Nottingham Forest 2 Sheffield United 1: Strength of benches make the difference as Blades' fight comes to nothing

For nearly half a game, Gustavo Hamer's brilliant debut goal gave Sheffield United precious hope, but when it came to the decisive minutes, the gulf between two clubs who were only a penalty shoot-out apart when they last faced each other not much more than a year ago made the difference.

When the Blades shuffled their attacking pack, they could only replace Will Osula and Benie Traore – themselves still wearing L plates – with two players yet to make a league start between them in Andre Brooks and Antwoine Hackford.

As if to show off their greater financial muscle, Forest brought on £15m Chris Wood and watched him glance in the winning goal.

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It was cruel on the Blades' second-half performance but at least they had given Forest a proper contest. Baby steps.

DEBUT GOAL: Sheffield United's Gustavo Hamer celebrates his stunning strikeDEBUT GOAL: Sheffield United's Gustavo Hamer celebrates his stunning strike
DEBUT GOAL: Sheffield United's Gustavo Hamer celebrates his stunning strike

Thirty-four minutes in, when Vinicius Souza shifted the ball out of his feet outside the area and measured his team’s first shot of the night nicely inside the far post. Forest goalkeeper Matt Turner dived to his left and caught the ball nonchalantly as if to say, "Is that all you've got?"

At that stage, the answer seemed to be yes.

Working on a pittance against a side who spent mind-blowing amounts when promoted last year and with injuries hampering them too, the visitors looked like plucky lower-league underdogs in a cup tie. And more importantly, not believing they belonged either.

But minutes into the second half, Hamer scored a goal which seemed to imbue his team-mates with belief they were not just on the banks of the Trent to make up the numbers.

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Ultimately it counted for nothing in the league table, but it should do the confidence of a newly-promoted side a lot of good.

Lurking on the edge of the area, Hamer calmly curled a shot which gave Turner no chance to mark his first Premier League game with the Blades' first goal of the season.

As the closest thing they have made to a big signing this summer, £15m Hamer was brought to make the difference and in terms of their mentality, his goal did just that.

Soon Souza was shooting from range again, drawing sighs of relief from the home fans as it thudded into the advertising hoardings.

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It did not signal the start of a siege on Turner's goal, but made a contest of a game that, despite what the scoreboard said, the Blades had not really been in until that point.

Forest had taken the lead three minutes in through a goal which was brilliantly taken by them, poorly dealt with by their hosts.

Max Lowe's airshot allowed Morgan Gibbs-White – nominally a left winger but in reality playing where he liked – a run down the inside-right channel and he turned back to feed Serge Aurier. When the cross was whipped in, Anel Ahmedhodzic was flat-footed, leaving John Egan to deal with it. He could not, and Taiwo Awoniyi guided an excellent header.

From there, Forest shifted the ball around quickly and the Blades struggled to get debutant Hamer, playing at inside-right, into the game.

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Forest looked every inch a Premier League team – untroubled by letting the Blades have more of the first-half ball, effective and speedy when they had it.

In hindsight, they might have been too comfortable. In the Premier League you need to put teams away when you have the chance.

Wes Foderingham was fortunate Gibbs-White could not take advantage after dribbling past the onrushing goalkeeper and before the ball went dead Jack Robinson made a hard but fair tackle on Johnson.

Hamer's 48th-minute goal shifted the whole mood. Minutes later Robinson carried the ball into range and dragged a shot wide, before Souza's much better effort.

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Forest's threat was not extinguished, Foderingham forced into action by Willy Boly at a 65th-minute corner having seen a goal chalked off for offside.

Lacking match practice, Souza ran out of gas fairly early and Traore made way shortly after fluffing a one-on-one granted to him by a Forest defensive error which suggested the 20-year-old signed from the Swedish league in the summer does not yet have the cockiness Premier League strikers need. The problem is, if anyone at Bramall Lane does, they are in the treatment room.

Wonderful as they were for most of the night, Forest fans groaned when Wood was introduced. They do not know they are born.

Nottingham Forest: Turner; Boly (Elanga 71), Worrall, McKenna; Aurier, Mangala (Yates 71), N Williams; Danilo (Kouyate 90); Johnson, Awoniyi (Wood 84), Gibbs-White. Unused substitutes: Toffolo, Niakhate, Freuler, Horvath, Hwang.

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Sheffield United: Foderingham; Ahmedhodzic, Egan, Robinson; Osborn, Souza (Basham 56), Norwood, Lowe (Larucci 46); Hamer, Traore (Hackford 82), Osula (Brooks 74). Unused substitutes: A Davies, Trusty, T Davies, Marsh, Serriki.

Referee: P Bankes (Liverpool).