Sheffield United 3 (Clarke 13, 42, Sharp 20)
Bradford City 0
Monday 17th April 2017 | Sky Bet League One | Bramall Lane
The Bantams were comfortably beaten at the hands of the Sky Bet League One Champions Sheffield United this Monday afternoon. Leon Clarke opened the scoring early on to set the Blades on their way before Billy Sharp soon doubled the advantage. The first half was certainly one to forget and Clarke added his second and United's third just before the interval. City improved after the break but this was to be Sheffield United's day, two games remain for Stuart McCall's side to make sure of a place in the top six.
John Fleck was a nominee for the divisional player of the season award and he came close to opening the scoring early on; his powerfully struck cross-shot almost catching out Colin Doyle at his near post. Timothee Dieng, who was later to be sacrificed as an early substitution for a change of tactics, saw a shot in the box blocked after James Meredith had worked hard to engineer the opening before Jack O'Connell threatened down the other end, seeing a header from Fleck's corner held onto by Doyle.
It took under a quarter of an hour for Sheffield United to take the lead and the goal came through Leon Clarke. Forward from the back, O'Connell ventured into the box and fed the ball into the path of Clarke who swept a first time shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Daniel Lafferty was the next to threaten shortly afterwards, but his looping header from Mark Duffy's clipped cross into the box looped over the bar and landed on the roof of the net. With United well on top, they doubled their advantage through their skipper, Billy Sharp. The former Leeds United forward scored in the reverse fixture at Valley Parade earlier in the season and he finished brilliantly into the corner from a tight angle after Fleck had ended a run into the box with a ball into the path of the division's leading marksman.
Midway through the first half, Alex Jones was introduced in place of Timothee Dieng and he looked lively from the moment he stepped onto the pitch; in fact he came close to turning Mark Marshall's low cross into the box just a few minutes after coming on.
Charlie Wyke had his first real sniff at a goalscoring opportunity shortly before the half-hour mark; Marshall, who was probably City's best player on a miserable afternoon, delivered a cross into the box and Wyke saw a header back across goal flash marginally wide of the post with Simon Moore a rooted spectator.
City huffed and puffed for a spell after going two goals down but ultimately the next goal belonged to Sheffield United. Duffy was a key figure in Burton Albion's promotion to the Championship last season and his pass was left by Sharp and that allowed Clarke to thump a shot into the roof of the net from 12 yards out just before the half-time break.
The first chance of the second half belonged to Tony McMahon. The City defender, who of course had a spell at Bramall Lane as a Sheffield United player, tried a dipping shot from 20 yards out and the ball had to be pushed precariously behind for a corner kick.
Clarke already had a brace and Sharp looked for a moment to be scoring his second of the afternoon with just over twenty minutes left on the clock. Kieron Freeman didn't gave up the chase and latched onto some hesitant defending before seeing a low cross find Sharp; fortunately though City conjured up a terrific bit of defending to make sure he couldn't get a shot away.
United's captain kept in search for that second goal and he latched onto Fleck's cross into the box to head the ball towards goal; Colin Doyle was on hand though to hold onto the ball at the second attempt. Rory McArdle was the next to deny Sharp, recovering well to make a block after the Blades forward had turned away from him to try a shot from a tight angle.
The hosts went on to secure inevitable victory, though City did come close late on to at least writing their names on the scoresheet. Jones worked tirelessly down the right hand side and showed good close control to creating an opening for McMahon but he lashed a shot over the bar from a tight angle to leave Simon Moore's goal unscathed.