Sheffield United missed out on the chance to move top of the Sky Bet Championship as Joe Allen’s 88th-minute free-kick earned Stoke a point in a 1-1 draw at Bramall Lane.
Leon Clarke’s first goal of the season had put the Blades in front but they could not hold on.
The hosts started on the front foot and within minutes some sloppy defending allowed John Fleck to strike from just outside the area, but fortunately for Stoke his effort was deflected over the crossbar.
Stoke had their first effort on goal in the 11th minute. Tom Ince tried to catch goalkeeper Dean Henderson out at his near post from a corner, but the Irishman was alert and caught with ease.
The Blades went at the Potters again and neat play sent Mark Duffy in behind and he pulled the ball back for Fleck. The defensive midfielder fluffed his lines, though, and his first-time effort went straight across the face of goal.
Cuco Martina was sent clear down the right-hand side and he sent over a perfect cross to Benik Afobe but he could only direct his free header straight at Henderson.
Chris Wilder’s men had Stoke firmly on the back foot as the half went on.
Early in the second half, Fleck aimed a good cross to David McGoldrick at the back-post and he forced Jack Butland into a great save at point-blank range.
Moments later, full-back Enda Stevens was played in behind Stoke’s defence and curled a dangerous effort across the face of goal. Clarke, on the stretch, could not get a touch and the ball went behind.
Butland was called into action again when a long ball found McGoldrick inside the final third. He neatly cut inside and forced the England international into a smart save at his near post.
The hosts were quicker out the blocks at the start of the second half.
An impressive exchange between Clarke and Kieron Freeman allowed Duffy half a chance from four yards as, crowded out, he could only force another comfortable save from Butland.
The relentless pressure finally paid off in the 70th minute. Oliver Norwood’s powerful free-kick came back off Butland’s near post and Clarke was alert to poke the ball into an empty net.
That sparked Stoke into life and Allen weaved his way to the edge of the box before threading the ball to Ince who cut inside again, only to see his effort go well wide of the far post.
There was a twist with time running out as Stoke snatched a surprise equaliser.
Wales international Allen struck a great free-kick that went under the wall and beat Henderson at his near post to grab the Potters a point.
Chris Wilder: “We’ve been outstanding. We’ve taken on a side full of international players, Premier League players, big fees, big wages and we’ve totally dominated that game. The way we’ve played, we’ve totally dominated it.
“Peter Crouch has done what an experienced man from the Premier League does, he’s done it to better teams than us with the free-kick. There’s a touch, minimum contact and he’s gone down. That’s probably the most powerful club we’ll play this year…and we’re going toe-to-toe with them.”
Gary Rowett: “At 70 minutes, if you’d seen a manager throw himself off a gantry, you’d have seen that would probably be me.I think we started a little bit too tentatively and while Sheffield didn’t create too many clear-cut chances, they put us under pressure.
“We were a little bit too passive first half. We went a goal behind and it was a poor goal to concede. Three of their players follow the ball in, one of ours follows and they end up with a tap-in from the free-kick. We actually responded really well, like we have done this season so many times. We responded with an urgency that perhaps we lacked early on in the game.”
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