Blackwell focused after draw

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Sheffield United boss Kevin Blackwell will not allow complacency to set in after his side claimed a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Coca-Cola Championship play-off semi-final at Preston.

Blades midfielder Brian Howard struck in clinical fashion just seconds into the second half to cancel out Sean St Ledger's 21st-minute opener and give his side a thoroughly deserved share of the spoils.

Blackwell said: "You saw the response of the players at the end - they weren't jumping up and down thinking they had done anything. I thought they were very level-headed, thanked the fans and walked in."

He added: "There was no jumping up and down in the changing room. They know - we know - there's a tough job ahead and if we're not right then Preston have the ability to hurt us."

Blackwell hailed his players' mental fortitude after they came from behind to claim a draw at Deepdale.

"Our performance over 90 minutes was outstanding in a stadium that's quite hostile," said Blackwell, who looks set to be without Darius Henderson, Jamie Ward and David Cotterill through injury on Monday.

"Having gone 1-0 down I think quite a few clubs would have crumbled but the players showed such mental strength."

Preston boss Alan Irvine hailed the performance of goalkeeper Andy Lonergan after he made a series of outstanding saves to keep United at bay.

Irvine said: "Andy has been top class this season and made a couple of great saves. He's done that on many occasions this season and I certainly think as a team that we competed well against Sheffield United.

"They're a very strong and physical outfit and I was pleased that aspect of our game, but I was disappointed with how we played when we had opportunities with the ball. You have to be able to cope with their strengths but also pass the ball well, and I felt we didn't do that at times."

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Jamie Ward
Darius Henderson
Andy Lonergan
Sean St Ledger
Brian Howard
Preston North End
Sheffield United
David Cotterill

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