Sheffield United 2 Crewe 0: Business as usual at home as Blades march on

DOUBLE UP: Ryan Flynn scores his and Sheffield United's first goal against Crewe.DOUBLE UP: Ryan Flynn scores his and Sheffield United's first goal against Crewe.
DOUBLE UP: Ryan Flynn scores his and Sheffield United's first goal against Crewe.
PAUL HEATON is the latest patron of Sheffield United to resign amid Chedgate – and in the words of one of the musician’s famous hits with Beautiful South, it will need ‘A Little Time’ for events to resolve themselves.

Many involved with the club will have been thankful of last night’s match at least diverting some focus, however temporary, away from the continued Ched Evans furore, which shows no signs of abating.

And for the second time in four days, the Blades took care of business on the pitch.

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The headlines were the ones that the hosts were beseeching, with the Blades maintaining their commanding home record against Crewe and continuing their involvement in the FA Cup, a competition which kept giving for them last season.

On a night when footballing events north of the border took centre stage when Scotland welcomed England, it was a Scot who stole the limelight in Ryan Flynn, who struck his second and third goals of the season on 19 and 77 minutes to book United a second-round clash at home to Plymouth Argyle early next month.

His country may have seen their colours lowered on the national stage, but there was at least solace for Edinburgh-born Flynn.

In the process, he helped the Blades avoid the ignominy of a first-round exit – something which last happened in November 1981 when they were humbled 3-0 by Altrincham.

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Last night’s Cheshire opponents, facing the Blades for the third time in just three-and-a-half weeks, drew a blank for the third occasion with their 13th visit to Bramall Lane proving an unlucky one – they have never won here in their history.

In front of a crowd of just 5,987, the Blades, while culpable of not grabbing a second to kill off the tie earlier, had more than enough to dispose of Crewe and possessed the wherewithal to avoid the cup shock that Nigel Clough was hell-bent on avoiding.

The win ensures the Blades are now pitted in a five-game run of consecutive matches at Bramall Lane and sequence of seven in eight on home soil ahead of Christmas.

With the Blades showing such proficiency at getting the job done during their congested home schedule earlier this year, it is a schedule to be embraced.

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Given the attractions of events at Celtic Park on the television, the proximity to Christmas and the glut of home games coming up for the Blades, the attendance was perhaps understandable.

But the fans who attended saw a strong home side line up with just three changes from the side who started at Doncaster, with Clough no doubt mindful of how the competition energised the Blades in their marvellous run to the semi-finals earlier this year.

It was a half when the Blades were in the ascendancy and claimed a goal for their sojourns, but were also afforded two sizeable let-offs.

Saturday’s goal hero Jamie Murphy, assuming the central attacking berth, produced the first threat with his first-time shot straight at Ben Garratt following slick play, before play quickly switched to the other end.

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It resulted in a big scare for the Blades, who were indebted to another king-sized contribution from their other stand-out operator at the Keepmoat in Mark Howard.

The goalkeeper made a terrific double save to first beat away George Cooper’s shot and then miraculously block the follow-up from Callum Saunders, son of ex-Bramall Lane striker and Doncaster manager Dean, watching proceedings on the Wales Under-19’s striker’s full debut for the visitors.

Murphy, fresh from his stunner at Rovers, went close with another choice curler, but the hosts didn’t have long to hail a breakthrough.

Murphy’s corner wasn’t cleared and Flynn bundled home from a few yards out, making a mockery of pre-match suggestions that perennially porous Crewe had tightened up of late.

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Michael Doyle then saw an effort fizz off target before Murphy’s low shot was gathered by Garrett ahead of the Blades having to heave a sigh of relief for the second time in the half.

Normally more associated with free-flowing football, it was the visitors’ attacking traits which served up a quality moment on 38 minutes when a fine pass from Anthony Grant sent Bradden Inman clear and his instinctive low shot struck the inside of the post with Howard beaten.

Stefan Scougall fired wide after cashing in on Adam Dugdale’s error on a night when a second home goal looked likely to prove enough to account for Crewe.

Fans thought it had arrived when Chris Basham netted from close range, only to be denied by an offside flag and then it was the heroics of Garratt who thwarted the hosts, making eye-catching saves to deny Basham and Scougall, the latter producing a well-timed header.

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The Blades rubber-stamped their progression 13 minutes from time when Murphy found Flynn, who raced clear before tucking the ball past Garratt.

Sheffield United: Howard; Alcock, Basham, McEveley, Harris; Campbell-Ryce (Baxter 69), Doyle, Reed, Scougall (Whiteman 88), Flynn; Murphy (De Girolamo 81). Unused substitutes: McGahey, Turner, Kennedy, Khan.

Crewe Alexandra: Garratt; Turton, Dugdale, Davis, Guthrie (Leigh 83); Cooper (Waters 65), Atkinson (Jones 71), Grant, Ness, Inman, Saunders. Unused substitutes:Shearer, Ray, Baillie, Tate.

Referee: G Eltringham (Tyne and Wear).

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