IBO Reporter : channonite
|As we kicked off, I suddenly became nervous. I really wanted us to win this and not for it to become yet another record loss. I clearly wasn't the only one, as the team looked nervous for a few minutes, as Walker-Peters, Diallo and Minamino felt their way into the game on their return from injuries. Young Nathan Tella on the other hand, didn't look in the slightest bit overawed by starting alongside Danny Ings.
The first thing of consequence to happen was not something we wanted to see, as Danny Ings pulled up and hobbled around for a minute, before sitting down on the ground looking very unhappy. Eventually he managed to walk off the pitch, but the overall feeling was one of despair, what else could go wrong? We didn't know what the injury was, but it did not look good. On in his place came Ché Adams.
The half continued with misplaced passes and a general edginess from Saints, yet Sheffield United seemed incapable of taking any sort of advantage.
After half an hour Diallo played a wonderful pass from deep in the Saints half, over the heads of the United midfield and it landed right at the feet of Nathan Tella, who was already running straight towards goal. Ampadu was in close attendance, but Tella was already beyond him and as he headed into the penalty area the defender fair scythed him down. He didn't have any chance of getting the ball and Mr Tierney had no doubt, pointing to the spot. Penalty. Replays showed that he was exactly right.
Danny Ings had been the nominated penalty taker and in his absence, the captain stepped up. James Ward-Prowse made no mistake, sending Ramsdale the wrong way and fair thumping the ball into the opposite corner of the net. That's the way to take a penalty. 0-1.
The goal gave Saints a bit of confidence and suddenly the passes were finding the intended player and the defence looked reasonably comfortable. At the other end, Armstrong and Tella in particular, were causing all sorts of problems.
Almost on the stroke of half-time Sheffield United should have equalised. Diallo played a sloppy pass, intended for who knows, but him. One of the United forwards was on it in a flash and slotted the ball through to McGoldrick, who really should have done a lot better than just lob it straight into the grateful arms of Fraser Forster.
That was the last action of the half and Saints were leading the home side 0-1, while not actually playing that well. The big success from our point of view was Nathan Tella who was asking the defenders questions that they simply were unable to answer. In addition to Ampadu's booking for bringing Nathan down for the penalty, another defender, Bogle, was booked just five minutes later for unceremoniously upending the youngster. I would say Tella was making his mark, but the Sheffield United defenders were trying to make their mark on him!
At the start of the second half Norwood was replaced by McBurnie, as Chris Wilder tried to shake things up. Saints though, had other ideas. They looked far more cohesive and confident than they did in the first half and stepped up a gear, or two.
Armstrong was having a good match and showed his intent by taking possession near the half-way line. He drove up the pitch evading tackles and found Walker-Peters out on the wing. In turn he sent a pass across the face of goal, which found Adams close to the byline, he shot and Ramsdale just got a hand to it and pushed it out. A couple of defenders half-heartedly tried to clear their lines, but Lundstram only managed to hit the ball straight at Bertrand's head, who probably knew nothing about where the ball was, as it flew high into the air. When it came back down, Armstrong was ready and with a clever flick of his right shoulder, directed the ball right into the path of Ché Adams, who didn't have time to think about it (probably a good thing) and just volleyed it into the net. Ramsdale had no chance. An absolute screamer of a goal! 0-2 and only four minutes of the second half had been played.
We had hardly got over that when we saw Tella running across the pitch, just outside the penalty area, closely attended by a defender, he looked up once and fired a shot along the ground, which was destined for the bottom corner, when Ramsdale dived across the goal and just managed to push the shot wide. Unlucky Nathan.
There was very nearly the anticipate third goal a short while later, when Bertrand and Armstrong played a one, two on the left wing, with the full back crossing along the ground, into the area. It managed to evade several players, until it arrived at Minamino, who swung at it and actually managed to send it wide. He really should have scored there.
This was exhilarating stuff now and we didn't have long to wait for the next chance. United were trying to look for a free kick in front of Saints goal, but the referee wasn't interested. Minamino was nearest to the loose ball and looking up, saw Adams running upfield on his own out on the right wing. In a flash he lobbed over Adams head, right into his path for him to run on to. Also sprinting up the pitch were Armstrong in the middle and Tella on the left. Ignoring his teammates, Adams carried on and shot, but Ramsdale just managed to get a foot in the way and the chance was gone.
At the 77 minute mark Ralph decided to change things a bit and Tella's impressive game came to an end when he was replaced by Redmond.
The strikers first contribution was an almost carbon copy of Adams effort before, only this time the provider was Armstrong, who then raced up the middle of the pitch, with Minamino wide on the left. The result was the same as before, with Ramsdale saving with an outstretched foot. You just felt frustrated, as Saints really ought to have scored a couple more by this point, but given the run of results recently, this was probably a bit churlish.
That was effectively that, but for a nasty little disagreement, right at the very end of the match, when Adams was fouled in the middle of the pitch. It was just a badly timed late tackle by Fleck, who acknowledged his mistake immediately, but Saints players were incensed, particularly Bednarek. Given our injuries this season, the reaction was probably just about understandable. What wasn't acceptable was Vestergaard and McBurnie going head to head and the referee, who himself had an excellent game, booked them both as almost the final act in the game.
There was just time for Forster to have to make a save, followed by another break with Redmond, yet again failing to score. What was notable, was Armstrong, who for the umpteenth time this afternoon, sprinted the length of the pitch to support Redmond. Outstanding.
So, two goals, 3 points and a clean sheet. What's not to like.
Man of the Match
Sky made Adams their Man of the Match, but they were clearly not paying attention, as without a shadow of a doubt that was Stuart Armstrong, who was absolutely awesome in this match and was still going flat out at the final whistle. He just keeps getting better.