Cresswell strike cheers Preston

Sheffield United 1 - Preston North End 1
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The Independent Online

If Sheffield United are to reach the play-offs for the second time in three years their form will have to show dramatic improvement between now and May.

If Sheffield United are to reach the play-offs for the second time in three years their form will have to show dramatic improvement between now and May.

The contrast between their results in recent months and those of the Preston North End side they faced last night could hardly be more emphatic. Preston have now lost just once in 15 League matches, while Sheffield can boast only two wins from their last nine.

Accordingly, last night's draw, when Richard Cresswell's overhead kick negated Leigh Bromby's first-half opener, was of far more benefit to the Lancashire side, whose own place in the play-offs looks assured.

Thereafter chances came and went - but Preston were much happier with their point. Despite Sheffield's greater need for a victory following their 2-0 defeat at Stoke City on Saturday, it took them most of a sterile opening period to make any impact.

Prior to Bromby's fifth of the season, the closest they had come was when Michael Tonge's clever flick set Jon Harley free down the Preston left. Steve Kabba met the cross and, but for a deflection, his shot would probably have found the bottom corner. That apart, Preston looked the more dangerous. Paddy Kenny saved their best first-half chance, after a mazy run from Eddie Lewis made space for Paul McKenna's drive.

At last pinning the visiting side back, Sheffield forced a left-wing corner on the half hour that led to their opening goal. Harley delivered it and Bromby was first to react to the loose ball, stabbing home from eight yards out. Harley might have added a second just before the interval when his initial free kick was blocked and his follow-up looped off the wall and onto the crossbar.

Preston were much improved after the break and drew level when Sheffield failed to deal with Chris Sedgwick's corner. Cresswell, eight yards out, shaped for the overhead kick and efficiently dispatched it into the net for his 18th goal of a productive season. Then they almost went ahead but David Nugent's powerful shot was saved by Kenny.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kenny; Kozluk, Jagielka, Bromby, Harley; Liddell, Montgomery, Quinn (Johnson, 81), Tonge; Gray, Kabba. Substitutes not used: Thirlwell, Geary, Shaw, Cullip.

Preston North End (4-1-3-2): Day; Alexander, Mawene, Lucketti, Davidson; O'Neill; Sedgwick, McKenna (Hill, 76), Lewis (Davis, 81); Cresswell, Nugent (Agyemang, 71). Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), Folly.

Referee: N Miller (Co Durham).

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