Blades beggar belief as Tracey adds to error count

Huddersfield Town 2 Sheffield United 1
Click to follow
Considering that Sheffield United were regarded as promotion favourites before a ball was kicked this season, they are making a fine old mess of turning opinion into fact. Automatic elevation is a dwindling hope and, after this latest reverse, even a play-off place that seemed to be a certain straw to cling to is in jeopardy.

They have not won away from Bramall Lane since Boxing Day and if they continue to contribute to their own downfall like they did in this match it could be Christmas before they get three points on their travels again. With teams around them at the top of the First Division having games in hand, such generosity may bring its own lack of reward.

In a game awash with mistakes, United had Nick Henry sent off, gave away two sloppy goals and played with such a lack of conviction it was hard to imagine them making it to the Premiership whatever route is open to them come May. Huddersfield, who also had Jon Dyson dismissed, were hardly better but rode their luck to secure only their second success in 11 matches.

The error-strewn tenor of the match was set within 40 seconds when Simon Tracey made the sort of mistake that finds itself on video collections of footballing calamities.

There seemed little danger when he leapt to his left to save Paul Dalton's header. It was the sort of effort goalkeepers love, too far away to justify a spectacular dive but without the power to add an ingredient of threat. Yet as Tracey hit the ground he turned like a half-tackled rugby forward and smuggled the ball into his own net.

Huddersfield could barely credit their luck but the visitors did not have a monopoly when it came to cock-ups. Again, a goal seemed unlikely as Dave Holdsworth headed the ball towards the home area after 16 minutes, only for Lee Sinnott to lash a dipping, swerving volley past his own goalkeeper.

Disbelief again swept round the McAlpine Stadium, although the emotion lasted barely 60 seconds. Tracey came for, and then decided to leave, a corner and consequently was out of position when Tom Cowan's looping header went over him. No goal could enter the net conventionally in this match, however, and Henry, on the line, managed to head the ball against the bar before it bounced behind him.

United's numerical advantage that was handed to them when Dyson kicked the ball away after 47 minutes for a second caution, lasted only briefly when Henry tripped Delroy Facey and Wayne Burnett in the space of five minutes and was dismissed. When Andy Walker came off with two minutes to go United were reduced to nine men. It rather summed them up.

Huddersfield Town (4-4-2); Francis; Edmondson, Jenkins, Sinnott; Cowan (Gray, 80) Beresford, Dyson, Browning, Dalton; Facey (Burnett, 52), Glover (Edwards, 88).

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Tracey; Ward, Holdsworth, Tyler, Sandford (Fjortoft, 56); White, Henry, Hutchison (Spackman, h-t), Whitehouse; Taylor (Katchouro, 69), Walker.

Referee: E Wolsenholme (Preston).