ANALYSIS: Billy Sharp rescues a deserved point for Sheffield United with a late equaliser at Bournemouth

Encouraging return to the Premier League for Sheffield United
Encouraging return to the Premier League for Sheffield United
0
Have your say

MUCH fun was had ahead of the new season by Sheffield United fans at the expense of those pundits pontificating about their club without, it seems, ever having seen them play.

Danny Mills, the former England international, bore the brunt of this. His suggestion last week that United “play a little direct at times” and that “they will be similar to Cardiff (last season)” drew plenty of scorn but Mills was far from alone among ex-pros in giving the wrong impression as to how Chris Wilder’s side had reached the Premier League.

Hence why social media, courtesy of mischievous Blades supporters, was filled with footage of Peter Kay shouting ‘Have it!’ in an advert for John Smith’s Bitter after booting the ball 50 yards in the air during the hours leading up to kick-off at Bournemouth.

Wilder, when speaking a couple of days before the trip to Dean Court, made clear the swashbuckling style that had worked so well in the Championship would be sticking around, albeit it with a couple of tweaks.

That much was clear in the opening 90 minutes of the campaign as United claimed a deserved point on the south coast.

Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell, given licence to bomb forward in a 3-4-1-2 formation last term, made only rare forays forward for much of an even contest.

Twenty minutes, in fact, had passed before O’Connell scampered down the left flank in support of the attack. Tellingly, his presence helped create a chance for Callum Robinson, who after collecting a pass from John Fleck turned smartly before firing a shot that one-time Blades Academy graduate Aaron Ramsdale beat away.

It was a similar story on the other flank, Basham focusing more on his defensive work than getting across the halfway line until United had fallen behind just after the hour to Chris Mepham's close range finish.

This was probably due to a mixture of Wilder’s instructions and how Ryan Fraser pushed forward all afternoon to effectively become a third striker alongside Josh King and Callum Wilson - meaning United’s back three were kept busy at the back.

One definite tweak to last season’s set-up was to line up with three central midfielders, as opposed to deploying someone in the number 10 role.

John Lundstram was the man drafted in and he repaid that faith with a fine display. He created the game’s first chance within just 36 seconds by releasing David McGoldrick, who brought a fine save from Ramsdale.

He was at it again in the second half, releasing McGoldrick again only for the striker to drag his shot wide. Lundstram also created a great opening for Robinson, who was unable to apply the final touch.

Bournemouth started to threaten more and more after the break. Dean Henderson had to be at his best to keep out a thumping effort from Philip Billing, while United hearts were in mouths when a home penalty call following a challenge by O'Connell on Josh King was went to VAR.

Three minutes later, the home side were ahead after the Blades had been unable to clear a France free-kick and Mempham swooped to score.

Wilder's response was to urge his side forward before turning to club captain Billy Sharp, Basham the man sacrificed as United switched to a back four.

The move paid off two minutes from time when Oliver Norwood released George Baldock via a quickly taken free-kick. His cross prompted a scramble that ended when Sharp fired in from close range to get the Blades up and running in the Premier League.