Sheffield United close to top flight return

Greg Halford sent Sheffield United into the Championship play-off final with the only goal to dash Preston's dreams at Bramall Lane on Monday, wrapping up a 2-1 aggregate victory.

Kevin Blackwell's team started as slight favourites after holding their rivals to a 1-1 draw in the opening game and former Sunderland misfit Halford raised the roof as he sent the Blades through to a final against Burnley or Reading at Wembley on 25 May. United had dominated the first game at Deepdale but Halford finally finished the job with his header on the hour from Kyle Walker's cross.

Craig Beattie missed a gilt-edged chance to make it 2-0 and then United breathed a sigh of relief when at the other end Howard cleared a Billy Jones effort off the line before injuring his Achilles to put his own participation in the final in doubt. Tens of millions of pounds are riding on the play-off final with a Premiership place at stake.