Sheffield United 2 Stoke City 1: David McGoldrick inspires Blades to keynote win

IT MAY not have constituted the scoreboard statement of Sheffield United’s first match after the previous international break, but it was probably more important.

Sheffield United's Morgan Gibbs-White battles for the ball with Stoke's Josh Tymon. Picture: PA.

Straight after the September hiatus, Bramall Lane punters were treated to the Blades posting a handsome 6-2 victory over Peterborough United.

It, in many respects, signified the start of the Slavisa Jokanovic era in earnest.

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Yet ahead of this game, the statistics showed that United's victories had all been against comparatively modest opponents, with respect.

Here, they took on an early season success story in Stoke and were up against it after former Barnsley frontman Jacob Brown put the Potters ahead with a clinical 55th-minute opener.

In that aforesaid win over Posh, Morgan Gibbs-White and Iliman Ndiaye came to the party. Here, it was a classy old-stager in David McGoldrick.

Brought on with 13 minutes left and United desperately seeking salvation and inspiration, he splendidly provided it.

He picked out fellow replacement Lys Mousset for an 80th-minute leveller, with the Frenchman scoring his first Bramall Lane goal in not far shy of two years.

McGoldrick then took the cue to latch onto Enda Stevens’s low cross and fire home a low shot into the net, with the aid of a slight deflection off Ben Wilmot and United were left to savour arguably the biggest cameo of action in their season so far.

A cagey opening saw both sides feel each other out to a degree, but it was United who had the cause for more satisfaction at the break, given their dominant spell in the final 15 minutes of the half.

The only disappointment was that it did not yield an opener and Stoke could not have complained if it had.

After the half-hour mark, United started to take over, with the likes of Morgan Gibbs-White, Ndiaye, Oli Norwood and John Fleck all coming to the core, alongside the leader of the pack in Billy Sharp.

Sharp saw one back-post header beaten away by former Barnsley captain Adam Davies, but ironically it was at the other end where the veteran goalpoacher had the biggest influence earlier.

The United captain was well stationed to clear a goalbound header from Brown off the line from Mario Vrancic’s corner.

Most of the action was at the other end from the half-hour mark onwards and the best move of the half should have yielded a home opener.

Slick work by Fleck, Enda Stevens and Sharp carved out a glorious opportunity at the back stick for Gibbs-White, but he could not direct his header goalwards after being picked out adeptly by Sharp, whose cross was simply begging to be converted.

United did not lose heart, even if Brown’s second contribution of the half soon after ended in Robin Olsen making a timely one-handed save to parry his low drive.

The hosts went up the other end and again pressed their claims for an opener and there were howls of derision from home fans when referee Keith Stroud was unmoved after Ndiaye went down under pressure from Romaine Sawyers, with the United player beating his hands on the deck in frustration and incredulity at the non-award.

Unitedites then showed a nice touch to deliver a 36th-minute chant of ‘Brooks will tear you apart’ in homage to the squad number of the former Blades midfielder, who has been diagnosed with cancer.

The hosts continued to push for a breakthrough and after Sharp’s headed opportunity, Davies grasped a low shot on the turn from Ndiaye, who then saw a goalbound shot blocked by James Chester after being picked out by Enda Stevens.

Attacking the Kop on the resumption, United had plenty to feel enthused about, while Stoke - backed by their 2,725 travelling fans - were seeking to step it up and showcase the credentials which had seen them start the season so healthily.

A key passage of play almost saw those in the Shoreham Street End on their feet with a mistake from Harry Souttar, who attempted to shepherd a ball out of play instead of clearing his lines, letting in Jayden Bogle.

The full-back’s effort from close to the byline was blocked by Adam Davies, with the loose ball hacked off the line by Wilmot before Stevens drove a low shot inches wide after the ball was quickly recycled.

Soon after, an even bigger moment saw Stoke make the breakthrough, courtesy of Brown.

Winded by developments, United struggled to recompose themselves with Stoke looking suitably settled - with all the noise coming from their travelling support and the poise coming from those in green.

If anyone was looking like scoring the next goal, it was Stoke.

That almost arrived when neat interplay ended in Nick Powell’s snapshot flashing inches wide in a half which saw the likes of Powell and Romaine Sawyers come increasingly to the fore.

United needed inspiration and it arrived in spectacular fashion in a golden finale - thanks to messrs Mousset and McGoldrick.

The former was in the right place to slot the ball home from point-blank range after being picked out masterfully by McGoldrick.

McGoldrick soon provided the fateful contribution and all was well at the Lane again.

Sheffield United: Olsen; Bogle, Egan, Davies, Stevens; Norwood (Hourihane 71), Fleck; Gibbs-White, Ndiaye (McGoldrick 77), Osborn (Mousset 67); Sharp. Substitutes unused: Basham, McBurnie, Foderingham, Robinson.

Stoke City: Davies; Wilmot, Souttar, Chester; Smith, Allen, Sawyers, Tymon; Powell (Surridge 81), Vrancic (Clucas 67); Brown (Fletcher 80). Substitutes unused: Fletcher, Bursik, Thompson, Ostigard, Ince.

Attendance: 28,576.