The Blades travelled to Brisbane Road (The Matchroom Stadium) looking to build on their midweek away win at struggling Hartlepool United, but didn’t have the luxury of naming an unchanged side with the most noticeable absence in the warm up being Neill Collins, who missed out after being admitted to hospital with a toe infection. With the Scot unavailable, Matt Hill moved into the the middle to partner Harry Maguire and Marcus Williams came into the side at left back.
Playing in the white change strip, the Blades found themselves with a half chance early doors when the ball dropped to Ryan Flynn in the Orient box, but just as the winger looked to get a shot away the keeper smothered the ball at his feet. With the Blades looking to make a positive impact in the opening stages, McMahon then had a shot from distance which cleared the home side’s crossbar.
The next action of any note was to be in the Blades goalmouth on 9 minutes, but it wasn’t Orient causing the Blades problems. Having touched the ball only a couple of times in the game, Mark Howard looked to be in discomfort taking a goal kick and immediately pulled up and signaled to the bench. It didn’t look good and after spending a short time laying in his penalty box clutching his thigh, the keeper was stretchered off with youngster George Long his replacement.
While Long acclimatised, the Blades put together a slick passing move down the left, before McDonald switched the ball to McMahon whose powerful cross evaded everyone. Shortly after, another McMahon cross was met by the swinging leg of Nick Blackman, but the striker saw his snatched effort land on the roof of the stand.
McMahon was again involved in the next attack, as after receiving the ball from Flynn he moved into the Orient penalty area only to go down under a challenge. The referee didn’t entertain his half hearted appeal however, and in fairness, it would have been a very harsh decision had he given anything.
The Blades were starting to put a bit of pressure on the hosts and after McMahon’s cross was headed down by Dave Kitson, Gallagher got the ball under control and shot from just inside the area. Sadly, an Orient defender threw himself in front of the loanee’s effort and deflected the ball for a corner.
Flynn was starting to get more involved in the game and after committing his man, knocking the ball past him and setting off down the line was unlucky to have play brought back, the referee choosing to give him a free kick for being pulled back rather than allowing him the advantage.
There was just enough time left in the first half for Dave Kitson to have a shot go wide either side of the Orient goal and as the referee blew his whistle, the Blades would have been fairly satisfied despite not really creating anything of note.
The second half began much in the same vein, with Ryan Flynn beating his man down the right hand side before seeing his cross cut out at the front post by an Orient defender.
After stoppages for first the treatment of an Orient player who was sat right on the byline and then the groundsman to come on and prod a sprinkler, the Blades gave the traveling fans something to shout about. The ball found it’s way to Nick Blackman towards the edge of the box and instead of playing the ball to the onrushing Gallagher, the striker opted to cooly bring the ball under control before firing past the helpless Allsopp and into the back of the net.
Shortly after, the home side were stretched again when Flynn once again beat his man and with the ball heading for the line cut it back inside to Gallagher who saw his near post effort kept out by the legs of the keeper.
Having had little to do since his unplanned introduction, George Long showed he was still concentrating with a fantastic reaction save from a point blank Lisbie header. With the chance looking like a goal all the way, Harry Maguire took advantage of a break in play to bear hug the young stopper in appreciation. Always proving a handful and having scored against United twice last season, some were relieved to see that being Lisbie’s last action of the game as he pulled up with what looked to be a hamstring problem while chasing down Matt Hill.
With United looking to see the game out, Danny Wilson opted for a double substitution with Kitson and Blackman being replaced by Porter and Cresswell for the final minutes of the game. The two strikers helped ensure there was no repeat of last years late, late equaliser and the Blades played out the five minutes of stoppage time unscathed.
Leyton Orient: Allsopp, Sawyer, Chorley, Clarke, McSweeney, Cox, Griffith, Smith (Symes 46), Cook, Rowlands (James 81), Lisbie (Brunt 78)
Unused Substitutes: Baudry, Laird, Odubajo, Mooney
Sheffield United: Howard (Long 9), Maguire, Hill, McMahon, Williams, Flynn, Doyle, McDonald, Gallagher, Blackman (Cresswell 83), Kitson (Porter 83)
Unused Substitutes: Westlake, McAllister, McFadzean, Miller