After their midweek win over Aston Villa, the Blades must have been hoping for back-to-back Premier League wins since July, but in truth, they never looked like doing it, despite the down-on-their-luck opposition. Wednesday's good work was completely undone.
Poor defending from a side admittedly missing a slew of key players in that area and had their difficulties compounded by very poor ball retention in front of them saw the Saints claim a 2-0 victory courtesy of a James Ward-Prowse penalty and a stunning half-volley from Che Adams.
It flattered the Blades.
All it took was a straight ball over the top from Ibrahima Diallo to put them behind. Nathan Tella, a thorn in their side throughout after being picked at centre-forward, was brought down by Ethan Ampadu and after taking a long look, referee Paul Tierney pointed to the penalty spot. Because Ampadu made an attempt to win the ball, he was not sent off. Another defensive absentee would have been an absolute calamity for the Blades.
Ward-Prowse sent Aaron Ramsdale the wrong way as he thumped home the 33rd-minute penalty.
It felt like the opening goal might come from a Saints set piece not only because Ward-Prowse was in their line-up but because the hosts played as if he was not, committing 10 first-half fouls. Their biggest problem in the second half was the ease with which they handed possession back to the visitors.
Stuart Armstrong, playing as the advanced right-sider in a “box” midfield whilst right-back Kyle Walker-Peters effectively played as a winger, had a shot blocked by Amadu inside two minutes but it was not to be a game packed with goalmouth action.
With Danny Ings going off early with what looked like a groin strain, Tella carried most of the Saints' threat in the first period. He had a shot blocked in the 26th minute as Armstrong broke following a tackle on Rhian Brewster. A minute later Ampadu produced an excellent tackle on Ryan Bertrand, only to then concede the penalty. George Baldock, playing on the right of a back three with Jayden Bogle outside him also made a vital penalty-area interception as Ings's replacement Adams dwelt over an excellent chance to score against his old club. He would have others.
John Fleck and David McGoldrick looked the most likely to conjure something at the other end but two good Fleck balls were met with offside flags and McGoldrick's well-intentioned pass to play Brewster in was overhit. A McGoldrick chip failed to clear the giant Fraser Forster.
Chris Wilder brought on an extra forward at the start of the second half, but saw his side's defensive play collapse completely. A team in better form than Southampton would have wreaked far more damage.
They needed just five second-half minutes to double their lead, Adams shooting from an angle tight to the byline and the Blades failing to get the ball away. Adams' half-volley into the net was stunning, but the hosts will be very unhappy he had the chance.
From that point on, it just became a question of how many Southampton would score.
It at least gave Ramsdale the chance to show what good form he is in at the moment, making a low save from Tella after substitute Lys Mousset gave the ball away from a throw-in, denying Adams with his feet after a great ball from Takumi Minamino, and denying Nathan Redmond from another break, Bogle turning the ball over this time.
After all the fight they showed days earlier, the Blades looked a beaten side. For once they could not even take comfort from another narrow margin of defeat.
Sheffield United: Ramsdale; Baldock, Ampadu, Bryan; Bogle, Lundstram, Norwood (McBurnie 46), Fleck, Stevens; McGoldrick (Mousset 58), Brewster (Sharp 68).
Unused substitutes: Lowe, Burke, Foderingham, Osborn, Ndiaye, Maguire.
Southampton: Forster; Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand; Diallo, Ward-Prowse; Armstrong, Minamino (Djenepo 88); Ings (Adams 13), Tella (Redmond 76).
Unused substitutes: McCarthy, Stephens, Salisu, N'Lundulu, Jankewitz, Chauke.
Referee: P Tierney (Wigan).
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