Sheffield United continued their impressive home form with a resounding win against struggling Yeovil at Bramall Lane. First half goals from Richard Cresswell and Michael Doyle were followed up by a second half double from Lee Williamson as the Blades eased to a comfortable victory. With the win United moved up to second place in the table ahead of successive away games at Bury and Charlton.
The Blades began with three changes from Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Salisbury with Quinn coming in for Flynn who was out with illness, Lowton replacing Ertl and Cresswell coming in for Porter. Yeovil were managed by returning manager Gary Johnson with former boss Terry Skiverton reverting to the position of assistant manager.
The game began with United on top but it was actually Yeovil who broke out and had the first chance. Williams managed to make a yard of space but his low shot was just wide of Simonsen’s right hand post. United had seen plenty of the ball but the first opening did not come until the 10th minutes as Francois found McDonald whose effort was charged down before Evans hit the rebound into a defender with the keeper sprawling behind him. However another warning side came when sloppy defending from the Blades saw Obika sprint clear but his cross cum shot just evaded his teammates at the far post.
United were back on the attack and Doyle was nearly in on goal advancing beyond the strikers. Soon after the opening goal came. Excellent work from Cresswell to win the ball back released Quinn on the left hand side. The winger created space and whipped in a delightful cross but it still required plenty of work from CRESSWELL who did superbly to power the ball downwards into the net past Gilmartin.
Despite the goal and being the better side, Yeovil had certainly had a few chances and another one came when Williams’ shot was pushed away by Simonsen. Doyle had another chance before Evans effort was saved from Gilmartin. It was a relatively open game and United were able to get the crucial second goal on 36 minutes from an unexpected source in some ways but not a total surprise considering the amount of efforts he had on goal on the evening. This was another goal made by Quinn who flicked the ball on and DOYLE from fully 25 yards hit a low shot right into the corner of the net past the despairing dive of Gilmartin.
Williams was booked for a cynical foul on the rampaging Lowton as United looked to kill the game off before the break. Evans had another effort blocked but the half time whistle came not long after.
Returning manager Johnson was clearly not too pleased and brought on N’Gala and Massey for MacLean and Wooton in a double substitution. It did not matter as United were on the attack again and scored the best goal of the game to effectively seal matters. Lowton moved forward again and played in WILLIAMSON who came inside and hit a searing drive right into the top corner. It was a great strike and was in as soon as it left his boot.
United were now in complete control and both Lowton and Collins had chances from corners and maybe ought to have done better with headers. For a period after this the game became a bit scrappy but Yeovil never looked like scoring a few erratic efforts from distance the best they could muster. Their best effort came from a corner when Huntingdon headed over but hurt himself in the process and required a great deal of attention before he was deemed fit to continue.
United made a double change with around 10 minutes to play as Beattie and Porter came on for Evans and Cresswell. McDonald was booked for pulling back a Yeovil player who threatened to break. Beattie had a chance but after Williamson had touched the ball on but the striker’s effort on the stretch was pushed away by the keeper as the expectant Kop rose wanting to acclaim the returning forward’s first goal back.
Lovely skill by Lowton saw him flick the ball with the outside of his right foot through the legs of the full back, play in Quinn who in turn fed WILLIAMSON down the right hand channel. The shot from a narrow angle. may have took a touch off a defender but still should have been saved but went through the legs of the hapless keeper at the near post
Right at the close Montgomery came on for Williamson before the referee adjudged there would be 5 minutes of additional time after the early injury. Good work by Quinn outside saw him outfox his man but his low cross just evaded a teammate in the box and then as United broke Porter fired over just before the final whistle. It had been a professional performance and a relatively trouble free night for the Blades who went back up to second in the table.
United – It was as comfortable as anything we have had this season. We took a while to get going and actually gave Yeovil a few half chances early on but once we got in front there was only one winner. We defended well with some stand out performances from players in the backline with Lowton and Maguire outstanding all night. The former was a real threat going forward and he along with Williamson meant we looked like creating/scoring from this side at every opportunity. We actually were slow to get going and it was even for the first 15 minutes but then we slowly took control and started to create chances with Quinn and Williamson starting to get wide and get balls in. The opening goal was well made and well finished.
We were not dominant but always in control after this and the second seemed to kill off Yeovil. As soon as the third went in; very early in the second half; then the game was definitely up.
The half hour spell after this saw a scrappy spell as United kind of coasted without being under any pressure really with Yeovil seemingly happy just to not concede again and United just keeping a solid shape but not really stepping up to get more goals. You can see why with games coming thick and fast although a part of me felt we could go on and give them a real hammering, 6 or 7-0. I have said this a lot though this year and if we win at Bury on Saturday then you can excuse it but we do seem to have missed a chance to really destroy teams more than once. That is being ultra critical as tonight was a very professional and for the most part skilled performance.
It was far better than Saturday and we were quicker, more inventive and sharper in the final third. We passed the ball much better and whilst it was not always crisp, we did play some lovely passages of football with some first time stuff mixed with more patient build up. I never felt we got out of second gear and won the game at a canter against a really poor side but once again you can only beat what is in front of you. It was pleasing that with Evans below bar we still won and won well. We now have some tough away games coming up and we need to show a different side of our game and bounce back from the last away game, the defeat at Carlisle with a victory at Bury. I expect the other top 3 teams apart from Charlton to all win on Saturday (think Wednesday will beat Charlton) and then if we did win at Bury we could make it so tight at the top. It is a crucial game on Saturday and just as important as the game at the Valley a few weeks later. We really need to go and impose ourselves on them early and show the same desire to win the battle away as we have at home. I am there on Saturday so hopefully can being you a report late Saturday/early Sunday!
Yeovil – Another shocking side. One of the worst to come to the Lane this season. They actually had a few half chances at 0-0 with a shot just wide and a Simonsen save and maybe if they had scored they would have had something to defend but as soon as we got ahead you saw their heads drop and felt they lost any kind of half belief they had they could get anything. They started to give the ball away, make mistakes at the back and seemed more concerned about getting a hammering than actually trying to attack.
Like most teams this season they have tried to pack the midfield and play one up top; playing on the break but this often plays into United’s hands as the full backs attack taking advantage of the gaps down the flanks and we can defend much higher up the pitch. The teams that have attacked us at the Lane have had some success.
They had probably around 8 or 9 efforts on goal but they were all (save from the aforementioned 2 decent ones) miles wide or so far over. I never felt worried that they would come back and they lacked any kind of invention, pace or extra gear. They just seemed to lose the ball even under little pressure and then seemed at full stretch the other way struggling with Quinn, Williamson and Lowton and any kind of overlap caused big problems and they did not seem to know who to mark. They could have let in more goals really and it was one of those games where if the referee would have allowed them to declare at various points they would have accepted and got on the coach and started the long journey home! They actually had a few players I had heard of such as Williams and Obika (Spurs loanee) but when they took off MacLean (ex Wednesday) I had not even realised he was even playing!
New manager Gary Johnson seemed powerless despite his various chats with former manager Terry Skiverton. It was amusing to see him bring all his players to him for a mini team talk when there was an injury or a stoppage (should have seen some action maybe from the officials) but it did not seem to have any effect whatsoever as afterwards they dropped back into defensive mode again trying to prevent more goals!
On that performance they look relegation candidates and will have to do much better. You can understand us having better players (much higher wage bill etc) but they actually got outworked at times which would be a worry.
Simonsen 7/10 – Had little to do. Made one good save in the first half where he blocked a low shot and then saved a few comfortable efforts. Cannot recall him having a save to make the whole second half and it was a really easy game for him to play as the defence restricted them to long range efforts; most of them were shocking going high and/or wide.
Lowton 8.5/10 – Excellent performance. Looked a class act. He did not have an opponent really as Yeovil played with a midfield tucked in and he took advantage superbly by bombing forward at every opportunity. Some of his pieces of close control, use of his quick feet and driven low crosses were better than anything else on the pitch. He
Francois 7.5/10 – Very good. He defended with authority ensuring he got to every ball first and won everything all night. Showed real determination and made sure he imposed himself on his opponent and every challenge. Won lots of headers and showed real power and pace when going forward too. Cannot recall many errors either although Collins had a go at him twice for something! Set his standards tonight and need to keep to them every week.
Maguire 7.5/10 – Thought he was excellent again tonight. He won every header and clearance, read the game well and defended with intelligence and maturity for one so young. He has really improved in recent weeks and has been very consistent. Admittedly he had not played any really sharp strikers, at least at the Lane (struggled with pacy Zoko at Carlisle by all accounts) but he has dealt with everything he has faced with and looked very good. He did lose Obika once when he nearly got in on goal but this was the only mistake. Showed some nice touches coming out with the ball and his distribution, save for a few lapses, and was accurate and varied.
Collins 7/10 – May have lowest mark of our 4 defenders but only because the other 3 were very good and is no slight on his performance. He was steady though all night and won headers and blocks. Just another very consistent performance where he did not make any mistakes of note and mopped up when he had to. Really consistent this season.
Doyle 7.5/10 – Started slowly tonight as we took a while to control the midfield area but gradually started to get his foot in and won tackles/headers and interceptions. Had actually got into the box and had a few half chances before his goal which was surprising. He took his goal really well. It was textbook; hit firmly and low and right into the corner. He continued to break up play, pass the ball better than many ever expected from last season’s performances and generally did his job. A few niggly fouls withstanding it was another solid performance.
McDonald 8/10 – Showed a real range of passing again and against poor opposition given a lot of time showed how he could move the ball from right to left and vice versa. Continues to make time for himself and get that extra yard to find a teammate. He was very good in the first half and looked the most creative player on the pitch. He was not quite as effective in the second half but the game was won and he still worked hard and showed an improved side to his game, in covering, making tackles and interceptions.
Quinn 8/10 – Showed what he can do after a some poor recent performances. He did 4 or 5 superb thing. The things he did well were excellent - the cross for the goal, the flick for the second and another ball that nearly found Evans. He also made a few more runs/flicks in the second half that nearly led to goals. Still could impose himself more and do more for me as at times he still looks a class above at this level but does only do it in fits and bursts. Today was first good game in about 8 or 9. Made 3 goals and showed some lovely flicks/touches. Just needs to do this for longer in games and for a series of games in a row.
Williamson 7/10 – Daft as it sounds I think he was one of our poorer players tonight despite scoring 2 goals. His first goal was a superb strike as he came inside and it was in as soon as it left his foot. The second was a bit fortunate but he got into good space to receive the pass. He showed some nice touches and combined very well with Lowton, Evans etc but at times he still frustrated with an inconsistent final ball. He is another player, like Quinn, who is a class above at this level when he is in the right frame of mind but he still is not consistent enough. Still 2 goals and a few other good moments. Much better than Saturday.
Evans 6/10 – His poorest and least effective game for months. He certainly was not awful but it was a mediocre performance where he did not have anywhere near the influence he has had. Had a few shots blocked and a few bits of combination play but he was not in the game as much as he has been and I would say he was marked very closely. I don’t think he quite put the work ethic in tonight that he has done but one off game in about 12-13 isn’t bad really!
Cresswell 7/10 – Worked hard and had a very decent first half where he scored a very good header (using neck muscles and directing it superbly despite cross having little power on it). Thought he worked hard, closing defenders down and was always chasing loose balls even if things did not always come off for him. Faded somewhat in the second half but the game was pretty much over and many others also faded.
Porter – Still did not convince when he came on as he actually lost more headers than he won! He had a few half chances and blazed one over right at the death but seems to be running in quicksand at times! Just seems to lack mobility and also seems to not read other players intentions. To be fair he was only on for final 15 minutes and the game was won.
Beattie – Seems to be almost trying too hard at times (as he tries to convince in such a short time on the pitch) but he did have another chance when after the ball broke his toe poked effort was saved by the keeper. Like Porter he struggled to get into the game as the verdict was decided and United were just content (rightly) to keep a solid shape and only attack if Yeovil made mistakes. This meant he only had bits and pieces really to feed off with the more attacking threats McDonald, Lowton etc not perhaps going forward to create as much for the final 20 minutes.
Montgomery – Only came on right at the end and hardly touched the ball but the game at this stage was just petering out.
Officials – Another easy game to referee with barely a bad challenge all night. He rightly booked one of their players, Williams, for a cynical foul in the first half but there were not really anything controversial he gave or major decisions that the crowd protested. It was odd he booked McDonald for a foul (was clumsy) when he held someone back but Doyle had committed 3 in a row before this and escaped a booking! Then one of their players did an identical foul to McDonald but also did not get booked. Minor things but would be easier if we had some consistency.
Crowd/Atmosphere – Was a bit flat with just over 15,000 there (with around 120 – my estimated count- from Yeovil). Another game that we got in front and the verdict was kind of known from half time. Games that have been closer (Exeter, Notts County for example) have had a much better atmosphere as there has been something to get behind or some drama but it was all quite straight forward tonight so you can understand it being a bit muted. I think the fans appreciated the 3 or 4 bits of play down the right (in the first and second half) where there was some lovely football and quality one touch stuff that led to openings.