Chris Wilder’s hunch on Oli McBurnie pays off in Sheffield United win at Brighton

Oli McBurnie Lys Mousset and John Egan of Sheffield Utd celebrate the win at Brighton. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Oli McBurnie Lys Mousset and John Egan of Sheffield Utd celebrate the win at Brighton. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
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Sheffield United had two ‘goals’ ruled out by VAR but still claimed a third consecutive Premier League win after Chris Wilder’s hunch paid off at Brighton.

VAR intervened to deny John Egan and Jack O’Connell either side of half-time, however with Oliver McBurnie on target in the 23rd minute, the Blades left the south coast with all three points.

Sheffield United's George Baldock battles with Brighton's Lewis Dunk. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Sheffield United's George Baldock battles with Brighton's Lewis Dunk. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Boss Wilder revealed after the full-time whistle that he had a feeling that Saturday’s clash at the Amex was the right game to hand the player who proved to be his match-winner a start.

McBurnie showed his strength and finishing prowess to capitalise on a defensive blunder and pounce midway through the opening period.

The Scotland striker, who has appeared off the bench for the last three games, scored against United twice last season when he was at Swansea working under current Brighton boss Graham Potter.

“We watched Oli last year when he was playing for Graham Potter and he was excellent. We had two really tight games with Swansea,” said Wilder. “We had a hunch that this would be a good day for Oli.

We weren’t at our best today. We suffered the disappointment of those (VAR) decisions going against us, and rightly so, but I think we created the best chances in the game.

Chris Wilder

“He’s been knocking on the door during the week which is something that we always look at - away from the light Monday to Friday. We just felt this was the right time, against his old manager and the way they set up. It was a great goal in a tight game.

“We were disappointing with the ball, we weren’t at our best in possession. You have those days.”

There could be no complaint at the application of VAR in the eighth minute as referee Robert Jones awarded Egan a ‘goal’ that was quickly ruled out.

Egan bundled home a corner that was completely missed by goalkeeper Mathew Ryan but replays revealed it came off the arm of United’s defender.

Oli McBurnie scores the winning goal. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Oli McBurnie scores the winning goal. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

It then became Brighton’s turn to have an effort chalked off and on this occasion Neal Maupay was frustrated by the off-side flag having completed a simple tap-in.

The third goal was allowed to stand, however, and the Seagulls only had themselves to blame after Adam Webster was guilty of lamely heading a clearance of a goal-kick into the path of McBurnie.

McBurnie still had the challenge of Lewis Dunk to hold off but his strength took care of that task and when the target opened up before him he drilled the ball into the bottom left corner.

It was a superb goal but Brighton’s defence should have dealt with the route-one attack with ease and it was a sign of things to come as errors compounded in the face of United’s persistence.

Despite enjoying most of the possession and territory, they could make no meaningful impact on the visitors with their attack barely firing a shot.

In a bid to induce a response, Aaron Connolly and Glenn Murray were sent out for the second half at the expense of Leandro Trossard and Pascal Gross, but Brighton continued to blunder as another defensive lapse offered up a gilt-edged chance.

Webster was exposed once more but having done the hard part on shaking off the defender and rounding Ryan, McGoldrick found the side-netting with an open goal before him.

The pressure continued and VAR came to Brighton’s rescue once again as O’Connell found the net after Ryan palmed a free-kick into his path only for off-side to be called.

United should have been protecting a comfortable lead but instead they came under sustained barrage as they defended furiously inside their own area without keeper Dean Henderson having a save to make.

Henderson had his first significant save to make in the 71st minute but he was able to palm a firm shot by Connolly over the crossbar.

McGoldrick missed another chance – although this was far harder than his previous one - before Brighton’s last attack of note ended with Yves Bissouma being booked for a dive.

“We are a tough team to play against, and we’ll take the result. The structure of the team was great,” Wilder reflected after watching his team extend their unbeaten away league record this season to nine games.

“I’ve just got an incredible group of players at the football club.

“We weren’t at our best today. We suffered the disappointment of those (VAR) decisions going against us, and rightly so, but I think we created the best chances in the game.

“We’ve got a bit us, under the shirt. We’ve got to tough it out at times and we did that today.

“We hope to make our mark in the division. The players are all enjoying it and stepping up to the challenge. The table doesn’t lie, but we’ve achieved nothing yet.”

Brighton & Hove Albion: Ryan, Montoya (Bissouma 56), Webster, Dunk, Burn, Pröpper, Stephens, Mooy, Groß (Murray 46), Trossard (Connolly 46), Maupay. Unused substitutes: Duffy, Button, Bernardo, Alzate.

Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood (Besic 82), Freeman (Osborn 53), Stevens, McBurnie (Mousset 63), McGoldrick. Unused substitutes: Sharp, Robinson, Jagielka, Verrips.
Referee: R.Jones.