Sheffield United snatch all three points in the dying moments at Bramall Lane as Jamie Murphy bags last minute winnerSheffield United left it late to secure maximum points against the Gills in a dramatic 2-1 win at Bramall Lane on Saturday.
Luke Norris, who had come off the bench to replace Cody McDonald, gave the visitors the lead against the run of play on 83 minutes with his first league goal for the club when his terrific strike beat a helpless Mark Howard in goal.
However the Blades gathered themselves and piled forward in search of a result – substitute Michael Higdon scored in the 87th minute before Jamie Murphy secured the points with a last gasp effort in the seventh minute of added time.
Peter Taylor named five changes to the side that drew against Walsall last weekend with Jake Hessenthaler, Jermaine McGlashan, Luke Norris, Bradley Dack and Aaron Morris sitting out.
In their places came Callum Davies, Brennan Dickenson and Gavin Hoyte. Josh Pritchard and Amine Linganzi were given the nod in central midfield as both players made their first start of the league season.
Among the Sheffield United line-up was Jay McEveley who spent time on loan at MEMS Priestfield Stadium in 2004/2005.
The Blades came firing out of the blocks in the first few minutes and Gills had to be alert to prevent an early goal.
A header from McEveley went narrowly wide before Bywater blocked a powerful attempt from Ben Davies after winning the ball towards the right hand side of the penalty area.
Gills resisted the early pressure and brought the hosts early momentum to a halt, however United soon regrouped and on 20 minutes James Wallace tried his luck from 25 yards with a shot which went narrowly over the crossbar.
United enjoyed a lot of possession but were unable to find a way through a very stubborn Gills rearguard – a long range effort by Michael Doyle cleared the crossbar before Marc McNulty’s effort was heroically blocked thanks to a combination tackle from John Egan and Gavin Hoyte.
Towards the end of the half Dickenson had an effort from 25 yards go way off target before McDonald had an opportunity inside the box on his left foot go wide of the near post.
Just before the whistle United nearly did break the deadlock – a corner on the far side was met by McNulty but Bywater was on hand to block before McGahey’s follow up effort was cleared on the line by a retreating Linganzi.
United started the second half the same as they did the first, in the ascendency.
Gillingham had to dig deep to avoid going one down, particularly on 55 minutes when McNulty skipped past a challenge from John Egan and went one on one with Bywater.
The keeper refused to go to ground and stood tall, meaning the midfielder had to back track. However he moved inside and had a shot with his left foot which was brilliantly blocked by Davies.
Ten minutes later and United went even closer – a through ball for Stefan Scougall inside the box gave him the entire goal to aim at and Bywater did brilliantly to get contact on the shot towards his right hand side and put it away to safety.
The Gills stopper was refusing to give up his clean sheet without a fight and proved resilient in his goalkeeping; however eight minutes later he was saved by the woodwork.
McNulty, who was subsequently subbed, produced a terrific right foot shot inside the box – Bywater was beaten but the effort struck the upright and away to safety.
With 84 minutes on the clock Bramall Lane was silenced when Luke Norris produced a piece of magic to beat Blades keeper Mark Howard.
Martin’s throw in left Norris with a lot to do with his back to goal but he provided a piece of individual brilliance to launch a powerful shot over the keeper and into the net.
It was the striker’s first league goal since signing for the club in the summer, but the joy was to be short lived as United threw the kitchen sink in search of an equalizer.
They got it three minutes later when a low cross from Alcock was aimed towards the near post and Higdon sprinted to get to the ball first and his delicate touch was enough to guide the ball beyond Bywater.
With their tails up, and six minutes of added time to go with it, the hosts were on top but could have been reduced to ten men when Doyle brought down Norris on the halfway line as the last man.
With a red card certainly a possibility the referee instead chose to wave play on, and with time up United burst down the other end and scored.
The ball was worked to the left hand side of the penalty area – Bywater stayed on his feet and forced Murphy to a tight angle but the forward still found the net with his shot going through the goalkeeper’s legs.
The Gills players dropped to the floor as the final whistle sounded soon after, leaving Bramall Lane with no points after an incredibly resilient display.
Sheff Utd: Howard, Alcock, Wallace, Doyle, Murphy, Scougall, McNulty (Higdon 75), Collins, Davies (Flynn 70), McGahey, McEveley (Harris 70).
Unused subs: Turner, Basham, Porter, Reed.
Gills: Bywater, Hoyte, Egan, Davies, Hause, Martin, Loft, Linganzi (Hessenthaler 90), Pritchard, Dickenson, McDonald (Norris 70).
Unused subs: G Morris, Fish, Dack, McGlashan, German.
Attendance: 18487 (340 Gills)
Referee: Mr K Wright