Sheffield United beat Blackburn 1-0 following a dramatic stoppage-time goal from substitute Ben Davies.
The home side had been reduced to 10 men midway through the second half and the visitors then missed a penalty.
United applied some early pressure with George Baldock the first to threaten when his low drive was saved by Thomas Kaminski.
After Rhys Norrington-Davies had a ‘goal’ ruled out by an offside flag, Billy Sharp wasted a great opportunity to put the hosts in front when he put a far-post header wide from a Sander Berge cross.
Blackburn’s John Buckley fired in a low shot which flashed wide of Wes Foderingham’s right-hand post.
Foderingham was then relieved to see a free-kick from Reda Khadra only just clear the bar.
Berge was causing problems for the visitors down the right-hand side, but the end product was lacking with United failing to force a breakthrough before the interval.
Khadra tried to pick out Sam Gallagher with a low cross but the ball was too far in front of the striker’s outstretched foot.
Berge then produced a driving run and found John Fleck who fired in an effort from around 20 yards which was parried by Kaminski. Morgan Gibbs-White latched onto the rebound and shot straight at the keeper at his near post.
United appealed for a penalty when Sharp’s cross appeared to strike the hand of Jan Paul Van Hecke, but referee Matthew Donohue was unmoved.
The hosts were reduced to 10 men midway through the second half when Charlie Goode was shown a straight red card following a foul on Khadra.
Blackburn went close to scoring soon after the sending-off when Harry Pickering’s firm drive from the edge of the area was well saved by Foderingham to his left.
The visitors were then awarded a penalty after Khadra’s cross was handled by John Egan. It was Khadra who stepped up to take the penalty, but his effort was saved by Foderingham.
Blades boss Paul Heckingbottom made a change in attack with Sharp making way for Oli McBurnie.
Blackburn continued to pose problems with Joe Rothwell having a shot blocked and the lively Khadra trying a curling shot from the left-hand side of the area which went just beyond Foderingham’s left-hand post.
It looked to be heading for a draw until McBurnie caused problems for the Blackburn defence from a corner and Jack Robinson headed the ball into the path of Davies who swept home from close range.
What the managers said…
Sheffield United’s Paul Heckingbottom: “It’s the best way to win, for lots of reasons. Everyone will tell you who’s been involved in games like this. For me, it reinforces everything we’ve been trying to do. We’ve been trying to get this place bouncing. We’ve been trying to reignite that connection between the fans and the players. I think the ref helped us today. I think the sending-off helped us and the penalty save helped us.
“It was a red – I’ve got no arguments with that. I think the ref got that right. It’s a penalty, definitely, as well – I can’t argue with that. But everything else he probably got wrong. Those decisions and Wes’ save meant that the fans became the 11th man in the end, which was really important. The one thing which is a given is that the players will work hard, and fans respond to that.”
Blackburn’s Tony Mowbray: “I think over 90 minutes we did more than enough to win the game but that’s football – it’s cruel sometimes. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit for digging in and sticking at it. They got their rewards late on. I think this team is full of energy, legs, athleticism and ability. We’re just a team who graft and work hard, ask questions of the opposition. Did we give them enough problems? I think so. We have to find ways to win matches. Tonight we maybe should have won 1-0.
“They need telling how good they are and what a brilliant team ethic they’ve got. We have to stick together and keep going. They were playing in the Premier League last year and we’d got five kids from our academy starting and I thought they competed fantastically well. They should be proud of themselves.”