Sheffield United have everything but the goals as they lose again

On the sort of cold, foggy night in the West Midlands that tests the desire of professional footballers, Sheffield United produced a performance of heart and at times skill... but no goals.
DESPAIR: Max Lowe rues another wasted opportunityDESPAIR: Max Lowe rues another wasted opportunity
DESPAIR: Max Lowe rues another wasted opportunity

The Blades had more of the ball, more of the shots but it was Aaron Ramsdale who had to make the difficult saves, West Bromwich Albion's Conor Gallagher who found the net.

With just one point from their first 10 games, the Blades need wins quickly but you cannot get them without goals, and they are proving very hard to come by.

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With four each this season, Sheffield United and Burnley are comfortably the lowest scorers in this season's Premier League. Liverpool and Chelsea have 22 each from one game fewer than the Blades.

They had two strikers on the pitch at kick-off and three on the bench – Rhian Brewster and Lys Mousset came off it – but despite playing some good football at times, you never felt like they would add to their pitiful tally.

Two moments summed it up.

In the 68th minute the Blades played substitute John Lundstram into a good crossing position, the midfielder delivered a lovely curling cross and Oliver Burke flopped to the ground, just unable to reach it. In the sixth added minute, George Baldock got to the byline and pulled the ball back for Brewster to have his shot blocked. Mousset shot over from four yards. It was a terrible miss, and not the first.

That this is a side giving its all highlights that in the area which matters the most, it is just not good enough at the moment.

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Last season the Blades scored goals from midfield – five each from Lundstram and Fleck and. This time they have none.

In 2019-20 they could at least rely on clean sheets. This time, with injuries eating into their defensive resources, they have none.

They tried their usual 3-5-2, they matched West Brom's 3-4-1-2 for a bit, then went 4-3-1-2 but whatever they tried, they just could not find the net, even when they carved out great chances.

In the 81st minute Sander Berge whispered in Fleck and George Baldock's ears as they stood over a free-kick, Chris Wilder urging them to “Be brave”.

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Berge was played in down the side and crossed the ball for Oli McBurnie to shoots through the legs of Sam Johnstone, or so it seemed for the microsecond before it clipped off the goalkeeper's leg and behind for a corner.

The Blades looked and sounded sharp in the warm-up, with manager Wilder paying much closer attention than usual, and it was no surprise it resulted in a fast start by the visitors. After 13 minutes, though, they were behind.

Burke was recalled against his old side and before his current one had even touched the ball he was in Johnstone's face, closing the goalkeeper down as the Baggies worked the kick-off back to him. Within 45 seconds he had a shot, although falling over as he did it, the contact he made with the ball was minimal.

His strike partner McBurnie won a free-kick in the first two minutes, brought down by Branislav Ivanovic, who was booked. No Blades player got on the end of Fleck's dinked free-kick.

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The ball fell to the Scottish midfielder free at the back post from a fourth-minute cross but he drilled a good chance wide. Baldock worked Johnstone when Burke got to the byline and pulled the ball back after six minutes. Chris Basham was off target from the rebound.

But the Blades can huff and puff this season without convincing you they will blow the house down.

The Baggies' first chance of note came in the 13th minute and they took it.

Matheus Pereira latched on a loose ball and played a lovely pass to former Huddersfield Town striker Karlan Grant, running off Kean Bryan, making his Premier League debut amidst a shortage of left-sided defenders.

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Ramsdale came off his line to save but Berge could only play the corner to Gallagher, whose precise shot from the D found the net.

Bryan showed why he was in the side with a good cross three minutes later and Burke's header forced Johnstone into an excellent tip-over.

The Blades had a couple of good spells of patient possession later in the first half but Burke was unable to pick a man out after beating Ivanovic to get into a crossing position, McBurnie leapt well at a corner but headed at the goalkeeper and Berge fired wide from a tight angle when Burke would quite like to have been picked out.

Meanwhile Periera twice shot wide and John Egan had to close down former Blade Callum Robinson as the men in the barcode stripes counter-attacked.

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Darrnell Furlong was in far too much space at a 35th-minute corner and Ramsdale did well when his header picked out Grant, coming off his line quickly to make himself big and save with his chest.

As the second half went on, West Brom were pinned against the ropes but for the life of them, the Blades could not land a killer blow.

McBurnie volleyed wide from a low Basham cross, Fleck had a shot blocked and Basham wasted the rebound.

West Brom were rarely able to attack but when they did, Ramsdale had to make a good low save from Kyle Bartley, and Perieria's free-kick clipped the wall. The goalkeeper would later have to deny Hal Robson-Kanu.

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In the 63rd minute, Baldock produced what looked like a sure-fire winner for miss of the night until Mousset bettered – or worsened? - it, way off target after being played in by Burke.

When the wing-back crossed for Brewster he stooped and steered a header which would hit a defender, just as fellow substitute Lundstram's later effort would. When they did find a good shot, such as when Mousset played in McBurnie, Johnstone saved. When he did so from Brewster, Blalock's attempted lob from the follow-up was feeble.

The Blades did everything but score – if only that was not the most important part of the job.

West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone; Furlong, Bartley, Ajayi, Ivanovic, Townsend (Phillips 75); Sawyers, Gallagher; Pereira; Robinson (Robson-Kanu 65), Grant (Krovinovic 74).

Unused substitutes: Diangana, Harper, Button, O'Shea.

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Sheffield United: Ramsdale; Basham, Egan, Bryan (Lundstram 64); Baldock, Fleck, Norwood (Brewster 54), Berge, Lowe; McBurnie, Burke (Mousset 74).

Unused substitutes: Jagielka, McGoldrick, Verrips, Osborn.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

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