Monday, 24 February 2014

The Pieces Begin To Fit

Sheffield United 3
Bristol City 0
Bramall lane
Attendance 19,271

Nigel Clough and the players deserve a big pat on the back after this performance. two teams at the bottom of League One clashed, both finally finding their form, The Blades having won their last four games in all competitions, Bristol undefeated in three league games. With both teams struggling to put distance between themselves and the bottom four it was clear today was going to be about more than just three points. Momentum, confidence and space to breath were all on offer for the victor on the day. In a stark contrast from Gillingham's line up Clough opted to put faith back into his regular system, Brayford, Murphy, Baxter and Scougall all returned to the first team giving us more creativity going forward. Instead of Baxter being the lone forward and Scougall sitting behind in an attacking midfield position the gaffer opted for a front two.

Kicking towards the Kop in the first half always leaves me with a sense of anxiety and a slightly sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, its not usually a good omen in any way shape or form, and as Annies Song shook the rafters around the ground the feeling gripped me, giving me a sense of we could be in trouble today. But thankfully I needn't have worried, United started bright and completely took control of the game. Bristol managed to steal possession early on, but Elliott's ambitious long range effort was a long way off target. United again took control and didn't allow Bristol to really get any further opportunities, long or close range. We could have taken an early lead after Murphy challenged the City keeper mid air, but he couldn't not get the ball goal-wards and it was cleared by a rather shaky and panicked defender. United then bombarded Bristol with corner after corner, we never got the delivery quite right but you could tell that all
this pressure was really affecting Bristol, they made every effort to get the ball clear but it was as if it was stuck in some kind of gravitational pull being radiated from the Bristol penalty area. Harry Maguire tested the sturdiness of Bristol's midfield and defense by going on a rampaging run from the middle of the park all the way into the danger zone in City's box, his shot on target was blocked away by two opposition players. United were running the show and more importantly frustrating their opponents by completely shutting them out of the game, it was a confident and professional start, easily the best start to a league game in over a year and a half. The pressure from corners applied by The Blades paid off as we took a deserved lead, Baxter looped it in and after a faint nod on from Maguire the ball bobbled to the back post, in waiting was John Brayford who swung his leg hard to punt the ball into the open goal, one nil to The Blades and the Bearded full back on loan from Cardiff celebrated his first goal for the club by having an overload of emotion and punching the air in front of a jubilated Kop. Half Time sounded and United had a vital hold on the game and a lead to take into the dressing room, leaving the fans wanting more of the same. 

United continued to dominate the game as the second half got underway, they dictated the tempo to suit them and built up pressure, Bristol had no real answer or contingency to come back at us and looked a lost cause, almost swallowed up by the importance of the occasion and unable to deal with the task at hand. Harris tried his look with a free kick but it was saved by City's goalkeeper. United found their second fifty eight minutes in, Murphy runs which had caused Bristol problems all afternoon again troubled the opponents, he used his control and pace to easily go round Osbourne before playing a ball across the face of goal to the man on fire Ryan Flynn who continued his good run of form by hitting his strike past the keeper and into the bottom corner. With a deserved two goal cushion The Blades had truly made their domination count and left a lack luster Bristol side with no real chance of a fightback. Bristol were further tested as Coady tried to add to his goal tally for the season but the third goal remained elusive, that is until Ryan Flynn was brought down in the box by a clumsy challenge after avoiding one just seconds prior.
Penalty awarded, whilst Baxter prepared for his spot kick Hill replaced Harris, Baxters low drive from the spot gave united three goals, three points and the breathing room they desperately needed in the league table. The in form Flynn was then substituted and replaced by new boy Ben Davies, Flynn left the field to a standing ovation, a sign of appreciation and a nod that all his hard work has not gone unnoticed. Paynter also replaced Murphy who left the field to similar treatment. In all fairness Davies and Paynter didn't have much to do as it was late on in the day and the game was won, but their were disappointing moments where you would want more from them as players. Bristol nearly grabbed a consolation goal from out of no where when Baldock's long range effort took a last minute swerve in direction forcing Howard to parry the ball straight to the feet of Elliott, but Howard recovered heroically to make it a double save and protect his clean sheet. The full time whistle echoed for a brief few seconds before celebrations kicked in and in fine voice the Blades sounded their approval of possibly the best overall ninety minutes of football seen by the Blades in the league this season. As always we look onward and upwards.

-Jonathan Gascoigne

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