MUCH of the talk in the build up to this fixture centered on Sheffield United’s so-called goalkeeping crisis but if George Long has many more evenings like this, then Blades fans need not be concerned.
Teenager Long, deputising for the injured Mark Howard, was a virtual spectator as Nick Blackman’s penalty continued United’s unbeaten league record, at the expense of 10-man Walsall.
United started brightly, with Kevin McDonald particularly influential. For all United’s craft and guile, however, it was a moment of madness from Walsall’s Jamie Paterson which gifted United their opener.
Paterson’s underhit backpass let in Dave Kitson, who was felled from behind by Dean Holden. From there, the outcome was all too predictable – a red card for Holden and a penalty for Blackman, coolly dispatched in front of a jubilant Kop end.
Long’s first involvement in the game came with eight minutes of the first half remaining, excellently denying Will Grigg after impressive work down the right from Florent Cuvelier.
The second half began much as the first had ended, with United very much in control. Tony McMahon fired narrowly over with an ambitious effort from range, and Shaun Miller almost netted.
But for the 11th time in sixteen games this season, United scored just one goal and again struggled to find that decisive second. For now at least fortress Bramall Lane remains intact.
Sheffield United: Long; McMahon, Maguire, Hill, Williams; McAllister (Cofie 55), Doyle, McDonald, Flynn; Kitson (Porter 80), Blackman (Miller 68). Unused substitutes: Westlake, Collins, Cresswell, Willis.
Walsall: Darlow; Taundry, Holden, Butler (capt), Taylor; Baxendale (Downing 15), Chambers, Cuvelier, Featherstone, Paterson (Hemmings 65); Grigg (Bowerman 77). Unused substitutes: Grof, Brandy, Purkiss, Jones.
Referee: G Eltringham (Sunderland).