Hayes dents Blades' hopes
Sheff Utd's play-off hopes suffered a major dent as Paul Hayes' goal earned Scunthorpe a priceless 1-0 win.
Last Updated: 28/03/10 3:43pm
Sheffield United's play-off hopes suffered a major dent as Paul Hayes' goal earned Scunthorpe United a priceless 1-0 win at Bramall Lane.
Hayes struck at the end of the first half of a tight Championship encounter to move the Iron eight points clear of the relegation zone.
But while Scunthorpe will be celebrating a vital three points, the result leaves the Blades facing a battle to gatecrash the top six.
Kevin Blackwell's side are now seven points adrift of the play-offs with six games remaining and the Blades were booed off by their fans at full-time.
Both teams struggled for fluency in the opening exchanges, but the Blades looked to force the issue and Darius Henderson was wide with an early header.
Scunthorpe defender David Mirfin rescued the visitors in the 20th minute when he blocked Paul Connolly's shot on the goalline and Mark Yeates headed over from Richard Cresswell's shot soon after.
The Blades were given a big let-off in the 31st minute. Nyron Nosworthy's backpass was woefully short and visiting striker Garry Thompson pounced to race clear on goal, only to fire straight at Blades goalkeeper Steve Simonsen.
James Harper curled a right-footed free-kick inches wide for the Blades, but impatient home fans groaned in unison at having to endure more dour first-half action when four minutes of time added on was displayed.
Jeers of derision
Those groans then turned to jeers of derision as Scunthorpe midfielder Donal McDermott wriggled his way into the area and set up Hayes, who steered the ball underneath Simonsen from eight yards for an unlikely breakthrough.
Yeates' free-kick, after Grant McCann had tripped Stephen Quinn on the left corner of the area, forced visiting goalkeeper Joe Murphy into a smart save 10 minutes after the restart.
But it was all uphill for the home side and Blackwell sent on striker Henri Camara for Harper in the 53rd minute.
Glen Little then replaced Yeates as Blackwell looked to turn the game around, while Scunthorpe sent on Michael O'Connor for McCann.
Blades defender Kyle Bartley headed Connolly's free-kick over the crossbar in the 64th minute as the home side stepped up the tempo.
But Scunthorpe almost doubled their lead soon after, with Thompson bursting on to McDermott's through ball and forcing Simonsen into a fine save.
Referee Russell Booth then waved away Scunthorpe's penalty appeals when substitute Jonathan Fortune went tumbling in the box, while Henderson's header from Nick Montgomery's ball in grazed the Iron crossbar.
The Blades huffed and puffed in the closing stages, but lacked the cohesion to open up a determined Scunthorpe rearguard despite five more minutes of time added on.