An own goal by John Mousinho helped Sheffield United secure an unconvincing 1-0 victory over bottom-of-the-table Stevenage tonight.
Mousinho diverted Jamie Murphy’s low centre into his own net in the 10th minute as United held on to record their second successive league win at Bramall Lane. Victory leaves the South Yorkshire outfit in ninth position.
Blades manager Nigel Clough named an unchanged starting line-up. With no fresh injuries to contend with following Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final loss to Hull City, Clough resisted the temptation to hand first-team recalls to Billy Paynter, Chris Porter or Matt Hill.
United have lost only two of their last 14 League One matches but are 11 points adrift of the play-offs.
Jose Baxter, one of three United goal-scorers at Wembley, came close to giving United a seventh minute lead but Chris Day brilliantly pushed his low 25-yard drive to safety.
But moments later, Mousinho’s miscalculation gave United an advantage they were to never surrender.
Stevenage offered little as an attacking force as United dominated possession. In a rare foray forward, Lucas Akins lashed over after a neat lay-off by Francois Zoko.
Just after the half hour mark, Luke Freeman almost grabbed an equaliser against the run of play but he got his feet in a tangle and failed to divert Zoko’s shot in.
United had a strong penalty appeal rejected on the stroke of half-time when Luke Jones appeared to shove the lively Murphy to the ground just inside the area but referee Mark Brown was unmoved.
Michael Doyle, the Blades skipper was shown the first yellow card of the evening after the re-start after bundling Freeman to the floor. Freeman and Zoko soon joined the Irishman in the referee’s notebook following a scrappy opening to the second period.
An injury to Bob Harris forced Clough into a personnel change, meaning Hill came on and slotted into the left-back position.
Stevenage wasted a glorious chance to level things up in the 62nd minute after a sloppy back pass by John Brayford gave Freeman a sight a goal. Fortunately for the hosts, Howard was alert, spread himself and blocked his close range effort. From the resulting corner, Baxter hacked Jones’ downward header off the line.
It was the visitors who continued to threaten in the closing stages and Freeman, a constant thorn in United’s side, fired straight into the arms of Mark Howard. It then took a stunning last-ditch challenge by John Brayford to prevent Zoko from testing the reflexes of Howard before Freeman blazed over in stoppage time.
United: Howard; Brayford, Maguire, Collins, Harris; Doyle, Coady; Flynn, Scougall, Murphy; Baxter. Substitutes: Hill, Porter, Paynter, Davies, Long, Freeman, Kennedy.
Stevenage: Day; Obeng, Ashton, Mousinho, Hartley, Freeman, Smith, Heslop, Henderson, Akins, Zoko. Substitutes: Wedgbury, Jones, Burrow, Gordon, Doughty, N’Guessan, Goodliffe.