ANALYSIS: Happiest of returns for John Lundstram as Sheffield United hand Everton the blues

SHEFFIELD UNITED midfielder John Lundstram had slipped into Goodison Park almost unnoticed.
Goodison Park.Goodison Park.
Goodison Park.

He leaves there with the broadest of smiles on his face after the Blades' 2-0 away-day victory - their first away win at top-flight level in 13 attempts since a identikit success at Wigan in December 2006.

The pre-match fanfare had focused almost exclusively on the return of former Everton captain Phil Jagielka - a figure who will not have to dip into his pocket to buy a pint when he is ever in the vicinity of watering holes around Goodison or Bramall Lane.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Rightly so, most would opine, but it was also a big day for the Blades midfielder, whose first-team aspirations in the blue of Everton in his city of Liverpool were frustratingly never realised.

Thundering applause for Jagielka greeted the Blades veteran ahead of the kick-off and more appreciation arrived when he warmed up midway through the first half along with a chorus of 'There's Only One Jagielka' from the Gwladys Street End.

The love-in continued when he was brought on in the second half, the cue to a standing ovation from Everton for their former stalwart and captain, who left the club in the summer after 12 years of sterling service in the blue half of Merseyside.

Lundstram, by contrast, went about his business under the radar. That is, until his decisive contribution 11 minutes from time.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

With United leading thanks to an own goal from Yerry Mina ahead of the break - with the VAR fates this time smiling for United - the Goodison academy product - who never had the chance to wear the blue jersey of Everton in his time at the club - laid a delicious defence-splitting pass in the direction of substitute Lys Mousset.

The striker's finish, under the legs of Jordan Pickford, doubled the visitors advantage and sealed a special road trip to Chris Wilder's side.

Quite a day for Scouser Lundstram, even if his direction of travel in the first half was mostly on the retreat as United were pushed back by an Everton side, whose best is usually reserved for Goodison as opposed to away days, which had been exasperating of late.

Controlling operations in the midfield cockpit were ex-Leeds United schemer Fabian Delph and Morgan Schneiderlin, as the Toffees gorged on possession and United failed to get a toehold into the game.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Everton asked the questions, but they were not particularly probing with United rarely troubled, with Dean Henderson making just one save of note in the first period when he beat away a stinging drive from Lucas Digne which was straight down his throat.

The hosts passed the ball around patiently enough, but the Blades were rarely unhinged and sentinel-like in their defensive duties.

Emboldened by the hosts' failure, the Blades started to display a touch more endeavour and they were royally rewarded.

An excellent inswinging corner from Oli Norwood posed danger and it was not dealt with by Everton's flaky defence, with Mina diverting the ball into his own net.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

VAR was quickly called to check a possible push by Callum Robinson on Jordan Pickford in the build-up, but contact was minimal and the Blades were rightly awarded a goal - with the pendulum swinging in their favour after being on the receiving end of technology seven days earlier.

It was a jubiliant moment for those travelling Unitedites, in good voice all game and able to reflect on viewing a maiden first-half goal at Premier League level this term.

The best that the hosts could muster was a downward header from Richarlison, which was grasped by Henderson - ahead of Evertonians voicing their displeasure with a fair few boos at the interval.

Two early changes early in the second half saw Everton revert to a 4-4-2 formation with the hosts going close when Henderson thwarted Moise Kean after the Blades failed to clear a corner.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was a rare aberration for the visitors, whose defending was the embodiment of resolution, typified by two saving challenges from the outstanding John Egan and Jagielka as Everton pressed in front of the Gwladys Street End.

United, who did not produce an effort on goal until the 72th minute, picked a timely moment to strike, courtesy of Mousset - who fired through the legs of Pickford, whose day was not one to savour.

It was the prompt for many Evertonians to head for the exits.

Everton: Pickford; Coleman (Walcott 70), Keane, Mina, Digne; Schneiderlin (Iwobi 55), Delph; Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard (Tosun 55); Kean. Substitutes unused: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Calvert-Lewin, Davies.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sheffield United: Henderson; Basham, Egan, O'Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood (Jagielka 63), Fleck, Stevens; Robinson (Mousset 62), McBurnie (Osborn 83). Substitutes unused: Moore, L Freeman, Morrison, K Freeman.

Referee: S Hooper (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 39,354.