Sheffield United full-time: Preston 0 Blades 0

Sheffield United
Sheffield United

Sheffield United extended their unbeaten run to 11 matches in all competitions after a goalless draw at high-flying Preston North End.

United, having won their previous 10 fixtures, remain in 10th-place in League One after recording their eighth consecutive clean sheet.

Right-back Kieron Freeman, on loan from Derby County, replaced Ben Davies in the only alteration Blades boss Nigel Clough made from their 1-0 victory over Carlisle United last week.

United, FA Cup semi-finalists, are still missing full-back John Brayford, who has yet to shake off a calf problem.

It was Preston, unbeaten in their last 11 matches, who had the first sight of goal after 14 seconds, with Mark Howard failing to hang on to Neil Kilkenny’s fierce right foot shot. Fortunately for United, Howard gathered the loose ball with Joe Garner lurking.

The visitors enjoyed plenty of possession in the early stages but struggled to break down Preston’s well-drilled and organised back four.

Paul Gallagher lifted a free kick narrowly over the top after Neill Collins upended Garner in a dangerous position.

Garner, Preston’s 20-goal top-scorer, should have put the hosts ahead in the 19th minute but the striker headed Chris Humphrey’s inviting cross wide after Harry Maguire lost his balance and fell over in the penalty area.

The Lilywhites had a penalty appeal turned down when Doyle appeared to charge down Kilkenny’s drive with his hand but referee Geoff Eltringham wasn’t interested.

Conor Coady thought he had given United, against the run of play, the lead just after the half hour mark when he coolly slotted home after latching on to Ryan Flynn’s deflected shot but the Liverpool loanee’s strike was disallowed for off-side.

Moments later, Gallagher forced Howard into a smart stop at his near post as Preston continued to press for the opener.

Clough made an enforced change before the interval after Bob Harris picked up an injury, giving Matt Hill an opportunity to impress.

Jose Baxter unleashed a tame effort which Declan Rudd comfortably gathered after neat play by Jamie Murphy.

Clough had no choice but to put on Davies for Hill, who sustained a hamstring knock at the end of the first period.

United survived another major scare in the 54th minute when Josh Brownhill struck the post with a right foot effort after racing on to Gallagher’s clever flick.

Preston, fourth in the standings, continued to create the clear cut openings and Garner’s looping header from David Buchanan’s inviting centre drifted agonisingly over. Garner then nipped in front of Collins to meet Humphrey’s glorious delivery only to volley inches off target.

Howard kept out Gallagher’s close range header after the visitors failed to deal with a corner.

In a rare foray forward, United substitute Chris Porter glanced Davies cross wide.

Clough’s troops had a strong penalty claim rejected in added on time as Maguire appeared to be pulled back by Tom Clarke.

Preston: Rudd, Clarke, Wright, Humphrey (Holmes 78), Gallagher, Garner, Buchanan, C. Davies (Beavon 78), Brownhill (K Davies 85), Wiseman, Kilkenny. Substitutes: Stuckmann, Keane, Welsh, King.

United: Howard; Freeman, Collins, Maguire, Harris (Hill 42, Davies HT); Flynn, Doyle, Coady, Scougall, Murphy; Baxter (Porter 75). Substitutes: Miller, McGinn, Paynter, Long.