Sheffield United minds are willing but their bodies are weak at the end of a long season

The last kick of the match said it all really, David McGoldrick ballooning a shot wide as he slipped making contact with a George Baldock cross.

CHALLENGE: John Egan competes for the ball with Everton's Djibril Sidebe

It had just been one of those days for Sheffield United. Those who watched on television have probably already forgot it.

The Blades did not have a shot on target all night.

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Now, they have to make sure an outstanding season does not fizzle out with a damp squib.

They have been terrific throughout this campaign, their football and their attitudes greatly enhancing the Premier League, and nothing that happens at Southampton on the final day will change that.

But when they needed a response from a limp defeat at Leicester City, there appeared to be nothing left in the tank. A 1-0 defeat to Everton leaves them struggling to qualify for the Europa League. It will be a tough ask for a slender squad, but much like all the other tough asks they have attacked in 2019-20, it would have been fun to watch them try.

In the second half, at least, the minds of those in red-and-white looked willing, but the bodies were weak. They fought against the fatigue, playing much of the final 45 minutes in Everton territory after going behind to a Richarlison header, but the spark was just not there.

The first half was instantly forgettable save for the moment at the end of it when Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed against the post versus his old club. The ball was delivered by Theo Walcott.

That apart, it all felt very end-of-season, which was not surprising from an Everton team whose manager Carlo Ancelotti has tried to poke them in public during a lacklustre end to the season, but not from a Blades side in European contention and under strict instructions to show a response from the disappointing defeat at Leicester City which undermined those ambitions.

Jordan Pickford clawed an overhit Oliver Norwood free-kick and a Chris Basham cross behind but the only genuine shot on his goal was Enda Stevens' which left a poor ballboy having to find the ball high in the Bramall Lane Stand's top tier. Ben Osborn had a shot smothered.

Calvert-Lewin's header apart, Everton offered no more, a Walcott cross-shot ending up as much more the former than the latter and a heavy touch denying Calvert-Lewin the chance to capitalise on an Andre Gomes pass.The game had been restarted less than a minute when Richarlison jumped above Stevens at a Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick and headed his team in front with the game’s first effort on target. There would only be one more.

From there the play was mostly one-way – the other way – yet you never really felt an equaliser was coming.

Chris Wilder did what he could to inject a bit of life from the bench. Midfielders John Fleck and John Lundstram, two of this season’s outstanding performers, came on, and Billy Sharp added something up front. Richairo Zivkovic was given a run-out too, but it just was not happening.

Even the stewards’ passing was off. “Yes!” shouted George Baldock, demanding the ball back from the stands but first it was kicked at a cameraman, then into the advertising hoarding from the rebounding, inadvertently destroying the chance of a quick throw-in. Still, when the professionals were struggling at times to find red-and-white shirts, he could hardly be blamed.

McGoldrick had a shot blocked by Tom Davies from a Chris Basham cross. The overlapping centre-back was his side’s best player, but Pickford pounced on his curling centre aimed towards Sander Berge.

Dean Henderson made the game’s only bona fide save, but Calvert-Lewin’s shot had the sting taken out of it by a deflection.

McGoldrick’s shot was smothered too after a one-two with Sharp but the counter-attack was more typical, Walcott beating Stevens too easily, then hitting his cross to the invisible man. Another cross was just in front of Richarlison after great work by Calvert-Lewin to release the winger.

When John Fleck threaded a lovely pass to Sharp in the 77th minute, the captain’s touch let him down. Baldock steered a header over from fellow wing-back Stevens after Gomes had thumped a shot wide.

In a way, it was less of a shame Sheffield United were denied the end-of-season lap of honour they so deserved.

It would have felt a little hollow but it should not have done, they have been brilliant this season, even if they are limping slightly towards the finish line.

Sheffield United: Henderson; Basham (Zivkovic 83), Egan, O'Connell; Baldock, Berge, Norwood (Lundstram 69), Osborn (Fleck 60), Stevens; McBurnie (Sharp 60), McGoldrick.

Not used: Jagielka, K Freeman, J Robinson, Clarke, Moore.

Everton: Pickford, Sidibe, Keane, Branthwaite, Digne; Andre Gomes, Davies; Walcott (Gordon 83), Sigurdsson (Coleman 88), Richarlison; Calvert-Lewin.

Not used: Baines, Iwobi, Bernard, Stekelenburg, Neves Virginia, Baningime, Simms.

Referee: S Attwell (West Midlands).

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