A spirited Sheffield United side battled to a point against Division One leaders Fulham at a soaking Bramall Lane this evening as Jean Tigana’s side extended their lead at the top of the table to six points.

The Londoners might light of challenging playing conditions to take the lead through a sparkling individual strike from full back Steve Finnan but the Blades hit back with a leveller from Laurent D’Jaffo just four minutes later. The torrential rain made it difficult for either side to play fluent football, especially in the closing stages, and what had been a watchable encounter petered out into a draw. The visitors finished the stronger but couldn’t force a winner as United’s stubborn defence held firm to earn a share of the spoils.

Fulham could have been in front inside the first minute when Simon Tracey saved brilliantly from Barry Hayles with his legs, but they broke the deadlock through a moment of brilliance from Finnan three minutes later. The right back seized upon a loose ball midway inside the Blades’ half and set off down the right flank. The Blades defence stood off him and so the former Notts County defender darted in field, drifting away from three would be tacklers, before stroking a superb finish past Tracey in the home goal. It was a piece of artistry one might have expected from the likes of Louis Saha or Luis Boa Morte, but Finnan’s composure in a scoring position showed just what a sense of adventure Tigana has imbued in his side.

The Frenchman’s pleasure at such a brilliant opening goal was replaced by disappointment at how easily his charges let their opponents back into the contest shortly afterwards. The Blades were level in the eighth minute when Michael Brown was allowed to burst into the Fulham box untracked and the midfielder picked out D’Jaffo, who hit the crossbar with a rasping drive but was quickest to the rebound and buried a tough chance from an acute angle with the aid of a deflection.

The goal galvanised the Blades and Maik Taylor was forced into a brilliant reaction save to keep out a fierce header by Marcus Bent from a corner. The Fulham goalkeeper then thwarted George Santos at his near post before holding a header from D’Jaffo when it looked easier for the striker to score his second from a precise Paul Devlin cross. The Cottagers roused themselves after that period of home pressure and Fabrice Fernandes should have restored their lead before the break having tricked his way towards the six-yard box but his tame shot was smartly saved by Tracey.

After the interval, Finnan nearly repeated his wondergoal from the first half with another barnstorming right down the right flank but was a whisker away with this rising drive and, even after sending on Luis Boa Morte as a substitute, the league leaders were unable to force a late winner as they dominated possession.

SHEFFIELD UNITED (4-4-2): Tracey; Uhlenbeek, Quinn, Curle, Murphy; Woodhouse, Brown, Devlin, Santos; Bent, D’Jaffo (Suffo 68). Subs (not used): Sandford, Ribeiro, Kelly, Montgomery.

BOOKED: Devlin, Murphy, Brown, Uhlenbeek, Curle, Santos.

GOAL: D’Jaffo (8).

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Coleman; Davis, Clark (Trollope 73), Goldbaek (Symons 73), Fernandes; Saha (Boa Morte 61), Hayles. Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Sahnoun.

BOOKED: Trollope.

GOAL: Finnan (4).

REFEREE: Paul Reijer (Tipton).