Blades promotion bid gathers pace

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Sheffield United closed the gap on the top two in the Coca-Cola Championship after coming through a frenetic finish to triumph 2-1 in their Yorkshire derby with Barnsley.

The pressure was on the Blades after second-placed Birmingham beat league leaders Wolves on Monday to go six points clear of Reading in third and United in fourth.

But Kevin Blackwell's team cut the difference back to three courtesy of a late double from two January transfer window acquisitions.

Irish youngster John-Joe O'Toole, signed on-loan from Watford, broke the deadlock in the 82nd minute, scoring at the second time of asking after Heinz Muller had parried his initial effort. Former Arsenal trainee Arturo Lupoli then netted his second goal for the club five minutes later, firing the ball across Muller with his left foot.

The points appeared safe but the Blades almost threw them away in the dying seconds as Barnsley made a sudden comeback. Greg Halford handled in the area with a minute to go but Paddy Kenny saved Jamal Campbell-Ryce's penalty.

Daniel Bogdanovic then headed in Jon Macken's cross to set up a nervy finale but United hung on for a win that takes them above Reading and into third place in the league.

Southampton remain in trouble at the other end of table but showed commendable spirit to earn a 2-2 draw after scoring a late equaliser at Watford.

Dutch defender Jan-Paul Saeijs put the Saints ahead in the 13th minute, heading in Ryan Smith's corner, but their advantage lasted only eight minutes, Watford's young Latvian Aleksandrs Cauna equalising with his left foot on his first start since arriving on loan from Skonto Riga in January.

Tamas Priskin completed the turnaround midway through the second half, heading past Kelvin Davis for his 13th goal of the season. But Saeijs, who had never scored for the club prior to tonight's game, made it 2-2 in the 89th minute with a wonderful free-kick from 30 yards to take Mark Wotte's team to within two points of safety.

In the night's other game, Crystal Palace drew 1-1 with Coventry. Aron Gunnarson netted a header for the visitors on the half-hour but substitute Karl Cadogan pulled one back for Palace in the second half, taking advantage of a defensive error and rounding Keiren Westwood to slot home.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Ryan Smith
Heinz Muller
Jamal Campbell-Ryce
Arturo Lupoli
Aleksandrs Cauna
John-Joe O'Toole
Kelvin Davis
Greg Halford
Sheffield United
Crystal Palace
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Coventry City
Daniel Bogdanovic
Tamas Priskin

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