Sheffield United 2-1 Middlesbrough: Lee Evans stunning double inspires Blades
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 10/04/18 10:49pm
Lee Evans scored two fine goals as Sheffield United's faltering bid for the play-offs was boosted by a 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough.
It was the perfect response from Chris Wilder's men following the disappointment of Saturday's 3-2 defeat at lowly South Yorkshire rivals Barnsley.
Boro, who had skipper Grant Leadbitter sent-off midway through the first half, regrouped at half-time with manager Tony Pulis making three changes to his line-up.
The changes had an impact as Daniel Ayala reduced the arrears early in the second half, but the visitors were unable to force an equaliser.
Evans scored inside two minutes with a superbly-struck volley from the edge of the area which gave goalkeeper Darren Randolph no chance.
Patrick Bamford had Boro's first effort on goal, firing in a low shot which was comfortably dealt with by Simon Moore. A good ball from Evans put Leon Clarke through on goal, with Randolph using his legs to block the striker's effort.
The visitors were down to 10 men in the 25th minute when Leadbitter was sent-off after picking up two bookings in the space of six minutes.
After having a shot deflected wide, Evans scored his second goal of the night to put the hosts further ahead. David Brooks found Evans and he hammered his first-time shot past Randolph.
Boro used all three substitutes at the start of the second half with Britt Assombalonga, Fabio Da Silva and Adam Clayton coming on for Adama Traore, Mo Besic and Bamford.
It took the visitors just three minutes after the restart to pull a goal back. Stewart Downing's free-kick was flicked on by Ben Gibson and Ayala stabbed the ball into the net from close range.
Buoyed by the goal, Boro posed a greater attacking threat in the second half. Jonny Howson put a long-range effort over and Assombalonga fired wide from distance.
Howson went close in the latter stages with a curling effort, much to the relief of the home fans who had seen their team concede a goal at the death in their previous home fixture against Cardiff.
Lundstram fired well over from inside the area as the hosts looked to kill the game off. The result dented Boro's efforts to cement their place in the top six.
Chris Wilder: "When you look at the quality of the opposition and the magnitude of the game as well, we played really well. We've played well recently and not got a win. I thought we were outstanding in the first half. Credit to the opposition, but I thought we contributed to our own downfall in the second half with the goal we conceded. We got tight and a little edgy.
"We have to learn from that. We need to be a bit more composed and calm when games become tight. They had nothing to lose and went for it. It was important that we got three points to keep the season going and we've done that."
Tony Pulis: "For the second booking, if there was contact it was minimal - knowing that another booking takes the kid out of the game. In this country, it's a game of challenges and referees have got to understand there are going to be times when players make honest challenges and they are going to give free-kicks away.
"In such a big game, to make that decision was very, very poor and very disappointing."