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Page last updated at 20:54 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 21:54 UK

Preston 1-1 Sheff Utd

Brian Howard
Brian Howard is congratulated for his second-half equaliser

Brian Howard's goal 21 seconds into the second half earned Sheffield United a draw in their semi-final, first-leg Championship play-off tie with Preston.

Preston had taken a first-half lead when Sean St Ledger latched on to a free-kick to convert from close range.

The home side almost doubled their lead but Jon Parkin headed Ross Wallace's corner against the post.

The Blades had several chances to equalise but it was Howard's volley from 10 yards that rescued them.

The visitors started brightly with Jamie Ward going close in the fourth minute.

Ward received the ball with his back to goal and turned his marker superbly before firing a low drive against the outstretched legs of keeper Andy Lonergan.

Despite that early pressure from the Blades it was Preston who opened the scoring with centre-back St Ledger breaking the deadlock after 20 minutes.


St Ledger latched on to a floated free-kick that was headed on into his path and the defender coolly side-footed past Paddy Kenny from close range.

United appealed for offside but replays appeared to show that St Ledger was onside as he received the ball courtesy of a flick-on from United's Nick Montgomery.

Soon after, Greg Halford went close for United with a half volley, while Stephen Quinn forced a fine near-post save from Lonergan.

Just after the half-hour Parkin should have put Preston further ahead, but the big centre-forward headed Wallace's corner against the upright from close range.

It was a glorious chance and Sheffield United almost made Preston pay when Ward's goal-bound shot was deflected over by St Ledger just before the break.

Sean St Ledger
Sean St Ledger had given Preston a first-half lead

Only seconds into the second half the visitors pulled level as Howard volleyed home after Preston had failed to deal with Kenny's initial long ball.

United continued to press and Craig Beattie should have then given the Blades the lead, but the second-half substitute fired over from close range.

Late on Howard forced a fine save off Lonergan but in injury time it looked as if the visitors would return to Bramall Lane on Monday with a lead.

Beattie found himself with just Lonergan to beat but from a tight angle he fired against the legs of the Preston keeper.

Preston manager Alan Irvine:
"There were times when we played well so that makes me positive.

"We are still in contention and I said that was the most important thing ahead of the game.

"We know it will be a difficult game at Bramall Lane but we've played difficult games all season and still won.

"We hoped to test Paddy Kenny more but once we got the goal we didn't push on from there."

Sheffield United boss Kevin Blackwell:

"We had to make sure we went back to Bramall Lane with something to play for and we have.

"I've got a great set of players. They didn't panic, we kept the ball well and I'm delighted with the response of the players.

"I was disappointed with the goal but at half-time I said to the players to continue as they had left off and it was great to get the equaliser so soon."

Preston: Lonergan, Jones, Mawene, St. Ledger, Nolan, Sedgwick, McKenna, Carter (Nicholson 70), Wallace, Parkin, Mellor (Brown 77).
Subs Not Used: Neal, Chilvers, Elliott.

Booked: Carter.

Goals: St. Ledger 21.

Sheff Utd: Kenny, Walker, Morgan, Kilgallon, Naughton, Montgomery, Howard, Stephen Quinn, Halford, Henderson (Beattie 54), Ward (Lupoli 74).
Subs Not Used: Bennett, Cotterill, Bromby.

Booked: Kilgallon, Montgomery, Lupoli.

Goals: Howard 46.

Att: 19,840

Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).

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see also
Friday football as it happened
08 May 09 |  Football

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