Walsall 1-1 Blades - report
A sixth game unbeaten on the road on Tuesday night keeps United firmly in the play-off positions.
A long-range strike from Jose Baxter gave United a first half lead before Ashley Grimes levelled moments after being introduced as a substitute for Walsall.
There were penalty appeals, efforts hitting the woodwork and the Blades had a 'goal' disallowed, whilst both sides had chances to win it late on.
The team news, an hour before kick-off, showed Howard returning in goal. Holt and Baxter were also recalled by Clough and it appeared to be a diamond formation in midfield. Coutts and Steven Davies were carrying injury problems, but the latter was deemed fit enough for the bench, where he was joined by Flynn.
The first talking point was Blades fans, close to the action, appealing for a penalty when Cook laid on the ball to prevent Freeman making tracks but referee Lewis was not convinced. Forde was allowed the space to shoot wide for the home side but United made the better start.
A Done shot on the turn produced an acrobatic save from O'Donnell before United grabbed the lead on eight minutes. Reed was involved in the build-up before BAXTER took advantage of the space in front of him to drive into the bottom corner from fully 25-yards.
Holt won possession from Purkiss and almost diverted the pull-back from Murphy towards goal as United looked for a second, whilst opportunist efforts from Brayford and Freeman were not far away.
Walsall looked stronger as half-time approached, whilst Harris and Reed needed treatment. Forde curled a free-kick just wide of the near post, whilst on 39 minutes Hiwula should have done better with a header from Cook's cross.
Like the first action of the half, the referee was involved in the last. With the Walsall fans getting on his back, he booked Doyle for a challenge in which the Blades captain appeared to win the ball.
Early in the second half the ball bounced off Reed and presented Sawyers with a chance but his half-volley was over, whilst United had the ball in the net on 55 minutes but the 'goal' was disallowed. From Freeman's cross, Walsall made a hash of clearing and Holt battled away with goalkeeper O'Donnell, with the ball ending in the goal, but referee Lewis saw a foul by the diminutive Scotsman.
Baxter tried another long-range effort which O'Donnell failed to hold but kept out before the home side began to assert a spell of pressure. From Forde's corner, Downing's flicked header clipped the top of the crossbar before a substitution was decisive. GRIMES had only been on the field three minutes when he nodded a Purkiss cross past Howard at the near post. The scorer almost added a second soon after but his shot came back off a post.
Steven Davies replaced Reed in an attacking substitution with more than 15 minutes left and Flynn was the next on, taking over from Done, and in the final ten minutes Walsall thought they should have had a penalty when McEveley and Hiwula clashed but again there was no decision from the referee.
Late on Bakayoko should have scored with a header from a Purkiss cross but Howard saved and then gathered, whilst Ben Davies was introduced for Holt and almost grabbed the winner for the Blades. With the watch ticking around to 90 minutes, he won and then hit a free-kick which was blocked by the wall but his rebound was pushed away by O'Donnell.
Four added minutes gave both sides hope but neither could create another chance before collecting a point.
Walsall: O'Donnell, Purkiss, O'Connor, Downing, A. Chambers, Mantom (Cain 88), Sawyers, Benning, Cook (Grimes 69), Forde, Hiwula (Bakayoko 85).
Unused: Baxendale, J. Chambers, Flanagan, MacGillivray.
Blades: Howard, Harris, Brayford, Doyle, Murphy, Baxter, Done (Flynn 79), McEveley, Reed (S. Davies 74), Freeman, Holt (B. Davies 87).
Unused: Alcock, McNulty, Turner, Adams.