In an incredible game, United started well with a goal from Leon Clarke after good work from John Fleck. However, suddenly after a Carter Vickers howler gifted a goal to Ojo and a fine strike from Ryan Sessengnon the Blades were 2-1 down. Clarke hit back with another strike but then Sessengnon scored another and incredibly it was 3-2. United went for it in the second half but further goals from Ojo and Sessengnon on the break; for his hat trick; saw the game seemingly done and dusted at 5-2. However, it is not in United’s make up to lie down and Carruthers and then Clarke again; with another hat trick; made it 5-4. The late comeback did not see a fifth United goal and Fulham took all three points in an incredibly entertaining game.
It was the first time United had let 5 goals in since Chris Wilder has been manager and doubled the amount they had conceded so far, this season at home. It was also Fulham’s first win at the Lane since 1985 and the days of Ian Porterfield.
Missing Paul Coutts for the season, manager Chris Wilder unsurprisingly replaced him with John Lundstram in midfield. There was a place for James Hanson on the bench. Fulham had Kevin McDonald back from suspension but talented midfielder Johansen was only given a place on the bench.
The game began with Fulham set up with a three-pronged attack with Ojo, Sessegnon and Ayite all in the forward positions. The visitors had plenty of the ball early on and there were a few sloppy moments from United on the ball but gradually the home side started to come into it and on 6 minutes they took the lead. Duffy played it on to Fleck who advanced into the attacking area and hit a driven shot that Button could only parry and CLARKE was onto it and converted from close range.
Fulham came back instantly and after sloppy marking, they cut in past Stevens and Blackman had to make a great save to deny Ojo at point blank range. The game saw both teams have a lot of time on the ball and O’Connell nearly got in on the left for United before Sessengnon did likewise for Fulham.
Fleck picked up a nasty knock in a clash of heads and needed a bandage to carry on after going down and needing quite a period of treatment.
A stunning passage of play saw the game turn on its head on the half hour. First a horrendous error by Carter Vickers saw his back pass woefully short and OJO latched on and coolly tucked it past Blackman. The Fulham fans had only just stopped celebrating when they had a second. This was a well-made goal with smart passing involving a number of players after the initial United slip in midfield. SESSEGNON advanced and hit a low shot that was right into the far corner giving Blackman no chance.
Frederick and Sharp got tangled up and both were booked for this altercation but soon after it was 2-2. Lundstram made a good interception on Ojo. Stevens carried it forward and after Fleck touched on, CLARKE cut in and fired a low shot under Button. The keeper should have done better and on both goals had some culpability.
Fulham went straight back up the other end and soon were ahead again. This time it came down the United left with O’Connell and Stevens giving Ojo way too much time and his cross was converted smartly by SESSEGNON for his second at the back post. Carter Vickers and Basham both pointed at each other as the youngster stole in. United’s first half defending was wretched but Fulham’s speed of play on the break and the passing/movement had torn them apart at times.
Lundstram was booked after Cairney drifted away from him twice with some lovely skill and then harp’s give away nearly saw Fulham break again. Duffy overplayed on two occasions and then Basham cut not keep the ball in after some good work from Fleck.
After 7 minutes of stoppage time, the fans went for their half time break having seen 5 goals and end to end action. It was the sloppiest half United have offered since Cardiff back in early August. They had never got to grips with the speed of the Fulham counter but at the other end Fulham’s defence had been equally poor.
The second half saw United have long spells with the ball but it often slowed down and sadly with Coutts prompting and Duffy off his game; it was too slow to be put forward and often kept having to be recycled. Fulham slowed it down when they could and the referee did not penalise blatant timewasting that occurred on several occasions.
Ayite nearly got in on the break but saved and then clever work from Cairney saw him break away. United were having a lot more of the ball but with Clarke having to work a lone furrow and Sharp not being able to have an impact; there were few chances coming. Brooks and Carruthers came on for Carter Vickers and Duffy as United went with a 4-4-2 formation and seemed determined to throw men forward. Sadly, this led to Fulham breaking well and twice O’Connell and then Wright had to make tackles. Fleck then did the same as Fulham threatened once again with speed of play from picking off United’s misplaced passes.
United kept on plugging away but nothing was really happening in terms of goal mouth action and after Kamara went on, he instantly broke away and set up a fourth. He chased forward and had a shot blocked but OJO reacted first and hit a shot that deflected slightly off Lundstram and into the corner beating Blackman at his near post. This seemed the decisive moment in the game.
Hanson came on for Wright and he nearly scored after Sharp’s shot was deflected over, from the resultant corner, Hanson headed down but it was hacked off the line. Immediately after this Fulham broke and scored a 5th goal. Once again United had men forward but the pacy players the visitors had meant they always were causing problems. SESSEGNON ran away and beat Lundstram and drilled beautifully into the corner. It was a brilliant hat trick with three superb strikes and sent large swathes of the home fans heading for the exits.
Brooks was trying to go at men but twice he had appeals for free kicks turned away despite clear fouls although his appeal for a spot kick seemed a little bit ambitious. Still with five minutes to play Carruthers hit a deflected effort that went in via a hefty deflection and there was some hope.
There was six minutes of additional time judged to be played which was actually generous on Fulham considering the time wasting. With two minutes of it played, United got a 4th goal. Sharp sent a cross over and Clarke’s header made it a second hat trick in successive home games. The crowd willed on the Blades but Fulham prevented any further opportunities and eventually the final whistle went ended an incredible contest but one United ultimately came out on the wrong end.
United were sent out of the top two and will be hoping they can bounce back Saturday against Birmingham on the TV game on Saturday evening.