less than ten changes from the midweek energy-sapping exploits against Tottenham Hotspur. Howard missed out with a minor back problem and there was no place for Friday's capture, Jason Holt.
The kick off was delayed to enable fans into Bramall Lane following ticketing issues, whilst there was also a minute's applause to remember former manager Ken Furphy, who passed away recently.
The game's first notable action was a yellow card on eight minutes for Kennedy, for a supposed foul on Williams, a trait that continued as referee Coote booked no less than five players in the opening 31 minutes, including United's Higdon.
Swindon looked the brighter in the opening half hour. Toffolo curled a free-kick wide, Turner saved despite being unsighted from Swift's shot and the same visiting player should have done better from Byrne's pull back on 24 minutes, United clearing after a melee. Branco also headed over a corner.
United's first serious chance arrived on 34 minutes, from Reed's crossfield pass. Adams nutmegged Byrne before taking his shot early, the ball curling just around Foderingham's left post.
Swindon will wonder how they did not take the lead on 36 minutes. Obika refused opportunities to shoot with the Blades out of position and after Basham's sliced clearance, Toffolo's effort clipped the top of the crossbar.
Late in the half the action centred around referee Coote, not for the first time in the afternoon.
Firstly, he called a number of questionable fouls against Higdon, who was already on a booking, which forced boss Clough to replace the big striker with Murphy before the break.
Then, in injury-time, he adjudged that Toffolo's handball from Brayford's cross was outside the penalty area, despite the protestations of the Blades players. There was also a second free-kick on the edge of the box before the half-time whistle and a Davies curler struck a post and hit the away goalkeeper before Kennedy was crowded out as he looked to turn in the rebound.
In the opening five minutes of the second half - between the referee upsetting the crowd once more - Turner saved from Williams after Reed surrendered possession and Kennedy blocked from Swift. Weak efforts from Obika and Williams were also saved by Turner.
Scougall replaced Wallace just before the half hour and as the game opened up, the Blades fans got excited when Brayford broke out of defence and linked up well with Murphy but the pull-back was cleared.
Freeman and Adams linked up to present Murphy with a chance which Foderingham saved before referee Coote was back in the thick of the action with two incidents in three minutes. Firstly, he only saw fit to present a yellow card to Nathan Thompson for hacking down Adams, who was at full pace and then the main official was ideally placed to see Scougall fall under Branco's challenge in the penalty area but the Blades fans' appeals for a spot-kick were ignored on 70 minutes.
A goal, however, was just moments away. The Blades took a quick throw in front of the dugouts and Reed's break resulted in a lay-off for Murphy to fire home, first time, which proved too quick for Foderingham.
Despite having a narrow advantage, the Blades still looked dangerous and wanted a second where the opportunity arose. However, being behind forced Swindon to increase the tempo and Louis Thompson went close to levelling on 83 minutes.
Late on it was United's turn to slow down the action but Swindon looked dangerous and just before five added minutes was announced Scougall nicked the ball off the toe of Hylton, who was preparing a shot. There was also a penalty shout for the visitors but referee Coote ignored Reed's challenge on Turnbull.
But the icing on the cake arrived on 90+2 minutes. Markedly, it was Kennedy's slide rule pass that put Murphy in the clear and he took his time before chipping Foderingham, the ball dropping into the Kop net. It was announced before kick-off that Kennedy and Murphy had signed extensions to their contracts.
Blades: Turner, Brayford, Basham: Davies, Coutts (Baxter 79), Higdon (Murphy 43), Reed, Freeman, Kennedy, Adams, K. Wallace (Scougall 59).
Unused: Alcock, Doyle, McNulty, Long.
Swindon: Foderingham, N. Thompson, Byrne, Stephens, Turnbull, Williams (Hylton 82), Swift, Toffolo, L. Thompson, Obika (Smith 63), Branco.
Unused: Barthram, Belford, Rodgers, Marshall.