Sheff Utd 2-1 QPR: Blades maintain play-off chase
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 20/02/18 11:32pm
Sheffield United secured a much-needed three points in their chase for the play-offs, with a 2-1 victory over QPR.
The hosts dominated the first half as Richard Stearman put them in front before John Lundstram doubled the lead soon after the break. Luke Freeman halved the deficit and piled the pressure on the hosts but it was not enough for the Rs to take anything from the game.
The victory was United's second consecutive 2-1 win in the league and kept them in contention for a top-six finish.
It was QPR who threatened first when Conor Washington flicked an effort towards goal from an early corner for the visitors, however they could not maintain that pressure.
The home side was unlucky not to be ahead inside the first 10 minutes, when visiting shot-stopper Alex Smithies kept out Lundstram's close-range effort, before Leon Clarke saw QPR captain Nedum Onuoha rush back to clear his goal-bound effort.
Opposing skipper Billy Sharp, back in the starting line-up after being rested against Leicester in the FA Cup, had played a delicate one-two with Clarke and burst in the box before Josh Scowen brought the striker down. However, referee Oliver Langford deemed it fair-play to the dismay of the home crowd.
United did not have to wait much longer to get on the scoresheet though, as Stearman stuck in the opener at the back post after Clarke's headed flick-on from the corner.
The visitors came close to levelling the tie before the break, forcing Chris Basham into heading off the line when 'keeper Jamal Blackman failed to clear the ball from a corner. Washington was unlucky again with a powerful drive from just outside the area.
The second half started similarly, with Washington failing to convert from close-range, after Blackman had spilled Freeman's stinging shot.
Sheffield United then punished QPR's poor finishing, when Sharp found space down the right-hand side. The captain drilled a low cross in, which was just behind top goal-scorer Clarke and allowed Lundstram to the second in the 50th minute after he arrived late at the back post.
Freeman showed his class with a well-taken solo goal 13 minutes later. Under little pressure from the defence from 20 yards out, the 25-year-old sent a low shot straight into the bottom right corner for his fourth goal of the campaign.
The Hoops stole the game's momentum with the goal and created plenty of half-chances to even the scores, Matt Smith potentially missing the best of those when he placed a free header straight at Blackman in the final minutes.
Chris Wilder: "I thought we played well. We let them back into the game. I said don't be embarrassed about the players you're playing against. To win the game of football tonight is a real good achievement for us and I'm delighted at the way we played. I'm delighted at the end where we had to find a way to see the game out, which we did.
"We would have loved it to have been a lot easier but we're talking Championship football, so I'm not going to be too critical about us winning games at this level of football. We deserved to win tonight, no doubt in my mind. I thought the front two were good all night again. I thought Leon (Clarke) was the outstanding player for us, even though he'd loved to have scored. Whether he linked it up or ran down the side, I thought he was great and it was a fantastic performance from him."
Ian Holloway: "We played a very good team. Their manager deserves all sorts of credit, their staff deserves all sorts of credit, the crowd deserves all sorts of credit from how far they've come. I thought we should've scored first. I thought we started in a good way but unfortunately that's the story of our season away from home. Even our fans are singing a song about it and it's starting to get on my nerves now.
"Listen, you can't let goals in like we did from a set-play. Someone didn't mark the man at the back post and somebody's played everyone onside and left us wide open. You've got to say they were clinical, they looked like they believed they were going to do it. Normally they go on and smash everyone so I'm proud that we managed to come back and make a fight of it."