The feeling I got leaving Valley Parade on Saturday (without repeating the colourful language) was ‘What a match!’
Between getting up that morning and full time was a bit more nervy. As the game went on, the thought of going down to Sheffield United’s rampant front line was growing. For the neutral, it must have been a magnificent game to watch, end to end for the most part and a lively Yorkshire Derby atmosphere.
When the lineups were announced before the game, I thought it was a strange choice swapping Darby out for McArdle at right back. I actually had no idea of what formation we would play, such is the fluidity of our set up this season. It could be a decent enough decision as what we lacked on the right hand side, we made up for with a more solid looking back line with more height…right?
The opening goal was one I could see happening. The view from up in the Upper Main Stand is akin to playing Football Manager and you can see the shape of the teams and where we were looking a bit ‘soft’. The right of our defence is where United aimed for early on. Billy Clarke tried breaking away from a United attack and lost the ball easily on the right. Fleck jinked inside Josh Cullen and played a floating ball, inch perfect, onto the head of Billy Sharp who had peeled off NKP. 1-0 to the Blades. They nearly went 2-0 up a few minutes later when United counter-attacked and fed the ball to Matt Done; He wasn’t really prepared for McArdle’s air shot and the ball hit him and fell into the grateful arms of Doyle.
City responded well, we looked determined, not panicked. Nicky Law started a move from the middle, out to the left where Kilgallon got a cross into a dangerous area. Hiwula looked like he was going to score but the ball was deflected on the way through 2 more Sheffield United attempted blocks and ended up at the back post, where Billy Clarke couldn’t really miss. 1-1 and the game was looking like living up to its billing as a mouthwatering top of the table clash.
City grew with the first half and although we started to threaten a lot more, we seemed to switch off at set pieces, nearly getting caught out by short corners and quick freekicks. The second half started and City switching off again got United their second goal. They got a freekick on the left hand side after a dubious looking dive from Sharp. Doyle was still setting up that pointless two-man wall keepers tend to set up for crosses when Fleck played a quick cross into the box, which only Billy Sharp was alive to and he slotted it home from 6 yards out. Queue wild celebrations in the United ends. That lead only lasted a few minutes as City weren’t done. Cullen played the ball to the back post to Hanson who fed the ball back across goal to Hiwula to get City level again. 2-2. City were enjoying their best spell and James Hanson was enjoying perhaps his best game for City this season. We were closing them down in midfield, forcing errors and forcing them backwards.
We needed to make it count while we were on top and we did. The goal, again, came from the left, Dieing picked up the ball, passed it out wide and made a run into the box which none of the United players picked up. Kilgallon then dinked the ball over their right back and there was Dieing to send VP into raptures with a finely placed volley. Could we hang on? Doubt anyone around me thought we could, such was the openness of the game. We were proved right just a couple of minutes later when United got a freekick. Might be sounding a bit harsh here but the freekick could’ve been caught by Doyle. He just palmed it away for a corner. The resulting corner was poor but Hanson at the near post failed to connect when swinging his left foot at it and it got bundled in at the back post by Basham. We could’ve got all 3 points by the end with Hiwula hitting the bar and so could’ve United with Billy Sharp missing from 6 yards out when there was a mix up between NKP and Vincelot.
I think, though a draw was a fair result. It’s great to see 2 teams that were proper going for it as opposed to not wanting to lose. It was a credit to League One and although it didn’t feel like it during the game, it was a great match.
Onto AFC Wimbledon who will be a little more physical than Sheffield United and are starting to go on a decent run themselves. A big team will be required again and I would like to see Hanson starting again as I thought he was impressive in his hold-up play on Saturday.
Doyle – 6 – Did well enough when called upon. Just think he could’ve done better with the freekick that lead to the corner which United scored from
McArdle 6 – He’s not a right back. I’d much prefer to see Darby there but I understand that McCall felt the need for a taller back line.
Vincelot – 6 – Solid enough. Didn’t do much wrong but his partnership with NKP didn’t fill me with confidence whether the ball was played through or in the air.
Knight-Percival 6 – See Vincelot
Kilgallon – 7 – Steady at left back and got two assists. He didn’t really have much to do as most of their attacks came down our right.
Dieing – 8 – Was out on his feet the last 10 minutes. He ran and ran and deservedly got his goal. Between him and Law for MOTM.
Cullen – 7 – The model of consistency for me, played well throughout the game and did best when setting up our attacks
Law – 8 – My man of the match. Ball winner, tenacious and ran at the United midfield. His partnership with Cullen was fantastic to watch
Clarke – 7 – Got his goal which gives him a higher rating, faded in and out of the game. Some incredibly poor touches and lost the ball in key areas.
Hanson – 7 – His hold up play was fantastic and his headers back to our midfielders were key in relieving pressure. Still needs to do more for me as a striker, though.
Hiwula – 7 – Gave a good account of himself, got in really good areas and made some great runs. Unlucky to be called offside at one point when he was through. I was looking down the line and he wasn’t.