A decisive moment in the course of Sheffield United's season? Neil Warnock thought so. A decisive moment in this match? Certainly.
With 10 minutes remaining on Saturday, United were a goal behind to Stoke City and staring at the prospect of a fourth defeat in six games. That was when Josip Skoko found himself unmarked 12 yards out with the ball at his feet. But Paddy Kenny somehow pushed his shot on to the post, and from there it bobbled away to safety.
Within a couple of minutes, Craig Short had dispossessed Hannes Sigurdsson as Stoke poured forward, putting Danny Webber through on goal for the equaliser. The point takes United seven points clear in second place and, more importantly with their nearest challengers faltering, it maintains the sense of momentum.
Kenny was the villain-turned-hero because it was his mistake, when a punched clearance went horribly wrong, that led to Stoke's opener. Skoko, the Australian midfielder, capitalised, heading into the undefended goal from 20 yards.
"Paddy's save was the turning point for the game if not the whole season," Warnock, the United manager, said. "We were a yard off the pace in the first half hour and I said a few words at half-time. I told the players that Paddy had saved us many more games this season than he'd cost us. I just had a feeling after the save that we'd get something and so it proved. We're delighted with a point - I don't think there are many tougher places to come than here."
The draw was harsh on Stoke, whose committed and wholehearted performance belied the unrest surrounding the club at boardroom and managerial level. Johan Boskamp, the Stoke manager, confirmed that his postponed summit meeting with the chairman, Gunnar Gislason, will now take place in Iceland a week today.
"I know exactly what I'm going to say," was his only comment when asked what he thought the outcome would be.
Goals: Skoko (15) 1-0; Webber (82) 1-1.
Stoke City (4-1-4-1): Simonsen; Hoefkens, Broomes, Hill (Buxton, 69), Dickinson; Junior (Brammer, 69); Chadwick, Skoko, Russell, Gallagher (Sigurdsson, 76); Sidibe. Substitutes not used: De Goey (gk), Kopteff.
Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kenny; Kozluk, Short, Morgan, Unsworth; Ifill (Kabba, 57), Jagielka, Tonge, Armstrong; Shipperley (Akinbiyi, 57), Webber. Substitutes not used: Montgomery, Gillespie, Lucketti.
Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).
Bookings: Stoke Hoefkens; Sheffield Morgan.
Man of the match: Sidibe.
Attendance: 17,544.Reuse content