Sheffield United 0-1 Preston: Alan Browne keeps North End in play-off hunt
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 28/04/18 7:21pm
Alan Browne's second-half tap-in was enough for Preston to keep their play-off hopes alive as they defeated Sheffield United in a lacklustre game.
The result leaves Preston two points shy of the top six going into the final day.
The first half was a cagey affair as Preston controlled the majority of possession, with United winning most of the physical battles.
Preston's only major chance of the first half came in the 11th minute. Callum Robinson sold Lee Evans a dummy but slipped up before he could let fly and his rushed shot was blocked by Richard Stearman.
A quarter of an hour in, United created their first chance of the match. Leon Clarke muscled his way to the ball after Mark Duffy was dispossessed. From 15 yards out, his shot was blocked and looped narrowly wide of the far post.
Moments later there were strong cries for handball as Billy Sharp's cross struck Greg Cunningham's raised arm, however the referee was unmoved by the appeal.
Enda Stevens made a good run down the left-hand side into the box and pulled the ball back perfectly for Blades top scorer Clarke, but he could only aim his first-time effort into the body of goalkeeper Declan Rudd.
What followed was a succession of hopeful long balls from United as they tried to penetrate Preston's stubborn defence.
John Fleck volleyed the ball on the outside of his foot towards goal, but a spectacular header from Cunningham cleared the powerful effort.
The Blades kept up the momentum but failed to create any more chances before the break.
Preston restarted on the front foot and a dangerous cross from Sean Maguire was cleared away by Chris Basham, with Robinson and Ben Pearson hoping for a tap-in.
The goal came in the 57th minute when Josh Harrop forced a decent save from Jamal Blackman, but the keeper's parry was not enough and Browne was on hand to poke the ball into an empty net.
Preston thought they had doubled their lead when an indirect free-kick found Maguire and he redirected it to substitute Tom Clarke who aimed a looping header into the net, but the linesman's flag was raised for offside.
At the other end, Rudd had to be on his toes to help a first-time effort from Blades substitute George Baldock over the bar.
In stoppage time Robinson nearly added a second, forcing a good save from Blackman at close range.
Chris Wilder: "It was a tight game between two teams who have both had really decent seasons. We saw today a lot of things that we've seen in previous games and we have to be better and learn through the experiences this year.
"It was a cagey start from both teams. They had a shape which caused us a few problems without really getting anywhere. We had control of the ball in the last 15 minutes of the first half and dominated."
Alex Neil: "It's certainly one of those games where we'll take the result and the performance separately. It's probably as poor as we've played technically in terms of moving the ball and controlling the game, but we still managed to win the game.
"I don't want to take anything away from the players. They've dug in and done what they had to do to get the result, but it's certainly not a vintage performance from us."