On Friday 3rd May 2013, I went to Bramall Lane to watch Sheffield United play Yeovil Town in the first leg of the League 1 play off semi final.
It was a day of football firsts for me this evening. Firstly, this League 1 semi final between the Blades and the Glovers was the first time I had been to a play-off match. It was also the first time I had been to a football match with my Sheffield United supporting girlfriend Hannah and the first time I sat on the United Kop, meaning I have now sat in all four stands at Bramall Lane.
This semi final first leg saw the fourth and fifth placed teams battling for a trip to Wembley, with the visitors Yeovil finishing two points ahead of Sheffield United in the table. The two league meetings between these sides this season had seen a victory each, with the Blades winning 1-0 at Huish Park and Yeovil winning 2-0 in their last visit to Bramall Lane. The Blades had struggled in recent weeks, particularly at home where they had picked up just a single victory in the last seven to end their hopes of automatic promotion. On the other hand, Yeovil had hit a decent run of form coming into the play offs with four wins in their last six games.
Caretaker boss Chris Morgan, who took over from the sacked Danny Wilson last month, made two changes from the last game of the normal campaign with Barry Robson and Chris Porter replacing Callum McFadzean and Joe Ironside. Yeovil boss Gary Johnson made three changes from his side’s 3-2 defeat at Bury with Jamie McAllister, Byron Webster and Dan Burn replacing Vitalijs Maksimenko, Dominic Blizzard and Lewis Young.
The ‘Greasy Chip Butty’ song echoed through the stadium as the action got underway in front of just over 15,000 supporters. The early stages of the game were tense and scrappy with neither side able to take a real hold of the game.
The home side had a few early opportunities but rarely looked like truly threatening Yeovil goalkeeper Marek Stech. Barry Robson and Chris Porter both saw efforts go wide of the target before a dangerous goalmouth scramble was brought to an abrupt end when Jamie Murphy fired over the crossbar.
Yeovil ended the half stronger and Kevin Dawson came inches away from putting the visitors ahead, firing a shot across the face of goal and just wide of the far post. The Glovers then launched a dangerous counter attack at the end of the half but they couldn’t take advantage and Joe Edwards’ shot was blocked by a defender.
United took the lead in the first minute of the second half. Murphy’s low cross into the box found Sheffield-born McFadzean, whose effort took a wicked deflection and flew into the bottom corner. This goal added yet another first to my day, as it hit the net while I was still in the food queue meaning it was the first time I had missed a goal while at a football match!
Yeovil almost hit back immediately when Upson fired a long range strike that was palmed away by Long. Hayter then had the ball in the net for the visitors with a cool chip but it the goal didn’t count as the former-Doncaster forward was caught offside.
United then had a couple of opportunities to double their advantage, but they couldn’t make the most of them. McFadzean came close to scoring his second goal of the night when he turned the defender before charging towards goal, but his shot was well saved by Stech.
Murphy then came the width of the post away from scoring with a curling effort before Yeovil’s closest attempt came from Paddy Madden who saw his powerful header blocked on the line by Neill Collins.
The final moments saw both sides search for an important goal but the United defenders managed to hold on to their advantage and take a 1-0 lead into the second leg at Huish Park, which will take place on Monday with the winners playing either Brentford or Swindon Town at Wembley Stadium on 19th May.
Sheffield United 1–0 Yeovil Town
McFadzean ’46Long, Westlake, Maguire, Collins, Hill, Murphy, McDonald, Doyle, Robson (McFadzean ’31), Porter (Whitehouse ’90), Kitson (Ironside ’74) Stech, Ayling, Webster, Burn, McAllister, Dawson, Upson, Edwards, Foley, Madden, Hayter (Balata ’73) Attendance: 15,262