Blades win with late brace
Sheffield United denied Yorkshire rivals Barnsley late in the day in a typically feisty derby clash.
Last Updated: 07/04/09 10:20pm
Promotion hopefuls Sheffield United denied Yorkshire rivals Barnsley late in the day in a typically feisty derby clash, which the hosts won 2-1.
After a desperately slow start at Bramall Lane, John O'Toole - on loan from Watford - finally broke the deadlock in the 82nd minute as he bundled home from close range to score his first for the club.
Minutes later, Arturo Lupoli doubled the Blades' lead with another scrambled effort with minutes remaining.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce had his penalty kick saved by keeper Paddy Kenny which looked to be the last throw of the dice for the visitors before Daniel Bogdanovich pulled one back in stoppage time.
Too little too late, though, for Simon Davey's side who remain just three points above the drop zone despite their determined efforts.
Both managers and their benches were forced apart by police as the derby clash threatened to get out of control in the closing stages as the Blades secured a fourth straight league win.
Defeat for Barnsley - their second in six matches - leaves the Tykes perilously close to the relegation zone and they face another late scramble to avoid the drop.
Kevin Blackwell made two changes to his starting line-up, with O'Toole recalled to midfield in place of Stephen Quinn and Leigh Bromby in for Matthew Kilgallon.
Barnsley were unchanged from the side that drew 1-1 with Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
O'Toole and Jamie Ward went closest to breaking the first-half deadlock for the home side, the latter's header brilliantly tipped over the crossbar by Barnsley goalkeeper Heinz Muller just before the break.
Blades captain Chris Morgan was an early target for Barnsley's travelling support, who remember the league clash at Oakwell in November which left Iain Hume with a fractured skull.
But former Barnsley captain Morgan's first touch met with huge cheers from the Blades end and it was their side who went close to taking an early lead when the lunging O'Toole stabbed the ball inches wide at the far post from David Cotterill's free-kick.
Bobby Hassell blazed a 25-yard free-kick over the crossbar for the visitors, who played the better of what little football was on offer.
United striker Jamie Ward outstripped Darren Moore, but was also wayward, while home goalkeeper Paddy Kenny comfortably dealt with Anderson De Silva's low drive.
Darius Henderson forced Muller into a fine save with a stinging shot after being played in by Greg Halford before the German goalkeeper pulled off an even better reflex effort to deny Ward's powerful header.
Barnsley's pint-sized striker Michael Mifsud skipped past Gary Naysmith soon after the restart to fire in a fierce angled drive that Kenny did well to block.
Anderson De Silva was then cautioned for his late challenge on Henderson and Campbell-Ryce followed his team-mate into the book for a foul on the same player as tempers threatened to boil over.
Mifsud headed straight at Kenny from Rob Kozluk's long throw, but it was the Blades who settled better in the second period as they pressed and probed for the breakthrough.
Blackwell sent on Lupoli for Cotterill with 20 minutes remaining, sending Ward out wide, but Barnsley were a threat on the break and were rarely stretched at the back.
Ward jinked inside to smash a shot on target, but Muller was equal to it.
Muller then reacted brilliantly to keep out O'Toole's point blank effort from Naysmith's long throw, but the ball ricocheted back off the Irishman and referee Grant Hegley was convinced all of the ball had crossed the line.
Lupoli then swept the ball home right-footed from Henderson's cutback in the 87th minute to clinch the points for Blackwell's men.
But Barnsley were not finished. Referee Hegley awarded the visitors a last-minute penalty for handball by Halford, which Kenny saved well to his right after outsmarting Campbell-Ryce before Bogdanovic turned home Macken's neat pass inside the area in a frantic finale.