Sheffield United 2 West Bromwich Albion 0: Blades show calmness, intelligence and skill to secure Premier League return

Some parties can be slow to get going, but when Sheffield United's Championship promotion shindig got going it was a night no one at Bramall Lane will forget.

For 45 minutes it was all a bit flat, two teams who needed victory for different reasons not wanting to go off too early, casting an eye around to see where the fun was to be had, who was to be avoided.

West Bromwich Albion allowed Sander Berge and Tommy Doyle plenty of possession and George Baldock and Anel Ahmedhodzic as much space as they wanted down the right but the Blades were unable to make their move.

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It was a big night for the Baggies too, knowing a win would put them into the play-off places and nervousness trumped flowing football.

We are going up: Sheffield United players and staff members celebrate being promoted to the Premier League (Picture: David Davies/PA Wire)We are going up: Sheffield United players and staff members celebrate being promoted to the Premier League (Picture: David Davies/PA Wire)
We are going up: Sheffield United players and staff members celebrate being promoted to the Premier League (Picture: David Davies/PA Wire)

But after a few dressing room drinks, things started to get lively and the Blades began to strut their stuff, showing why they will be playing in next season's Premier League.

Fortunately for most of the 30,050 in attendance they did not have to show the biggest trademark of their season, the ability to bounce back from setbacks. But most of what else is good about this squad of players and their manager Paul Heckingbottom was on show in a 2-0 win – their refusal to get flustered when the going got tough, their hunger to win, their intelligence and their skills with a football at their feet.

The Class of 2023 has a nice mix of everything.

As they had done a week earlier against Bristol City, the Blades reappeared for the second half a team energised. And when they have that intensity, not to mention the backing of a full-throated Bramall Lane, they are hard to stop.

Anel Ahmedhodzic (C) of Sheffield United celebrates with teammates John Egan (L) and Iliman Ndiaye (R) after scoring the team's second goal (Picture: George Wood/Getty Images)Anel Ahmedhodzic (C) of Sheffield United celebrates with teammates John Egan (L) and Iliman Ndiaye (R) after scoring the team's second goal (Picture: George Wood/Getty Images)
Anel Ahmedhodzic (C) of Sheffield United celebrates with teammates John Egan (L) and Iliman Ndiaye (R) after scoring the team's second goal (Picture: George Wood/Getty Images)
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Baldock seemed the keenest to get the party started, bombing down the right and forcing the save which led to an early corner. Soon James McAtee was appealing for a penalty after Jed Wallace stepped across him.

Baldock shoved Taylor Gardner-Hickman over in anger at a tackle on Doyle. The music in the background had ben turned up as the crowd sensed their job and rose to it.

Even one of the ball boys caught the mood, so frantic trying to return the ball quickly to Baldock he overdid the throw and slowed things down but the intent was there. The intent was everywhere at Bramall Lane all of a sudden.

And when it brought its reward 58 minutes in, the fans sang "The Blades are going up".

HEADS UP. Brandon Thomas-Asante wins his header against Sheffield United defender Jack RobinsonHEADS UP. Brandon Thomas-Asante wins his header against Sheffield United defender Jack Robinson
HEADS UP. Brandon Thomas-Asante wins his header against Sheffield United defender Jack Robinson
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This Sheffield United side has a lot of skill, but it has hunger and intelligence too. Iliman Ndiaye demonstrated all three in creating the deadlock-breaking goal.

He had the awareness and the hunger to latch onto a poor Gardner-Hickman pass, the nous to realise his run had forced him beyond a goalscoring position, the skill to chop inside and the calmness to lay the ball on for Sander Berge to produce an equally measured finish.

McBurnie might have had a penalty minutes later when Darnell Furlong appeared to be shoved as he prepared to nod in a Berge cross from a matter of yards out.

Baldock was soon screaming in the face of one of the linesman, angry at not getting a free-kick. Coach Jack Lester's fury earned him a booking. With the safety net of three matches to come to book their return to the top-flight, the Blades were desperate to not to use it.

It soon became clear they would not have to.

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John Egan probably should have buried a Berge cross but another defender doubled the lead – if you can call the constantly forward-thinking Anel Ahmedhodzic that.

Baldock was again the spark but his volley was off target and the Bosnian centre-back had the presence of mind and ability to cushion it, again on the volley, into the net.

"Mind the gap Sheffield Wednesday" sang fans who hope to be able to add a bit of Schadenfreude to their actual freude in the coming weeks.

The constant flow of messages over the tannoy in the last 15 minutes urging supporters not to encroach onto the pitch was acknowledgement of what everyone knew: it was job done.

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Even so, Heckingbottom started to throw on chaperones to make sure his more excitable young players did not do anything they would regret in the morning.

John Fleck, Billy Sharp, Oliver Norwood and Chris Basham may no longer be part of their club's first XI, but they have all played an important steadying hand through the choppier waters of this journey, and Heckingbottom wanted them manning the tiller at the end.

"We ain't got a barrel of money" got a few airings and that could be an issue in the best league in the world but Heckingbottom has always been one to focus on what he has, rather than what he does not.

And as the Blades showed for the last time before they could sincerely say "We are Premier League", that is actually quite a lot.

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Sheffield United: Foderingham; Ahmedhodzic, Egan, Robinson; Baldock, Berge, Doyle, Lowe; McAtee; Ndiaye, McBurnie. Unused substitutes:Davies, Fleck, Basham, Sharp, Norwood, Bogle, Jebbison.

West Bromwich Albion: Palmer; Furlong, Ajayi, Pieters, Townsend; Yokuslu; Wallace, Molumby, Gardner-Hickman, Grant; Thomas-Asante. Unused substitutes: Bartley, Rogic, Livermore, Swift, Albrighton, Malcolm, Griffiths.

Referee: D Whitestone (Northampton).