CHRIS BASHAM has hailed the impact of veteran striker David McGoldrick on promotion hopefuls Sheffield United.
The 30-year-old only bagged a 12-month contract at Bramall Lane after impressing manager Chris Wilder during a summer trial.
Just one goal in eight appearance in the Championship before Saturday’s visit of Preston North End hardly vindicated that decision.
McGoldrick’s only goal had come in August’s 2-1 win at QPR, but look beyond the scoring statistics and the impression that he has made on the Blades has been significant in their march up the Championship to sit fourth this morning.
The Republic of Ireland international’s all-round game and work ethic has endeared him to Blades supporters and his contribution to the cause was clearly evident on Saturday.
He created Billy Sharp’s first-half goal before winning the free-kick that led to Basham scoring the second.
We are still learning as we go along as a team. The players and staff are learning. We feel a bit deflated, but we have won the game. I would rather have this result than the Bristol City result (a 1-0 defeat).Chris Basham
Even after Preston rallied to make it 2-2 late in the game it was McGoldrick – who had dragged a good chance wide at 2-0 – who remained composed to bag the 87th-minute winner.
“David has been outstanding since he came into the football club and showed his quality at the end, the composure to put the ball in the back of the net,” said Basham.
“It was then just a case of hanging on. We went 2-0 up and he (McGoldrick) had a chance to put us 3-0 up, but he snapped at it a little bit and it went wide. But he has got that quality and it was a great goal for him.
“The fans love what he does, what he brings to this football club, and he has been like a breath of fresh air since he came here. Hopefully he can get a roll on now.
“He brings experience. He was linked with moves for £9m or £10m (earlier in his career), so you know he has that quality. He’s also good in the dressing room, has a voice.”
It was Basham’s left-wing cross that created an early chance for McGoldrick – who started out at Notts County, but has had a long list of clubs including Southampton, Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town – but his header was cleared off the line.
The striker, who had a loan spell with city neighbours Sheffield Wednesday in 2011, then turned provider on 36 minutes.
He raced clear down the right flank before drawing Chris Maxwell out of his goal and teeing up Sharp to fire home into an unguarded net.
McGoldrick played a part in United’s second goal six minutes after the restart.
He won a foul off Paul Huntington and Ollie Norwood’s free-kick was glanced inside Maxwell’s far post by Basham’s head.
It was a special moment for the Blades defender, who dedicated the goal to his son Luke, who was celebrating his fourth birthday.
“We worked on a few things,” said Basham. “It was on a plate for me and it flew into the top corner. It was my little boy’s birthday, so it it was nice to get him a goal. His name’s Luke, and I said, ‘I will try and notch a goal for you today son’, so that was nice. I dedicated that one to him.”
At 2-0 the match seemed over as a contest.
Maybe it was that feeling inside Bramall Lane that seeped into the players as Preston grabbed two goals inside three minutes to stun the majority of the 23,857 crowd.
First Darnell Fisher’s cross was turned in by Callum Robinson in the 80th minute.
Three minutes later United’s advantage was wiped out.
Substitute Daniel Johnson’s deflected shot – from a low cross from the left from Andrew Hughes – wrongfooted Dean Henderson, who had earlier saved from Tom Clarke’s header, in the Blades goal.
But most teams managed by Wilder over the years possess a never-say-die attitude and this current Blades side are no different.
A rampaging run down the left by Enda Stevens caused panic in Preston’s defence and he picked out McGoldrick, who rammed in the winner in front of a relieved Kop.
“At 2-0 you feel comfortable in the game, but Preston are a Championship side,” said Basham. “They were always going to create something in the game.
“We conceded two, but we showed character and spirit to win the game, and got another three points to leave us fourth (in the table).”
He continued: “We are still learning as we go along as a team. The players and staff are learning. We feel a bit deflated, but we have won the game.
“I would rather have this result than the Bristol City result (a 1-0 defeat). Preston are fighting for their lives. I know it’s only eight games in, but they are trying to find a win from somewhere. They could have got that in the end, but we are buzzing to have come off the pitch having won the game.”
Sheffield United: Henderson, Stevens, Fleck, O’Connell, Basham, Sharp (Johnson 74), Egan, Norwood, McGoldrick (Stearman 90), Freeman, Duffy (Clarke 85). Unused substitutes: Lundstram, Woodburn, Moore, Washington.
Preston North End: Maxwell, Fisher, Clarke, Davies, Robinson, Browne, Gallagher (Johnson 62), Hughes, Ledson (Harrop 90), Huntington, Barkhuizen (Moult 71). Unused substitutes: Rudd, Earl, Burke, Barker.
Referee: S Duncan (Tyne & Wear).