Sheffield United 1 Ipswich 1
Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock was tonight left sweating over his side’s hopes of a return to the First Division play-off final.
The Blades are in danger of missing out after being held to a 1-1 draw by fellow top-six hopefuls Ipswich, who now require just a win from their final game at home to Cardiff next weekend to secure their place.
But a run of just two wins from their last eight matches has seen United slide out of the play-off places.
Their fate is now in the hands of other teams and they require a favour over the next few days, as well as a victory in their season-ending fixture at Preston.
Unsurprisingly United fans, whose team were top of the table for a month earlier this season and who had occupied a top-six place up until three weeks ago, pointed an accusing finger at the players before kick-off.
A section of Blades supporters had managed to smuggle into the ground a banner which read, ‘The fans want the Premiership. Do the players?’
For the opening 45 minutes it appeared they did not because although they dominated the half, they again lacked the cutting edge which has been sorely missing in their recent decline.
Although Town were on the back foot for long spells, Ipswich goalkeeper Kelvin Davis barely broke sweat as the home side again struggled in front of goal, their record of six goals in the previous seven games bearing testimony to such a fact.
Skipper Rob Page fired a third-minute header over, before Davis made his one telling contribution of the half with a clutch save low to his left from Alan Wright’s 25-yard drive.
Ipswich should have had a penalty soon after as Chris Morgan knocked away a fierce 22-yarder from Jermaine Wright with his elbow, although he conned referee Eddie Ilderton by pretending the ball had hit his face.
The Blades found a renewed sense of urgency after the break, appearing that Warnock had delivered one of his inspirational half-time team-talks as his players finally sensed just what the occasion meant.
But twice in quick succession United were brilliantly denied by Davis, the 27-year-old producing two superb saves to keep Warnock animated on the touchline.
The home side initially worked an incisive 54th-minute move with a Rob Kozluk throw-in picking out Phil Jagielka, who in turn fed Andy Gray on the right-hand touchline.
The striker’s cross was nodded down by Wayne Allison into the path of Jagielka who had advanced into the area, only for his first-time shot to be blocked at point-blank range by the brave Davis.
The ball spun out for a corner and with the delivery, Michael Tonge found Page at the far post for a downward header that Davis managed to tip away.
The double escape spurred Town into life and they responded with their own two-pronged salvo on the hour, firstly with Paddy Kenny turning away a Richard Naylor shot on the turn prior to Westlake’s header from the rebound striking the post.
It proved pivotal because within a minute United were in front, with Fabian Wilnis clearly bringing down Tonge inside the area and Tyne & Wear official Ilderton quickly pointing to the spot.
Gray made no mistake, sending Davis the wrong way for his seventh goal in 13 matches since his move from Bradford in February.
But Warnock’s joy, and that of the supporters and players lasted just eight minutes as United were sliced open by a Matthew Richards through ball for a composed Ian Westlake who coolly clipped a left-foot shot past the advancing Kenny.
Davis then reserved his best until last, stretching to tip Jagielka’s long-range clip onto the bar, before Town were denied a more fervent penalty appeal in the dying moments when Morgan again appeared to handle, this time with Darren Bent denied.