Masterful second-half performance is just the ticket for Sheffield United at Millwall

THE TRAINS directly pass the New Den on a regular basis, calling in at nearby South Bermondsey, but when it comes to visiting sides striding out at Millwall, there is no room for passengers

This may not have represented a marquee occasion by Millwall's standards, maybe, with the modest crowd reflecting that. Yet their taste for Premier League blood in this particular competition in these parts precedes them.

The likes of Everton, Leicester and Bournemouth have found that out in the past few seasons after perishing against the Lions and several others besides them over a great many more years.

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Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder is not someone who would countenance his side being intimated and while it took his side time to acclimatise, they duly did that on Saturday afternoon.

Billy Sharp is challenged by Alex Pearce. Picture: Robin Parker/SportimageBilly Sharp is challenged by Alex Pearce. Picture: Robin Parker/Sportimage
Billy Sharp is challenged by Alex Pearce. Picture: Robin Parker/Sportimage

It remained deadlocked at the interval, with a moment of magic or perhaps a mistake rightly viewed as the likely route to break the impasse on the resumption - and in the event, it was the former which transpired.

A telling move of Premier League quality proved the difference on 63 minutes with neat work from Billy Sharp - full of nous and someone who has played at Millwall on too many dates to mention and knows what is required - teeing up Mo Besic.

His beautiful curler sailed past Bartosz Bialkowski and it represented the perfect way for him to score his first goal in Blades colours - to seal a good week for the Bosnian following his start ahead of John Lundstram in the midweek game with champions Manchester City.

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Just for good measure, a second moment of class sealed the issue on 84 minutes, courtesy of a player who possessed a fair bit of polish in his locker in Ollie Norwood, who clinically netted an eye-catching second of the campaign to seal a 2-0 triumph.

Jack O'Connell battles against Millwall's Matt Smith. Picture: Robin Parker/SportimageJack O'Connell battles against Millwall's Matt Smith. Picture: Robin Parker/Sportimage
Jack O'Connell battles against Millwall's Matt Smith. Picture: Robin Parker/Sportimage

Mindful of the venue and opposition, Wilder fielded a side who may have contained several changes in personnel, but was also respectful to the competition and to the nature of the opponent.

Wilder made five changes, in contrast to switching his entire starting line-up for the previous round, with a measure of how Millwall's season has turned around in recent months arriving in the fact that Lions manager Gary Rowett also switched five players, mindful of Tuesday's trip on the horizon for his play-off aspirants at Leeds United.

What does not change at Millwall is the need for unstinting commitment and work ethic from those in blue jerseys.

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That is also a non-negotiable for Wilder and while effort were there from both sets in this last-32 clash, quality was at a premium on a lamentable, bobbly surface.

Due to their familiarity with it, Millwall adapted the better early on as United, used to more pristine surfaces, took time to find their feet.

Rustiness was apparent in Phil Jagielka, manifestly when he erred following a punt forward from Jake Cooper and Aiden O'Brien was the beneficiary, but after cutting his inside, his low finish was telegraphed and Dean Henderson grasped the ball easily.

It was the best moment for the hosts, who won the early duels and second balls, with it taking the Blades a while to settle.

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Thankfully, a few trademark effortless switches of play from Norwood eventually showed that the Blades were coming to terms with their new surroundings.

A moment of quality from the top-flight side went close to a breakthrough with Chris Basham's slick pass finding Billy Sharp on the angle, but after he rounded Bartosz Bialkowski, alert defending from James Brown saved the day on the goalline.

The breakthrough took some time in coming, but when it arrived, it was a head-turner from Besic.

The Blades fired a few warning salvos in the second period, most notably when Callum Robinson almost got on the end of Sharp's knock-down as they started to impose themselves on the hosts, who were subdued by their standards on the resumption.

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It took the arrival of nine-goal Jed Wallace to provide the hosts with an adrenaline rush in the final quarter, but in the event, the choice contributions came from those in red and white.

Lovely approach work from new signing Jack Robinson, on for a late debut and Sharp set up Norwood, whose instinctive drive flew past Bialkowski and the Lions keeper prevented Leon Clarke from adding a third - with the hosts well beaten by the end.

Sharp went close before the whistle when he was denied by Bialkowski to put gloss on an excellent second half's work from the veteran striker and Blades.

Millwall: Bialkowski; Brown, Pearce, Cooper, Wallace; Molumby, Mitchell; Maloney (J Wallace 73), O'Brien, Ferguson (Bradshaw 71); Smith (Bodvarsson 71). Substitutes unused: Sandford, Hutchinson, Romeo, Skalak.

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Sheffield United: Basham, Jagielka, O'Connell; K Freeman, Besic, Norwood, L Freeman (J Robinson 80), Osborn; C Robinson (Clarke 67), Sharp. Substiutes unused: Verrips, Lundstram, McBurnie, Egan, Morrison.

Referee: A Taylor (Cheshire).