Walsall 0 Sheffield United 1
By Andy Clarke
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Jack Lester scored a second half penalty to keep Sheffield United's hopes of reaching the play-offs alive and push Walsall closer to relegation to the Second Division.
The Blades had lost four of their previous five games and a damaging nine of the last 16 to slip out of the play-off frame, but they go into Friday's crucial home game with Ipswich just a point outside the top six and knowing that a win would lift them above Joe Royle's team.
For Walsall a fourth successive defeat coupled with Gillingham's win at Wimbledon leaves them in the bottom three and needing to take something from games against Palace and Rotherham to save themselves from the drop.
Ian Roper's challenge on Lester in the penalty area led to the only goal of the game, but it was the visitors who had the bulk of the chances in a scrappy match.
Michael Tonge twice fired over from distance in the early stages, before Andy Gray headed straight at James Walker from Rob Kozluk's cross.
Walker then held Tonge's 20-yard free-kick and then saved again from the United midfielder, who was in the thick of the action.
Walsall upped the pace towards the end and Matty Fryatt was desperately unlucky to see his blistering drive superbly turned away by Paddy Kenny.
Lee Bradbury twice headed wide but United substitute Izale McLeod could have doubled the margin of victory with a right-foot drive that was narrowly over.