ORIENT fought hard to earn a point in an impressive performance on a crisp night at Bramall Lane.
Considering the calibre of opposition, and coming off the back of a week to forget, Russell Slade’s side showed great character and a perfectly executed game plan to frustrate the title-chasing Blades and in the end could well have returned to London with all three points.
Following Saturday’s defeat against Crawley Town, Slade opted for a different shape as he played Shaun Batt up front on his own with a midfield five behind him as Odubajo and Smith returned to the starting line-up.
It was a move that appeared to pay off as Orient controlled the first half and looked like the side challenging for the title.
They started brightly and retained the ball patiently throughout, frustrating the home side.
With seven minutes gone Dean Cox linked well with Lloyd James and cut in from the left to curl a shot which went straight at home keeper George Long.
With 13 minutes gone the game sparked into life. Firstly the Blades almost grabbed the lead when the O’s failed to clear a Barry Robson corner and Neill Collins almost stabbed the loose ball home.
From the resulting goal-kick Orient broke quickly and when Cox lofted a ball through for Shaun Batt he did well to hold off a challenge and get a shot away which brought the best from Long who dived low to his right to save.
The home fans were frustrated as Orient continued to move the ball excellently and press and hassle the Blades when they were without it.
With 28 minutes played Nathan Clarke headed wide a Cox corner and then Cox himself came close with a dipping volley from 25 yards.
Jamie Jones had precious little to do in the first half but claimed a number of crosses well and Orient were the superior side heading into the interval.
It was the home side that were quicker out of the blocks from the restart and almost got themselves in front early in the second half when Dominic Poleon beat Jones from a Robson cross but his effort rolled just wide of the post.
Ten minutes later and Orient had their best chance to score. The impressive Romain Vincelot played a sharp one-two with Jimmy Smith on the edge of the Blades penalty and burst into the box before his shot was well saved by Long. The rebound fell to substitute David Mooney but Long was quick to his feet to deny the Irishman.
Orient continued to frustrate the home fans as they kept the ball for long periods and forced the home side into a more direct brand of football.
It almost worked for Danny Wilson’s side with 71 minutes gone when a long free-kick fell to the feet of Ryan Flynn who hit a shot that bounced back off the post with Jones beaten.
As the half wore on, both sides could smell three points and the last ten minutes were a frantic affair with first of all Mooney bending one past Long but just wide and then Michael Doyle almost snatched it for the Blades but his shot from distance was tipped over brilliantly by Jones.
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Long; Higginbotham, Maguire, Collins, McMahon; Flynn, Doyle (C), McDonald, Robson (De Girolamo – 72); Poleon (McFadzean – 63), Kitson (Cresswell – 72)
SUBS: Westlake, Hill, Ironside, Coyne
ORIENT: Jones; McSweeney, Clarke (C), Baudry, Cuthbert; Cox, Smith, Vincelot, James, Odubajo; Batt (Mooney – 56)
SUBS: Griffith, Grainger, MacDonald, Obafemi, Cook, Omozusi
ATTENDANCE: 16,540 (163)
REFEREE: P. Gibbs