Jayden Bogle scored the controversial winner as Sheffield United came from 1-0 down to beat Birmingham 2-1 and continue their quiet rise up the Championship table.
A second goal in as many games for Blues new kid Lyle Taylor gave the hosts the lead (61), but Billy Sharp, who turns 36 on Saturday, finished from close range to restore parity in seconds. (64).
With 15 minutes remaining, Bogle scored after an intricate Blades build-up, but Birmingham boss Lee Bowyer was left fuming on the touchline after referees missed Sharp’s offside run in the accumulation.
As a result of their third consecutive victory, Sheffield United move up to 10th place, three points from the play-off places, but with up to three games less than their direct competitors. Birmingham remains 17.
Admirable turnaround sees Blades win again
As had been the case for the last two home games, Birmingham fans once again took the opportunity to illustrate their discontent with the transparency and visibility of club ownership.
A pre-match statement had called for calm ahead of the planned demonstrations, with sections of the local crowd staging a ‘faceless’ protest wearing white masks and then, after kick-off, simultaneously blowing whistles. It eventually subsided without causing a break in the match, as the fear had been.
Most of the first half, which ended without a shot on goal from either side, was uneventful, although after 14 minutes referee Keith Stroud denied Sheffield United a penalty when Iliman Ndiaye went down after exploiting a fault. in communication and jumping into the box.
Ndiaye appeared to lose his balance after Blues defender Teden Mengi crossed his path from behind, before the momentum sent him to the ground. Referee Keith Stroud, however, was unmoved.
Just after the hour, Birmingham were denied a penalty shot of their own when Bogle appeared to handle a cross, but moments later they had the lead anyway, when Taylor, who had scored on his debut against Derby on Sunday, controlled a pass from Juninho Bacuna and coolly slotted into the bottom right corner.
If Bacuna hadn’t shot directly at Wes Foderingham moments later, the Blues might have been 2-0 up and sailing. Instead, the Championship’s all-time top scorer, Sharp, increased his record to 123 goals when he made a great run into the box and hit Sander Berge’s perfect ball.
Then came the turning point in the game. Sharp appeared to veer offside when a long ball was pumped forward, with Neil Etheridge forced to run from his line to clear the head. However, no flag was raised and the visitors were allowed to continue building an attack.
And after a quick interaction in the box, Bogle was available to step into the box, deliver an exquisite first touch and drive through Wes Foderingham’s legs to seal the three points.
Man of the Match – Billy Sharp
Sky Sports’ Andy Hinchcliffe on Sky Sports Football:
“His goal changed the game, but his overall performance was outstanding. He also showed his aggressiveness and leadership, playing his part in what could be a huge three-pointer for his club.”
Analysis: Should Bogle’s winner have counted?
Jobi McAnuff on Sky Sports football:
“That’s the part I don’t understand. [the fact that Sharp supposedly was not interfering with play]. If Lee Bowyer has been told that, then I understand his complaint and frustration because he is clearly interfering with the game, putting pressure on the goalie. That’s why Neil Etheridge heads the ball.
“It’s a really tough place to be when you’ve just lost a game after a contentious decision and the referee tells you something you don’t necessarily agree with.
Karen Carney on Sky Sports football:
“He was offside, that’s clear. I completely agree with Lee Bowyer that Sharp was in an offside position. The referee and side official didn’t see it, for whatever reason, and the phase continued.”
“Unfortunately for Birmingham, the rest pass and they could have defended better, but I felt I was in an offside position and it didn’t happen. But these phases can be better defended.”
What the managers said…
birmingham lee bowyer: “Once again, decisions go against us, big decisions. I can’t tell you how many apologies I’ve had this season for wrong decisions. If anyone can tell me the rules have changed, then that’s fine. The rules are, if it interferes, he’s offside. If he’s not shutting down my keeper, then my keeper takes him down and clears him normally. He can’t do it because of the pressure he’s under.
“The second goal on Sunday [against Derby] it was the same. It was offside, but it went against us again. It can’t keep happening. I’m sick of apologies. I saw the linesman running along the line and he wanted to raise the flag for him, but then he said that Sharp wasn’t close enough to the keeper. I was running towards him! So if you know he’s offside, no matter how close he is, he’s running and now he’s making the goalie call. If he wasn’t there, the keeper would have backed away and caught him in his own box.
“I feel sorry for my players, my team and the fans who spend their hard earned money to come out and support the team and again, they have robbed us of something we deserved.”
Sheffield United Paul Heckingbottom: “I am delighted with the three points and delighted with the character that was shown. We were good in the first half but we talked about being a little better without the ball in intensity and a little more aggressively and with the ball, with the quality of the pass final.In the second half we were much better in both departments.
“We’re taking it one game at a time. I know it’s a cliché, but we’ve got so many that we can’t look beyond West Brom on Wednesday and, two and a half days later, Huddersfield. away. But we are happy with where we are and we are happy to play against the teams around us.”
Both teams return to action at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday, February 9. Birmingham travel to the Vitality Stadium to take on Bournemouth, while Sheffield United host West Brom at Bramall Lane. Both matches will be available to watch live on Sky Sports Football Red Button.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.