Conor Coady netted both goals as Sheffield United beat Crawley Town 2-0 to keep alive their slim play-off hopes while just about ending their hosts’ own top six aspirations.
In a close game at the Broadfield the Blades were simply more clinical, midfielder Coady profiting from a poor clearance from Reds defender Kyle McFadzean to give the visitors a half-time lead and then doubling his and his side’s lead with a fine volley in the second half.
Gregory’s side were much improved from the defeat at Oldham on Saturday, though were reduced to half chances as they suffered back-to-back defeats to drop two places to 14th in the League One table, while the Blades moved up to tenth.
Gregory named two changes from Saturday’s defeat at Oldham, Sergio Torres made only his second league start of the season and first since December 29, while Dannie Bulman also came in having been rested. Sullay Kaikai dropped to the bench while Josh Simpson (hamstring) was missing.
The Blades made three changes from their defeat at Wolves, in came Chris Porter, Stephen McGinn and Ben Davies.
Reds defender McFadzean was a whisker away from scoring against his boyhood club after only three minutes with a glancing header from a devilish Billy Clarke free kick.
The home side continued to dominate the early possession with some nice one-touch football reminiscent more against Wolves then against Oldham, though they failed to test Blades keeper Mark Howard and against the run of play the visitors were gifted the opening goal on 19 minutes.
Jamie Murphy bombed down the left but the danger appeared to be gone when his cross was easily cut out by McFadzean. The centre back’s weak attempted clearance though went straight to Coady inside the area and he fired his side into the lead.
Looking for a response, Clarke teed up Andy Drury from a free kick from just outside the box and the midfielder drilled low into the side netting with some of the home crowd believing it had crept in.
The next opening didn’t arrive until four minutes from half-time when a lovely piece of skill from Mark Connolly won Crawley a corner, which then deflected into the defender’s path but from just inside the box he slashed his shot well over with the goal gaping.
Neither side made a change during half-time and ten minutes into the second half Crawley broke with men over. Mike Jones saw a shot deflect right to Drury, but his low strike across goal was saved by the boot of goalkeeper Howard and the rebound came at Matt Tubbs too quickly and he could only turn it over.
Just as in the first half when Reds were on top, Sheffield United attacked on the break and scored with only their second chance.
Crawley gave away possession in the middle too easily and impressive winger Murphy scuttled down the left touchline and sent over a hanging cross which Coady crashed home expertly on the volley for his second goal of the evening.
Gregory immediately responded by throwing on striker Jamie Proctor in place of Torres and he nearly had an impact.
From his threaded through ball for Tubbs, Blades centre back Neill Collins nearly turned the ball into his own net. And from the corner the ball was played in to Proctor, he chested and volleyed at goal, forcing a good save from Howard. Still the danger wasn’t gone and McFadzean headed just wide at the near post.
At the other end Ben Davies curled an effort not too far wide of the far post before Sheffield United had a strong penalty shout waved away when Freeman went down under Mark Connolly’s challenge. And with the visitors looking to kill the game, Davies was denied by a fine stop from Paul Jones from inside the box at the death.
REDS: Paul Jones; Mat Sadler, Mark Connolly, Kyle McFadzean, Joe Walsh; Sergio Torres (Proctor 65), Mike Jones, Andy Drury, Dannie Bulman; Billy Clarke; Matt Tubbs (Fallon 80).
Subs: Rory Fallon, Jamie Proctor, Sullay Kaikai, Hiram Boateng, Johnny Maddison, Gary Dicker, Paul Connolly.
Blades: Mark Howard, John Brayford, Harry Maguire, Michael Doyle, Chris Porter, Stephen McGinn, Neill Collins, Conor Coady, Ben Davies (Dimaio 90), Jamie Murphy, Kieron Freeman.
Subs: Ryan Flynn, Jose Baxter, Billy Paynter, Stefan Scougall, George Long, Otis Khan, Connor Dimaio.