United won the game relatively comfortable even if the performance was professional rather than totally convincing. A first half goal from Chris Porter was added to by a fortunate deflected effort that went off Ched Evans backside before an own goal from an Evans cross. Salisbury kept plugging away and got a consolation near the end from an impressive strike to give their excellent away following something to cheer.
The Blades fielded a strong line-up with the only change being Lee Williamson coming back in for Stephen Quinn who was not in the match day squad of 18. Danny Wilson once again opted not to start with James Beattie leaving him on the bench alongside Long, Montgomery, Cresswell, Williams, McAllister and youngster Chapell. Salisbury manager Darryl Clarke decided to play himself as the visitors looked to cause the shock of the third round day being 147 places down the football pyramid in comparison to United’s 47th.
After a minute’s applause for former Blades loanee Gary Ablett, the game began with United well on top and forced City back early. Ertl played in Evans who had a shot blocked and the then McDonald also had an effort that was scrambled clear. Evans almost scored when his fierce effort from inside the box was blocked by his own man Porter when it looked goal bound. Maguire hit a long range shot well over and it was all United as they faced a decidedly defensive formation with Salisbury beginning the game with often 9 players behind the ball!
However, United at times tried to get it forward too quickly though and needed a touch more patience but often the frustrated crowd groaned despite United’s domination as the final ball was not quite as precise as it should have been. Keeper Scott had his first real save to make as the palmed away Collins header from a corner.
On 18 minutes the Blades took the lead. McDonald cleverly played in Williamson who advanced before releasing PORTER down the left hand channel. The striker took a touch, steadied himself before drilling the ball through the legs of the advancing keeper and into the middle of the goal.
Salisbury then came out and had two efforts with a shot from Clarke into the midriff of Simonsen and then Reid shot well over the bar. United then had further opportunities with Flynn’s long ranger held by Scott and then Porter’s header from Flynn’s delicate chipped cross being palmed over the bar from the keeper.
A superb ball from Evans; hit first time on the volley; led to a half chance for Flynn but Salisbury got enough men back to deny the opportunity. Evans then had a chance from a free kick after a foul on Williamson but the dead ball went the wrong side of the post this time. McDonald then ran past three men before opting not to shoot but when the ball eventually came back to him he fired wildly over when well positioned. The final chance saw Williamson put in a good cross firing across the box but the ball deflected off Porter via a defender. In all likelihood a goal would probably have been disallowed for offside.
The half time whistle came not long after and despite United’s domination they had only failed to add further goals.
After the interval, Williamson wasted one cross but then put another better delivery in but Porter’s effort was deflected wide. The second half was only 6 minutes in when manager Wilson opted to make a double change with Beattie and Cresswell coming on for Porter and Flynn. Cresswell went wide left with Beattie partnering Evans up front.
A real scrappy spell of play will have suited the visitors as United could not get any fluency to their play or passing and a few tackles started to fly in as City had more territory for a spell than they had enjoyed all game. They did not really create much and United soon started to advance back up the field.
Webb was then booked for a foul on Beattie and on the hour United doubled their advantage. Francois’s shot ricocheted around the area and came to Evans who got not get an effort away before McDonald hit the shot but it did not seem as if it was goal bound until it hit EVANS who inadvertently deflected the ball into the net. It was a touch on the fortunate side as Evans fortunate scoring streak continued.
Salisbury made a double change with Losasso and Macklin came on for Reid and Fitchett but it was still mostly United and Evans, Beattie and Doyle all had chances blocked in an almighty scramble. The third goal came when Evans collected the ball down the right hand side and drove at the defenders. He hit a low cross across the goal and defender WEBB could only slice the ball into his own net. It was reminiscent of the goals Evans made for own goals at Bournemouth.
Ertl had a long range effort and then Evans had a shot deflected wide as the non league side were now really starting to tire. United took off the disappointing Williamson replacing him with young winger Chapell who went into a position wide right. United continued to pour forward but some poor passing or choice of ball meant they could not add further goals despite their being so much space. Maguire continued to repel any attacks the visitors had but to their credit Salisbury kept going and out of the blue got a goal from a well taken individual strike. United sloppily gave the ball away and substitute MACKLIN made a yard of space from the edge of the box before hitting a low daisy cutter beyond Simonsen’s right hand and into the corner. The away fans celebrated wildly and it was if they had scored the winning goal!
Somehow four minutes of additional time was put up on the board despite their barely being any stoppages the whole second half. United had further chances in this time. Evans missed a close range effort that Scott saved, Beattie then had a shot saved when his first touch took it too far in front of him after Evans had played him in and then Evans audaciously tried a chip from fully 40 yards that the keeper got back to save. The final whistle came not long as many United fans stayed in to warmly applaud the visitors’ players and fans for their efforts in a valiant effort.
United – I thought we were very ordinary today and at times seemed to just stroll through the game which was disappointing. Yes, we did enough to win and could have had maybe 7 or 8 goals with better finishing and the keeper making several saves (we had 24 efforts on goal and 19 on target!). However, I just felt we were sloppy with the ball at times, played it too long and lacked the care in the final third with the final ball or finish. The movement of players was also not as good as in recent games with many players often stationary or too stagnant. The defence had little to play against but the two full backs did not get forward as much as I would have liked (JFL did more in second half) and we clearly missed Lowton as an attacking threat. I thought Doyle did ok again, McDonald at times looked the best player on the pitch with his touch and passing but both of those were sloppy too at times. Flynn did well with a few good crosses but took too long to make decisions on another couple of occasions. Williamson was really poor and his attitude is disappointing to say the least as he troops around with his head down after he gives the ball away. Evans showed some lovely touches and he too looked above anything else in terms of strikers on the pitch with his control and ability to make space. He too should have been clinical in front of goal. I thought that Porter was really poor again despite his goal.
In terms of the team performance it just lacked the cohesion, sharpness and often we went long too often when short, sharp passing against such a team would have led to more goals. When we got it down and played it we looked like we would get in on goal every time. It was weird as I felt we went forward too quickly in terms of hitting it too long but when we got in the last third were often slow or too deliberate instead of releasing overlapping players or lacked the movement from players getting beyond the strikers. Everything seemed a bit stagnant and as if they knew we would win so they would not bother making that extra run or extra pass and just played it in the general area of Evans and then fed off the bits and pieces. Often it was enough against a team like Salisbury but would not have been against better teams. Many if our chances came from just weight of pressure and the amount of ball played into the last third which led to shots being deflected or saved. Maybe I am being too harsh but I don’t think we were great today and a more assured, polished performance would have led to a 6 or 7-0 win.
I will say that the pitch is in an awful state. Yes, we have had some rain fall and we have had some really bizarre weather but we have not had the snow we had last year but it is a real mess and does not help us passing the ball and maybe is leading us to go longer at times. Not sure if the rugby league games have affected it or whether there is other circumstances but it is really awful. The bits in the corners (near South Stand and Kop for instance) are in a terrible state. Not sure also before kick off when we have had 2 or 3 days of rain pretty much constantly we were watering the pitch! Bizarre.
We will need to improve for Tuesday or it will be a difficult game. Still all criticism aside we scored 3 goals (2 a tad fortunate) and could have had a lot more I suppose. The defence looked fairly solid again for the most part and we did not get any injuries. It is the type of game where you cannot win in a sense as if you go through everyone expects it. If you lose then it is a major shock. We have been very fortunate with draws this season so hopefully we can get another home tie maybe against a big side this season or conversely an away tie at a big side to swell the coffers.
Salisbury – They gave it a real go and fair play to them. The gulf in divisions was obvious from basics such as passing, touch and organisation but that is not to be nasty to the visitors as they put so much effort into the game. They defended in numbers, got in so many blocks, deflections and clearances to protect their game.
In the first half they sat back and tried to defend and although they only had 1 striker up they managed to do well to limit it to 1-0. They then had a bit of a go early on in the second half and the game was really ugly for a while and they may have thought they had a chance despite not really having any clear efforts on goal. However, after the second the game was effectively over. After this the keeper made some good saves (actually played well all game) and kept the score respectable and United kind of seemed content with it being 3-0. The late goal was a nice send off for the fans and well hit. They did look very tired as the second half went on and you could see many were out on their feet but they did not disgrace themselves and it will be a day that many of the players will remember playing in front of 10,000+ fans.
Simonsen 6/10 – Had little to do really. Saved a routine shot in the first half and his handling was fine. He did come for a cross and punch it downwards but got away with it. He also at times failed to come off his line when he could have come and collected through balls but stayed and Maguire and Collins had to clear. I used to be a keeper and I would be a little disappointed with the goal too as he was a little slow down and maybe if he could have took a couple of steps and then dived rather than just diving straight away. I will take another look on the replay as maybe I am being harsh.
Ertl 6/10 – He did not convince me today unfortunately. Quite sloppy in possession and his touch also was up and down. Does not have the pace to advance and get forward when in a game like this he could bomb forward as much as he wanted. I know he is a useful guy to have around playing another of positions but in his 18 months at the club I am yet to be convinced he is that great in any of them!
Francois 7/10 – He is an odd player! He is a bit like Nyron in how he plays (the good Nyron we had on loan the first time!) in that he shows some nice touches, pieces of defending and can also get forward well with good pace and athleticism. However at times he makes some awful mistakes with telegraphed passes or shocking touches. In the first half he was very inconsistent but then had a much better second half and most things he did well including getting forward well.
Maguire 7.5/10 – Thought he was our best defender today and was solid all game. Used his body and ability well to read the game, come out when he could and just clear it when he had to. Made some good tackles and looked very assured. Still had a tendency to go too long at times but that is only fault on his performance.
Collins 7/10 – Another decent game. Did not really have anyone to play against and cannot remember him being as involved as maybe Maguire who the ball seemed to gravitate more to today. However what he did he did with confidence and was assured again. His wait for his first United goal goes on as his header was tipped over in the first half.
Doyle 6.5/10 – He went about his job again. Maybe he was not quite as ‘at it’ as he has been but then he won a lot of loose ball and kept it fairly simple. Some passing did go astray today but most of the time he found a red and white shirt even if he was not that adventurous.
McDonald 7.5/10 – A few passes did not come off and for a man with decent technique his shooting and goal scoring record is abject but he was the most creative player on the pitch. He always seems to know where his teammates are and can always make a yard of space. Adept at playing balls short and long and a fine exponent of the cross field pass too helping us switch play when we could. A game like today against players that probably don’t have fitness/stamina/athleticism of league players and also allow time on the ball was tailor made for him.
Flynn 6.5/10 – Had an ok first half and was involved in many of our better attacks often getting in some good crosses that led to chances. Had another good shot that was well saved. He did take a bit too long at times to make decisions; either getting down the side or playing others in and does definitely lack pace but he has been much better in recent times. Maybe he got a knock but there were others I would have taken off before him and it seemed odd so early in the second half.
Williamson 5/10 – Thought he was abject most of the game with the only saving grace being his run and pass for the goal and maybe 1 or 2 other decent crosses amidst about 20 awful ones! His touch and general apathy was poor and he did not seem bothered for much of the game. Then suddenly did and got himself stupidly booked. He does seem to think he is much better than he is and needs to start working harder but also his crossing/passing for a guy with a lot of talent has to be better than it was today. A talented but maddeningly inconsistent player.
Evans 7/10 – Again showed real flashes of class such as the first time cross field volleyed ball and a few lovely bits of control. His finishing was not the best today and had 1 or 2 chances he ought to have scored. The one right at the end was at point blank range but a good save. Maybe it is the opponents we are facing these days but he seems to have gained an extra yard of pace (you only seem to hear about players losing this mythical half a yard!) and seems a lot quicker! He went past players a few times just pushing it and running and seems full of confidence. Still very concerned we may lose him in the next 3 weeks before the end of January.
Porter 6/10 – Yes he scored with a toe poked finish under the keeper and had another header saved but he still did not do enough for me and was often always offside or too slow to react to the ball coming forward. Once when Evans played him in he gave his man a 2 yard start and still did not get it; the player missed his clearance and Porter ran past the ball. Lacks touch, pace and more than these things a football brain.
Beattie 6/10 – Came on and was given nearly 40 minutes. Did he do enough? Well I was a little disappointed but then he had little service. At times he showed some neat touches but I felt he did not get involved enough and seemed slow at times. He missed a good chance at the end when played in. He was getting held and battered by the big centre half but against Salisbury I thought he would shine like a beacon but that did not really happen and everything continued to go through Evans. I thought he would have started today and cannot understand why he did not? I would suggest if Evans goes he may stay a bit longer (maybe contract to the end of the season) but if Evans stays he may not be signed. Just a gut feeling. Wilson spoke of how on his day he is as good as anything but also said the game moves on (basically age catches up with you) when discussing Beattie. He has not had games but Wilson sees him every day in training and obviously he still feels he is not first team material. Sadly I fear it will just fizzle out for him. I hope I am wrong.
Cresswell 5/10 – Brought on wide left and cannot recall him doing anything of note at all! He did not get in the game and when he did he often made the wrong decisions or overran the ball. He is clearly much better up front than in this position.
Chapell – Played wide left. Looks quite frail (not young either in terms of breaking through terms – 20) but got stuck in. Did not have much time to impress and overran one ball out of play in his short spell on the pitch.
Officials – Relatively easy game to referee. The lad in the first half who chopped Williamson down ought to have been booked and then he booked Williamson for a similar style tackle in the second half! The booking he made for Salisbury was for a clumsy foul on
Crowd/Atmosphere – It was a decent crowd considering what we got against Oxford (Torquay crowd was higher due to what had happened with Gary Speed) despite no atmosphere at all from United fans (suppose it was hard to get excited and always little noise when they only open the two side stands). Salisbury took around 1,750 I would estimate and were really supportive of their team and sang loud and proud throughout. They celebrated the goal wildly and gave them a standing ovation at the end. United’s fans were also sporting clapping the goal and their performance too. Only negative was them throwing a bottle on towards Simonsen’s goal when we scored a goal. The stewards gathered but there was no police in the ground I saw and nothing really happened but it was a daft thing to do.