Weakened Sheffield United take a win rather than an excuse against Tottenham Hotspur

“Fancy a game?” Chris Wilder shouted when he saw a masked Michael Brown, on media duty, in the stands.
SCORER: Sander Berge (right) celebrates his first Sheffield United goalSCORER: Sander Berge (right) celebrates his first Sheffield United goal
SCORER: Sander Berge (right) celebrates his first Sheffield United goal

We thought he was joking, but when the teamsheets were released minutes later, perhaps not. With John Fleck and John Lundstram out, Sheffield United could have done with their former midfielder, if only to flesh out numbers on the bench. Two substitute berths were left unfilled with only Jack Rodwell, a midfielder for much of his career but one who sees himself more as a central defender now, an option in the middle of the park.

By not even giving a day out to a couple of academy youngsters or even a third goalkeeper, it felt like Wilder might be playing politics and getting his excuses in early. It is a tactic more often seen from managers when the transfer window is open and chairmen can be leaned on.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

When Wilder lays down an excuse, though, he is normally daring his players to pick it up. He will not take it kindly if they do.

Perhaps it was more about creating a siege mentality, but whatever the thinking, the Blades are at last up and running with a first win since March 7, the last time they played Premier League football at Bramall Lane.

There was a side looking sorry for themselves by the end, but it was the team led by the Miserable One.

Sander Berge, Lys Mousset and Oli McBurnie took their well-crafted chances as the Blades took control to claim yet another scalp for their impressive collection. Things change quickly in this restarted season. From Spurs having been perceived to have had a good restart and Sheffield United a poor one that was beginning to put even a top-half finish in doubt, the Blades are now looking down on Jose Mourinho's men from a Europa League spot.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They rode their luck in the first half, but they were certainly owed it.

They say these things even themselves out and after being on the end of a really poor decision at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where Lundstram's big toe was ruled offside – it was – when the ball was on the opposite side of the field from the one it was crossed from for David McGoldrick to score, the Blades belatedly got some payback.

Harry Kane thought he had quickly cancelled out Sander Berge's first goal in English football, pouncing on a loose ball, cutting inside Jack Robinson and finding the net.

The ball came to him off Lucas Moura, who had the ball booted against him as he fell to the ground by John Egan. Michael Oliver noticed the ball had fallen to Egan off the winger's hand when he was clipped by Robinson and advised referee Chris Kavanagh to chalk the goal off. When the replay was shown on the big screen, the Tottenham bench went ballistic.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Accidental handball has become an offence when it creates a goal, so if Kavanagh had pulled play up, Spurs could have had no arguments. But the VAR is only supposed to intervene for clear and obvious errors to stop matches being re-refereed from Stockley Park. That is happening too often.

You can guarantee had there been fans in Bramall Lane they would have been signing “It's not football any more”. It was something of a theme song in the first phase of the season, often with both sets of supporters singing in unison.

Kane had the ball in the net midway through the second half, but there was never any doubt he was offside.

The Blades got another break seven minutes later when Oliver Norwood, in the book a minute earlier for clipping Moura from behind, appeared to catch Son Heung-Min with his elbow. Kavanagh awarded a free-kick, but no more.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Given how much VAR has worked against them this season, they have had more decisions against them than any Premier League side, and given how they have struggled to get their season going, Sheffield United will take whatever they can get.

Spurs never looked the same after their disappointment.

The Blades had built on a positive performance against Arsenal in the opening quarter with both sides passing the ball around pleasingly without much threat.

That changed after 32 minutes when George Baldock fed the overlapping Chris Basham and drilled the ball back for Berge to pick his spot for the first of three goals pulled back from the byline. Overloading in wide areas is a Blades speciality, so it was pleasing to see them do it so well. As the game went on, they were looking back to their old selves.

Wilder made an important substitution just after the hour, withdrawing McGoldrick, who had just ruffled the side netting when Ben Osborn – on his full Premier League debut – picked him out after Hugo Lloris knocked a Berge cross to him. Lys Mousset came on but it was McBurnie who was instructed to drop deep into the Republic of Ireland international's roving brief.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was from the right wing that he picked the ball up and, looking gangly and ungainly with the ball at his feet, his socks halfway down his shins as usual, nevertheless made himself space and used it to brilliantly switch the play to Enda Stevens. The wing-back played a one-two with Osborn before producing an invitation it would have been rude of Mousset not to accept.

The third goal was excellent too, and no less than McBurnie deserved, finishing a move which saw Baldock thread a terrific pass to Berge, who beat his man at the byline and crossed for McBurnie to tap in.

Kane found the net in the 90th minute but it was as irrelevant as the celebrations suggested. This was the evening Sheffield United's season finally restarted.

Sheffield United: Henderson; Basham, Egan, J Robinson; Baldock, Berge, Norwood, Osborn, Stevens; McGoldrick (Mousset 63), McBurnie (K Freeman 90).

Not used: Sharp, Jagielka, Moore, Rodwell, Zivkovic.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Aurier (Ndombele 71), Dier, Sanchez, Davies (Vertonghen 81); Sissoko (Alli 71), Lo Celso; Bergwijn (Lamela 56), Lucas, Son; Kane.

Not used: Alderweireld, Winks, Gazzaniga, Skipp, Fernandes.

Referee: C Kavanagh (Manchester).

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected]. Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.

If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.

Sincerely. Thank you.

James Mitchinson