Neil Warnock celebrated his 58th birthday and seven years in charge of Sheffield United on Friday and Keith Gillespie provided him with the ideal present yesterday in the shape of a sumptuous 89th-minute volley to complete his side's recovery from a goal down against the Premiership's bottom side, Charlton Athletic.
It was enough to take Warnock's team outside the relegation zone for the first time since late October, and, added to their victory on Tuesday night at Watford, this has been quite a week for the South Yorkshire club. They certainly deserved their win here, despite Charlton going ahead with Andy Reid's second goal in as many games. United drew level through Chris Morgan and were the better, more purposeful, team throughout - though Gillespie's late contribution was an unexpected bonus for the home side.
"I told the lads at half-time to keep going and that, if required, we could even score two goals in the 92nd and 93rd minutes," said Warnock. "Thankfully, it didn't take that long but I've never seen us create that many chances. We don't settle for draws - that's the way they are, a genuine bunch of players." Charlton remain rooted to the foot of the League and without an away win in over 13 months. Their past 22 League games away from The Valley have yielded just five points.
"I'm devastated we haven't come away from this game with something," said Les Reed, their new manager, who is yet to experience a victory after three matches in charge. "We've got to learn how to win and how to stay in front. They had a lot of chances and deserved to win but I still had a feeling we'd get something out of the game."
Warnock had given a Premiership debut to 20-year-old Irish midfielder Stephen Quinn, brother of Alan, and the Paul Scholes lookalike came close to making a sensational introduction with a volley in the very first minute that forced Scott Carson into a full-length dive. Then Rob Hulse met Morgan's flick-on from a Leigh Bromby long throw but his header was a yard wide.
Charlton took the lead courtesy of the eye-catching Reid, easily their most threatening player. He led a break deep into the United half and when Bromby drifted infield, Darren Ambrose was left unattended. Paddy Kenny could only palm his shot into the path of Reid, who bundled home from close range.
The second half assumed exactly the same style - as United pushed forward honestly if sometimes without guile. They were epitomised by the efforts of the indefatigable Hulse, who chased every loose ball without ever converting one of the opportunities that came his way. Sadly from United's point of view, none of these was as obvious as the free header that Derek Geary skewed wide following Gillespie's deep cross. Another Gillespie delivery, this time from a corner, did eventually lead to the equaliser as Morgan made decisive contact from six yards out. And better was still to come as Gillespie met a half-cleared corner with the sweetest of finishes to send Bramall Lane, and Warnock, into raptures.
"All the kids who came today will remember Keith's goal forever," said Warnock. "The whole squad were together afterwards in the dressing room and days like this are what you're in football for. I'm very proud to be manager of these players and of this club."Reuse content