Sheffield United and Brentford were involved in a zany match last night which resulted in four penalties, four goals and three sending offs – but the overall outcome resulted in both teams sharing the spoils.
From a Sheffield United point of view they will feel that victory should have been there’s. Despite trailing at half-time by a single goal netted from the penalty spot by Marcello Trotta the Blades were rewarded with a penalty of their own but defender Tony McMahon hit his effort against the bar. Barry Robson got his shining moment from the spot to level the scores before Dave Kitson netted which looked likely to be the winner but couldn’t hang on as substitute Bradley Wright-Phillips capped an entertaining match with a photo finish. The game however was tarnished by three sending offs; two of which for Brentford – but it wasn’t foul play by either side which warranted the referee’s walk of shame but from the card happy referee himself; Mr. Keith Stroud who brandished 11 yellow cards, two of which resulted in sendings off and a straight red card to Tony Craig.
Both #5’s were handed there marching orders from this game; - Craig was shown red for violent conduct inside the penalty area whilst two yellow cards each went to Harry Maguire who misses this weekend’s trip to Portsmouth and the formidable Clayton Donaldson – the Blades can hope that the loss of these key players could turn into misfortune for Brenford.
Apart from Mr. Stroud disrupting proceedings the quality of football displayed by both sides was there to be seen and the referee’s actions overshadowed two entertaining sides who showed passion and commitment throughout and based on this display Chris Morgan could well be the man to take charge in the summer.
The Blades fell behind midway through the first half; Marcello Trotta netting from the spot under controversial circumstances after questions were raised after Donaldson raced clear of the defence before being grounded by George Long who may have won part of the ball before the challenge.
Tony McMahon has this season been noted for being somewhat of a dead ball specialist with two goals against Crawley and one at Oxford United to his name, but when it came to penalty kicks he failed but when Robson got his chance he made no mistake.
Brentford aren’t the most imaginative team in the Division and it has been some years since they were a household name in the old First Division but over the years (in League One) have used their devises and have this season acquired a formidable team which will no doubt be one of the favourites to win this league next year if they don’t win promotion this season.
At this stage of the season neither team can afford much margin for error and a win for one of the teams in red and white would have gone a long way in the automatic promotion chase and thus without wishing to make mistakes saw early exchanges cautious from both parties with good tackling and closing down dominant early on.
United’s first chance came after fifteen minutes when Jamie Murphy glided down the wing and created an opportunity for Captain Michael Doyle, but he – not famed for his goal scoring abilities shunned his chance and soon after the Italian striker Trotta (on loan from Fulham) was just inches away from opening the scoring after he connected with Adam Forshaw’s centre and Kevin McDonald was forced to turn defender to prevent Lee Hodson from bulging the net in what was a nervy few minutes for the hosts.
The home faithful were sprung back into life however when the impressive Murphy left Shaleum Logan in no man’s land with both Doyle and Dave Kitson struggling to convert his plucky centre. McDonald saw his shot parried away by Simon Moore behind for a corner and Doyle was again thwarted in front of goal in a hat full of chances for the Blades.
Brentford responded via 21 goal strikers Clayton Donaldson with Long relieved to see his effort fly over the bar and into the kop. On 24 minutes Mr. Stroud awarded the visitors with a penalty which Trotta duly dispatched to peg the Blades back.
Donaldson who had won the penalty kick was then involved in an incident involving himself when involved with a heated discussion with McMahon after he was judged to have been fouled, the referee was sure in his decision to book the Bees forward for diving.
At the other end Kitson headed wide from a corner and following caretaker manager Chris Morgan’s decision to introduce Jonatahn Forte at half-time (for Ryan Flynn) the home outfit looked clean and more dangerous. Shorty after the break United were awarded a penalty of their own and a chance to get back into the game when Kitson was man handled in an off the ball incident with Craig reciving his marching orders and McMahon seeing his spot kick smash against the crossbar.
United now lay fourth in the table and with little consolation that they are guaranteed a play-off spot as despite holding a game in hand over second placed Bournemouth are still five points behind the Cherries with three games remaining.
Toumani Diagouraga, a towering Frenchman, excelled in Brentford’s midfield became increasingly prominent after Craig’s 51st-minute exit and McMahon’s miss from the spot.
Kitson twice went close as United took charge while Moore produced an unorthodox block to deny McMahon whose 62nd minute flick teased the handball from Hodson which allowed Robson to equalise with an unstoppable penalty of his own.
Kitson moved United in front with a towering header after more sterling work by Murphy before the dismissal of Maguire, following a seemingly innocuous tangle with Donaldson who later saw red for clashing with McDonald after Sam Saunders’ spot-kick had been saved by Long.
Wright-Phillips plunged a dagger into United hearts, though, when he caressed the ball home at the death.