Sheffield United's two-minute spell makes all the difference in first win of 2022

For 45 minutes it was flat and frankly a bit boring at Bramall Lane. Sheffield United had Luton Town where they wanted them, but whether it was reluctance or inability, they were not going for the throat.

But two goals in two minutes at the start of the second half from Rhian Brewster and Jack Robinson injected life into the game and unlike at Deepdale four days earlier, it was a lead they could hang onto, even when the Hatters followed Preston's example and had a man sent off.

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Caution got the better of manager Paul Heckingbottom when his side ought to have been looking to bury the 10 men but at least they got the job done for a much-needed first win since Christmas.

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HEADER: Jack Robinson celebrates scoring Sheffield United's second goalHEADER: Jack Robinson celebrates scoring Sheffield United's second goal
HEADER: Jack Robinson celebrates scoring Sheffield United's second goal

The 2-0 scoreline was deserved and if you left with the feeling the Blades had left a little in the tank, that will come in handy in the slog to come in the second half of the season.

The murmur around the ground as the first half played out said it all - it was not a game to grab the attention.

It was 55 days since Heckingbottom's side had played at Bramall Lane but it did not translate into the excitement it ought to have in a flat opening period.

Just as at Derby County seven days earlier, the Blades had the better of the opening 45 minutes - 58 per cent of the ball, 10 shots to three - but there was a disappointing lack of intensity about them.

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December's Covid-19 postponements have really taken the sting out of a side who looked as though they were finally going to make a charge for the play-offs.

When Conor Hourihane picked the ball up near the halfway line there was a clear corridor in front of him to run into. Illiman Ndiaye, the Blades' only real spark at that stage, would have, but Hourihane laid a simple pass off to his right and the crowd groaned. A couple of minutes later he overhit an easy pass to Ndiaye.

When Chris Basham pirouetted on the ball and released Rhys Norrington-Davies, the wing-back's cross was poor - not for the first time - and hit the first defender. Soon after, Oliver Norwood flicked a pass down the channel and straight out of play.

Brewster had a couple of shots on the turn in the opening 20 minutes, the first weak and at James Shea, the second caught much better but into the side netting. Ndiaye did his best to commit defenders, but without reward.

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All that came at the other end was Cameron Jerome's shot from a Peter Kioso cross which he poked at Wes Foderingham, reacting sharply to get down low and keep it out.

Billy Sharp tried to gee his team-mates up as they waited for the second half to start but Heckingbottom resisted the urge to use perhaps the strongest bench the Blades have had this season, and his faith was repaid.

Jayden Bogle's 49th-minute shot was terrible but Brewster's mind was sharp and he controlled it behind himself and put the ball into the net to ease the tensions on the Kop.

Two minutes later the transformation was complete, Robinson in rather too much space to head in Oliver Norwood's free-kick.

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For former Hull City defender Reece Burke to be shown a red card for a professional foul Brewster in the 62nd minute would have been the sign that this was game over, had Preston not come back from 2-0 down with 10 men only days earlier.

The Blades initially seemed to have learnt from that, Norrington-Davies shooting over from a corner and Norwood blasting over after running onto a pass, but Heckingbottom was not of the same mindset. There were groans when Sander Berge came on for Brewster after 70 minutes, keeping the 3-4-1-2 formation with slightly more conservative players, but it ensured his team were able to see the game out, still pushing against the door but hardly battering it down.

Instead, the home fans had to take their satisfaction from news of Oxford United's late winner against Sheffield Wednesday.

That spurt of second-half activity apart, it was not a thriller of a game but after so long without seeing any football, never mind winning football, the faithful gleefully took what they could get.

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Sheffield United: Foderingham; Basham, Egan, Robinson; Bogle, Hourihane, Norwood, Norrington-Davies; Ndiaye (McGoldrick 82); Sharp (McBurnie 85), Brewster (Berge 70).

Unused substitutes: Baldock, Fleck, Eastwood, Gordon.

Luton Town: Shea; Burke, Bradley, Naismith; Kioso, Mpanzu, Campbell, Lansbury, Bell (Clark 60); Jerome (Adebayo 54), Muskwe (Osho 63).

Unused substitutes: Berry, Sluga, Mendes Gomes, Onyedinma.

Referee: S Martin (Staffordshire).

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