Burnley 1 Sheffield United 0 - Groundhog Day for Blades

THE FESTIVE season is invariably a time when repeats get an airing.

Burnley captain Ben Mee heads clear with Sheffield United rival Lys Mousset in close proximity. Picture: SPORTIMAGE.

As far as Sheffield United’s browbeaten supporters are concerned, this particular ‘old favourite’ when they tuned into events at Turf Moor was unedifying.

The Blades’ slide into Premier League purgatory has been unpleasant, at times brutal and downright embarrassing since those heady days of summer which culminated in a handsome top-flight victory over Chelsea on July 11 - 19 league games ago.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A seemingly endless loop of painful losses since - often by narrow margins - have followed, interspersed with two frustrating rogue draws.

Since mid-July, the consistent feeling has been one of dissatisfaction. Another portion was served up in this part of snow-capped Lancashire by way of an 11th defeat by a single-goal deficit so far this term.

Ahead of the game, the fact that a couple of unnamed players and four or five backroom staff members had tested positive for Covid-19, was indicative of the luckless season that Chris Wilder's beleaguered troops are currently enduring. Football can be cruel when your fortunes are suffering.

Wilder named just seven substitutes, with some players also missing with injury and John Lundstram also suspended.

Commendably, Wilder was not looking for excuses and did not ask for the game to be 'canned' before kick-off in his words.

Unfortunately, what he saw on the pitch is something he will have witnessed many times in 2020-21. Too many times, with no respite.

In a season when United are clocking up unwanted records, like a philatelist collects stamps, a few more were added to the unwanted album.

They equaled the joint worst start to a season ever, with the other unfortunate parties being Newport and Barrow in 1970-71 and Southport in 1975-76, while also becoming the first top-flight side in 118 years not to win a league game by New Year's Day.

Once again, it was the quality count in which the Blades showed themselves to be painfully lacking.

On a night when they were afforded 63 per cent of possession, they could do little with it.

A wrong option here, a misplaced pass there or a poor execution in terms of a cross, elements of United’s play were thoroughly indicative of their malaise.

Burnley were single-minded, embodied in their captain Ben Mee. After his travails at Elland Road, this latest meeting with a Yorkshire rival was more rewarding as he produced a collector's item with his first goal at Turf Moor in almost six years to settle the issue just after the half-hour.

For United, David McGoldrick - operating in a deep role - showed the odd moment of conviction and aplomb, but it was sparing.

Their best moment arrived around the half-hour mark when Ethan Ampadu’s inswinging corner was latched onto by Rhian Brewster with his downward header blocked by the shoulder of Josh Brownhill, positioned on the line with Erik Pieters heading away the loose ball.

It was not United’s evening. It has not been their season.

Shortly, Ampadu’s next contribution was more lamentable. He lost track of Mee following Robbie Brady’s corner and the stalwart centre-back buried a header past Aaron Ramsdale.

It was a weak concession by the visitors, who would have been exposed earlier and found themselves trailing if it was not for two fine saves from Ramsdale.

In the early salvos, Ramsdale made himself big and got his angles right to make an excellent block to thwart Aahley Barnes after Chris Wood nodded the ball into his path following Matt Lowton’s cross.

It was Wood who then forced Ramsdale into an eye-catching save to keep out his point-blank header from a pinpoint centre from the recalled Brady. Moments after, Burnley were not to be denied as they scored the goal they had threatened.

Other than Brewster’s close-range effort, United posted limited threat on Nick Pope, other than a routine save from the visiting forward’s low shot, which was never going to beat a goalkeeper of that calibre.

Pope parried a cross-shot on the resumption from McGoldrick, while all the time, the Clarets - a side comfortable in their own skin and who know what they are doing - were authoritative in the air and from set-pieces especially.

Mee failed to direct a header when he rose unchallenged again before Ramsdale had to be alert to keep out a cross from Josh Benson, which had taken a wicked deflection.

In their defensive duties, Burnley’s well-schooled backline also looked an assured unit who know a fair bit about seeing out tight games against sides in their vicinity of the table.

They have shown themselves to be proficient over several years in this part of Red Rose country.

United huffed and puffed, but it was thoroughly predictable again, sadly.

Two defenders in George Baldock and John Egan saw shots from distance fly off target. Burnley's secure defence were not troubled and not to be moved. They have been here before.

Burnley: Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor (Benson 9); Brady, Westwood, Brownhill, Pieters; Wood, Barnes. Substitutes unused: Peacock-Farrell, Norris, Stephens, Bardsley, Long, Dunne, Mancini, Mumbongo.

Sheffield United: Ramsdale; Basham, Egan, Robinson (Fleck 57); Baldock, Ampadu (Norwood 67), Osborn, Stevens; McGoldrick, Brewster, Mousset (Burke 63). Substitutes unused: Verrips, Lowe, Norwood, Bogle, Bryan.

Referee: C Kavanagh (Lancashire).