Sheffield United 3-2 Bristol City

Last updated : 25 April 2011 By deadbat_db

Bristol City’s miserable record at Bramall Lane continued as they were defeated by Sheffield United in a game that featured 5 goals, 2 sending’s off, a penalty, an horrendous own goal, a torrential down pour and a late winner for a home grown striker in front of the United Kop. The win keeps United’s faint chances of survival alive; at least for a few more days; but more than that it showed that the Blades do have some promising young players that they can build around for next season when the inevitability of relegation is finally confirmed. This was a game they somehow found themselves behind amidst appalling weather conditions but then were ahead after a flurry of goals and a red card for the visitors seemed in complete control. However, a further piece of poor defending saw City level and United were reduced to ten men. The game was now finely poised until an excellently taken late winner from youngster Jordan Slew past former England keeper David James.

Manager Micky Adams opted to go with youth retaining Maguire and Slew and also bringing in young Irishman David McAllister in the centre of midfield. Left back Mattock returned as did midfielder Williamson with Collins, Riise and Doyle the men to miss out. Quinn and Williamson began on the flanks with Lowton at right back and young Maguire partnering Lowry in the centre of defence. Mid table City had nothing to play for but pride and started with Maynard and Pitman up front with former Blade Jon Stead on the bench.

The game began amidst mixed weather conditions with bright sunshine that had been a feature of the previous few days now joined by showers. United were the first team to show with Slew cutting in and firing a shot that went high and wide. Soon after Quinn got in a good position but his effort was blocked. The home side had enjoyed most of the early running but the visitors won a corner with their first meaningful attack as Simonsen saved low down to push Maynard’s shot away. From this set play they went ahead in remarkable circumstances. The corner from Pitman seemed an easy catch for SIMONSEN but the keeper under no pressure whatsoever somehow managed to palm the ball up into the air towards his own goal and over the line despite Montgomery’s attempts to scoop the ball clear. The linesman flag confirmed the ball had crossed the line. It was a nightmare moment for the keeper whose poor season continued and left most of the ground aghast.

The rain continued to get worse and with the backdrop being hailstones and thunder, the Blades tried to come back from this hammer blow. McAllister had an effort blocked when well positioned and then Henderson should have done better with a far post header after good work from Slew and then Mattock in the build up. Mattock was booked for a silly late challenge on Adomah and the crowd were now beginning to get frustrated as the weather matched their mood. Williamson had a low daisy cutter that went just past James right hand post and then Lowton ought to have done better but his shot bobbled into James’ hands. Untied had been the better team and made most of the running but the ridiculous way they had conceded and poor play in the final third continued to be their undoing. However, they finally were able to get level and once again it was a strange goal. The ball was put into the box and as it bobbled around a clearance from the Bristol City defender struck WILLIAMSON and flew up and over James into the net. United had deserved to be level but it was a fortuitous goal to say the least. This signalled the start of a crazy 5 minutes which saw the Blades create a flurry of chances. It all started when Maynard dived recklessly into a challenge on Lowton that left the United man clutching his ankle. The red card that came from referee D’Urso was not a surprise and neither Maynard nor his teammates made much of an appeal or remonstration. After Lowton had received treatment and was deemed fit to continue; the Blades then took the lead. It came with an initial run and shot from Lowton that was blocked but the ball fell to MCALLISTER and he hit an absolute beauty low past James left hand into the bottom corner. The scorer slid into the puddles in front of the South Stand showing his glee at scoring on his first start for the club.

Soon after the same man came close to scoring again with an outrageous effort from fully 30 yards. His precise effort curled and arced towards the top corner but veteran James made a stunning save full stretch to tip the ball round the angle of bar and post. The sunshine had by now re-emerged once again mirroring the change around in the game in terms of the home team’s positive spell of football and McAllister had another effort that was saved by James. The midfielder was now in a rich vein of form and it seemed like the ball was magnetised to him for the closing stages of the half. A further two corners led to half chances with Slew blocked off and Henderson unable to convert. United were able to go into the break into the lead and with a man advantage they would have been confident to go on and win the game.

The second half began with Keith Millen making a triple substitution with former Blade Stead, Campbell Ryce and Skuse replacing Cisse, Adomah and Woolford. However, making the most of their numerical advantage; United continued in the ascendancy. They had a number of chances to test James but if anything were guilty of overplaying and City almost made them pay when they won a free kick which Pitman struck against Simonsen’s left hand post. After this let off United came back onto the attack and neat link up from the right saw a chance for Lowton but he was flagged offside. Quinn then weaved through but drove wide before Williamson’s low cross was missed by everybody. United seemed like they would kill the game off but more shocking defending led to an equaliser on the hour.

Skipper Montgomery’s wayward pass put Maguire into all sorts of problems and Stead was away and in on goal. The youngster tried to make a last ditch challenge but referee D’Urso ruled his tackle was from behind and a foul and pointed t the spot. To add insult to injury Maguire was given a straight red card and had to troop off on his full home debut. Pitman took the kick and just as he had at Ashton Gate beat Simonsen to leave the game back level at 2-2.

Kozluk came on for Williamson with Lowton moving to centre back drawing boos from the Bramall Lane crowd who clearly wanted United to go for it rather than shore things up at the back. The game as now a 10 v 10 game and was becomingly increasingly open with gaps all over the field. Mattock had a low shot pushed away by James and then Henderson drilled a low shot wide. However, City broke and were suddenly in on goal but Stead was denied by a solid save from Simonsen down to his left. United then came again with Kozluk heading across goal and agonisingly just past the post but not close enough to Henderson for him to convert. The big striker had been drawing the ire of the United crowd for his performance and their mood got worse when they chastised manager Adams once again when he replaced Quinn with Riise. However and the season seemingly slipping away a moment of magic by one of their own ultimately would win the game. A free kick played in was held up by Henderson and as the ball dropped, SLEW hit a tremendous shot past James and into the top corner of the net. The youngster ran to the Kop in jubilation before his teammates engulfed him in celebration. It was a special moment and a rare ray of light in an otherwise disastrous season.

Slew was taken off to a standing ovation as another youngster Philliskirk replaced him before United were able to see off the three minutes of stoppage time with no real anxious moments. The final whistle signalled United still had some hope; albeit slim but more importantly United’s fans had seen some promising young players that they could perhaps build around in years to come.

Bristol City – Thought they looked like they were on their holidays and for the most part were really poor. They were lucky to be winning, lucky to be still in the game in the second half, fortunate to be level and then after this it was anyone’s game. They did hit the post and Simonsen made a couple of saves but I reckon they maybe only had 3 or 4 shots all game. They stood off the ball for the most part and even before they went down to ten men they were second best. The tackle was an odd one as they had not even looked interested in tackling or challenging before this. It was a really poor challenge and came at a bad time after had just levelled. After this City seemed to collapse and we could have had 4 or 5 goals at the end of the first half. In the second half; the Blades were seemingly in control and City sat further and further back; until the penalty and red card. After this they actually came alive again and had as many chances as us in the last 20 minutes as the game became like a basketball game and was very open and almost end to end. They did not deserve anything from the game over the 90 minutes though and justice was probably just about done at the end with the late winner.

To be fair they had nothing to play for and they did not show great urgency nor desire to get forward or create chances ****il the closing stages) but after Simonsen’s howler I thought they may have become more solid and defended resolutely but we got through them rather easily. James made quite a few decent saves but they were soft right down the middle and if the ball had dropped a bit better for us we could have had more goal. The equaliser was fortunate ironically enough but we had had so many half chances, balls in the box, it was inevitable something would drop for United. No one really stood out for Bristol City and regardless of the ten men; the triple substitution showed what Millen thought of his team’s performance. Either that or he was just wanting to rotate things and give everyone a chance in the run in with them having no chance of going up or down.

I have always liked the midfielder Elliott who does a nice job; in the Montgomery mould, but maybe a better user of the ball. Maynard has scored a lot of goals but his challenge was a shocker and we had seen little of him up to that point. Adamoh and Woolford are two natural wide threats but those two also did not get in the game and both were taken off. Their replacements Skuse and Stead were much more lively and the latter showed some of his strong running and willingness to chase across the front line as he helped them back in the game. It does seem Stead does the same wherever he goes though; starting off well, scoring goals and becoming a favourite before tailing off and usually losing his place and then inevitable being sold. It has happened 3 or 4 times now and it is probably more than a co-incidence or down to managers. It is odd as the lad has a lot of talent but seems to lack consistency. It is frustrating that a poor side such as City (although today they had nothing to play for so difficult to judge) are comfortable and we look doomed. You look at the two sides and we are as good if not better on paper but you compare the two keepers for example and you can argue points have been won and lost there and also strikers comparing Maynard to anything we have fielded.

United – We deserved to win the game but it was a really mixed performance. We looked good at times and seemed in control but all so often defensive moments of madness, spells of complete chaos in terms of the pattern/shape of the team and poor choice in the last third ultimately could have cost us another game. We were the better side and then throw away (literally) a comical goal. After this we fight back and take the lead and then it seems like we just need the third to kill them off and unbelievably more defensive lunacy and we are level and have a man sent off. After this it became ragged and we seemed all over the shop (as City did too to be fair) and was like watching park football as we lost our shape and organisation and players seemingly were just doing what they wanted. The substitutions were a little strange too and it seemed like any momentum we had before the leveller was gone completely. At this point it would not have surprised me if we had lost and Stead had a chance to deliver the final nail but Simonsen made a decent save. After this I felt the game would end level but it was a great finish by young Slew and a rare chance to celebrate a Blades win.

As for the team overall; once again it was a mish-mash in terms of individuals’ performances and also the team performance. We played a few nice spells of football, albeit in testimonial style circumstances and under little pressure. We also had a quite a few chances and showed some flashes of good football. We really ought to have killed the game off just before and after half time when we had numerous chances to score more goals but poor crosses or hesitancy from players in the box when they just had to attack the ball stopped us from scoring again. In the middle of the decent parts of the performance; there was still some poor pieces of play and bad decisions from players coupled with heavy touches and sloppy passing saw possession turned over too much.

Still the infusion of youth definitely saw some improvements and maybe these players should have been used well before they have been. It was nice to have a striker who moved across the front line and had pace and good movement to receive the ball or give the chance for it to be played into space. Also we had something different in McAllister, who wanted the ball and tried to play it simply but intelligently. However, more than this he actually had a really good shot on him and could easily had had a hat trick. His goal was a cracker and he nearly had another; that would have been even better; soon after. He looked really positive and was a pleasant surprise after much of the plodders and predictable players we have had in these areas this season. Conversely, for all the positives there were still a lot of negatives unfortunately. Some of the football was really poor and aimless at times and we also lost our shape and seemed to concede acres of space to opponents even when we had a man advantage at times. I can see where some of the fans were coming from when they booed Adams; particularly on the first change as he brought a defender on for a more attacking player. He stated after the game that Williamson could not have played 2 full games in 3 days (not quite sure why – is he incapable of doing this – is he not match fit?) but surely he could have brought on Riise for him or another forward player. I guess he wanted to keep 4 at the back and would argue this but we needed a win and thus should have gone for it. To be honest we still conceded chances so would it have mattered. As for the second change I actually thought Quinn was the poorest he has been for some time and was not in the game that much so not quite sure it deserved such a vocal criticism but that is just my opinion. In terms of the major flaws from the team today; it came from the fact that beside the mixed bag of play and some poor touches, passes and decisions amidst some decent things; it was two experienced players Simonsen and Montgomery that cost us. Also some of the other more experienced players also were as culpable with Henderson chief in frustration.

Going back to the positives; the youngsters did well and it was unfortunate, although naive too, when Maguire brought down Stead. Up to that point he had done well as had other youngsters Lowton, McAllister and Slew as mentioned. They are certainly some pieces to build around and whilst I do not want fans expectations to be too high for these yet; they certainly have the enthusiasm and natural abilities to give us some cheer moving forward. Hopefully with Morgan coming back, a new goalkeeper coming in and maybe a couple more new players arriving we will be able to at least consolidate in the level below next year. I really cannot see us being around the top 6 being honest as we will lose Evans, Monty, Quinn and Henderson in all reality and thus will have a lot of youngsters, inexperienced players and ageing veterans not good enough (Cresswell, Simonsen, Doyle, Collins etc) but hopefully with the enthusiasm and positivity that the young players bring in coupled with the support of the fans for such players we will at least be able to have a more solid side and can stop the rot. My fear is we will struggle in the division below. Anybody who thinks that is a very pessimistic view could be right but I only have to look at our rivals across the city (started the season with a fare deeper, more experienced and dare I say much better looking squad than we will probably have) to see how hard it could be.

Simonsen 2/10 – He made one standard save straight at him before the mistake and then one excellent save low down to deny Stead when it was 2-2. However, unfortunately both of these will be forgotten for the one dreadful moment which kind of summed up his season and United’s. He was completely unopposed and it was a basic catch but somehow he managed to push it the wrong way towards his goal and over the line. I am unsure whether he was trying to punch it, palm it away or what he was doing. Maybe he lost it in the sun, maybe the rain has made his gloves wet! Whatever reason it was an inexcusable mistake that would have been criticised at all levels of football from junior football to football on the park. I could not quite believe what he had done but then he has made mistakes for probably around 10-15 other goals at least this season. He flapped at another couple of corners in the second half showing his total lack of confidence. How he has retained his shirt is beyond me (although Wright and Aksalu’s injuries did not give us too much choice). I would start Long for at least one game if/when our fate is confirmed next week.

Lowton 7/10 – Another decent showing where he once again had to play in more than one position. Began the game at right back and was able to get forward and support some of our best attacks in the first half. Was worried he got seriously injured in the sending off tackle but he was ok. Made a couple of mistakes in the second half after he went to centre back but at this point it seemed errors were becoming contagious across the whole side. Hopefully he can finally bed down and play at right back for the foreseeable future.

Lowry 6/10 – Mixed bag. I do think he had regressed a bit in recent weeks after his fairly solid start to his United career. He is a little clumsy at times and his distribution is poor for the most part. He does the basics well enough in terms of heading and clearing it but now and again he loses concentration or his man and seems to switch off. Unsure whether I would sign him with Maguire coming through and Morgan on his way back hopefully and funds may be better utilised elsewhere. He has been one of the better loan players though.

Maguire 6/10 – He did ok and it was disappointing to see him go off and was not totally his fault. Of course he had to run back and make a challenge but maybe it was a bit naive to dive in when he knew a tackle from behind even if he won the ball would be penalised and lead to a red card. Hopefully he can learn from it in the future. Up to that point he had defended fairly well, attacking the ball with head and foot and doing what we necessary. His distribution was a bit mixed with a few simple passed mixed with a few aimless punts. Shame he will not play again this season. As an aside does that prevent him playing in the Youth Cup Final (certainly first leg maybe) as it covers the span of three first team matches I believe?

Mattock 6/10 – I am still not totally convinced by him. He does a few ok things and has a decent left foot. He put in 2 or 3 really good crosses in the first half and then had a good shot in the second half but he gets in poor positions defensively and gives his winger too much time. Also to say he is a Premiership footballer his touch is really inconsistent with sometimes it sticking and on other occasions it shoots off him.

Williamson 7/10 – An improved performance but whilst this was more like the player we saw last season I did not think he was as outstanding as others have suggested. He showed some good things as he looked to get on the ball and go at people but also too many of his crosses and corners failed to beat the first man. He also was mixed in his possession with a good ball all too often followed by a poor one. He did some good work down the right though in the early stages of the second half and a few of his crosses should have been finished off. Maybe harsh to be taken off and the crowd certainly were not happy but he often struggles to play 90 minutes which is worrying as I alluded to earlier for an experienced footballer who should be in his prime. Is he never going to be able to play full games?

McAllister 7/10 – Liked the look of him just for the fact he offered something different to what we have seen. Neat and tidy on the ball and always looked to move into space. He did not get back much defensively but he showed in an attacking sense what he was all about with a few nice threaded balls and then a whole succession of excellent shots from different angles and ranges. He hit a powerful shot to score and then had a precise curled effort that he nearly scored with. He actually had two more chances at the end of the first half and easily could have had a hat trick. To be critical I thought he faded badly after the break but the whole team had a poor spell when it went 2-2 and confidence seemed to drain. I barely noticed him second half though after a good first half. Hopefully gets a run and can find his feet at this level. We have seen players from similar backgrounds such as Doyle, Hunt (x2) and Long go to Reading and do really wellbut he does need games and to adjust to the pace of this level of football (and the one below!).

Quinn 6/10 – I did not think he was as effective today. He showed some positive pieces of play and always tried to go forward or get on the ball but the game seemed to pass him by for periods and he was not as influential as he has been in some recent games I thought. He still had a good shot that was just wide but too many of his crosses hit the front man or failed to be lifted off the ground.

Montgomery 6/10 – I have been criticised for having a one eyed opinion on Montgomery this season and since such thoughts I have endeavoured to watch him closely and have seen some good things and some bad things. I still maintain he is one of the best players outside the Premiership for his harrying, tackling, running and ability to cover every blade of grass. His desire and work rate remains phenomenal and his fitness levels are off the chart. However, his passing, calmness and football brain is sadly lacking and this remains. Today saw both aspects of Monty in full effect with all the above in evidence but also a number of misplaced passes, sliced balls or little sideways balls that often lacked the right weight and direction even for simple passes (2 to Williamson when it should have been played in front of him with the pace on the ball so he could instantly crossed were played slowly at him or behind him; as examples). The pass on the goal was poor of course but this was not an exception as he had played another poor ball only a few minutes earlier that led to Bristol City breaking.

Henderson 6/10 - He was nowhere near as bad as many fans made out but he suddenly became a bit of a scapegoat for our troubles. Funny how Evans basically performed in a similar fashion for the past 2 years for the most part but has escaped such a hammering from fans? He was not great today but was not particularly worse than most of the rest. A few times I would have liked to have seen him bust a gut to get in the box and I think that drew the ire of many fans (the Kozluk looping header he should have chucked himself at) However, Henderson won his fair share of headers and also tried to bring others into play. I will grant you that most of them went to no one in particular or just looped into the air! He did miss a few good headed chances and also failed to attack the penalty box when we had a number of crosses coming over which were begging to be converted. His body language also did not please many fans as he seemed to amble around for long periods and drew a lot of criticism after a collection of poor pieces of play from him around the midpoint of the second half. Ironically he made the goal with his hold up play. He is a player that can be effective at this level but has come back into the team, clearly not fully fit and is doing his pre season in the first team. He has been average since he came back but he is not the reason we are going down and has not been anywhere near as bad as people have made out.. Probably be best for all parties if there is a parting of the ways in the summer even though when he is fully fit and with the right service I still maintain he can be mightily effective.

Slew 7/10 – He showed some promise today. His movement was good and he got across the front line and also ran into some good areas. Always looked to receive the ball too and then keep it. A few times he got outmuscled or made the wrong decision but he was neat and tidy for the most part and had done ok up to the goal without anything spectacular. Then that it all changed when he smashed that one in at the Kop end. Like the goal last week at Preston it went right into the corner and it shows that the kid clearly can finish. Very raw and maybe not ready to be a regular yet but he definitely showed some thing today that can be worked with.

Subs –

Kozluk – Brought on at right back after Maguire’s red card, he did ok when he came on actually and did at least get forward and had a few opportunities such as his header which looped wide. He did hit an awful cross into the Kop which gave me a flash back over 10 years ago when he did the same versus Port Vale with the crowd in a similarly unforgivable mood! Probably be his final game in a Blades shirt at the Lane next Saturday and whilst it was an odd move to bring him back considering the financial restraints he has been a really good servant to the club.

Riise – Came on for Quinn and showed some nice touches and flashes down the right. Cannot quite understand why we have retained him if we are not going to play him. Either play him or send him back! He is a talented footballer and is the sort of player where you think things may happen.

Philliskirk – Brought on right at the death and I don’t think touched the ball as the game was in stoppage time. His Dad was there to watch him today. Hope he is a bit stronger than his Dad. As my Uncle remarked before the game his mother could shove Tony Philliskirk off the ball!