Sheffield United’s pre-season encounter with local rivals Rotherham United ended in a narrow 1-0 defeat at the New York Stadium. Despite the loss, the match offered several positive aspects for the Blades to take into consideration.
The game kicked off with an audacious back-heel volley from Rotherham’s Andre Green, finding the net early on and securing the victory for the home side. However, Sheffield United’s senior players were given valuable playing time, getting 77 minutes under their belt in what proved to be a competitive clash from start to finish.
Boss Heckingbottom fielded an experienced starting XI for the friendly, while the bench comprised mostly of youth players. This decision was made as the team opted to split the squad before their upcoming match against Girona in Manchester.
Blades XI: Foderingham, Baldock (Sachdev 77), Basham (Barratt 77), Robinson (Smith 77), Larouci (Gomis 77), Neal, Norwood (Staniland 38), Brooks (Maguire 77), Ndiaye (Blacker 77), Osborn (Buyabu 77), Jebbison (Hackford 77).
Subs: Amissah, Barratt, Buyabu, Sachdev, Gomis, Staniland, Maguire, Dickinson, Blacker, Hackford.
Sheffield United had the first chance, with Ndiaye unable to fully capitalise on Brooks’ setup on the counter. In the 11th minute, Rotherham took the lead through an improvised flick from trialist Green, utilising his back heel to place the ball past Foderingham into the far bottom corner.
This early goal motivated the home team, evident in Cafu’s shot saved by Foderingham, which resulted in a corner. Cafu then rattled the woodwork with a long-range free-kick. Jebbison also had an opportunity, but his header was saved by Johansson, with Humphreys preventing the striker from scoring on the rebound after a Brooks cross.
During the first half, Norwood had to be replaced by youngster Staniland after a clash of heads with Neal and Rathbone while contesting a high ball in midfield. Nonetheless, Sheffield United ended the opening 45 minutes strongly, with Brooks firing over the bar and Ndiaye attempting a shot on the turn after combining with Osborn.
The second half began with Rotherham on the front foot, and Wiles fired over from Bramall’s cross at the near post. However, the momentum quickly shifted, with Sheffield United dominating the attacking play. Jebbison outpaced and outmuscled Hall but was denied by a crucial save. The Blades appealed for a penalty after Rathbone appeared to grapple Osborn to the ground, but the referee waved away the protests.
Throughout the second half, Ndiaye proved to be Sheffield United’s most significant threat. He volleyed over the bar from an Osborn cross and saw another effort deflected behind off the heels of the retreating Hall.
With 77 minutes on the clock, Sheffield United made multiple substitutions, with only Neal completing the full 90 minutes. Despite pushing forward in the closing moments of the match, they were unable to find an equaliser.
Overall, while the Blades suffered a narrow defeat, they can take encouragement from their pre-season preparations, especially with the opportunity to evaluate both experienced players and promising young talent ahead of future challenges.
After the game, assistant manager Stuart McCall gave his thoughts on how the game went:
“In pre-season, it’s what you get out of it. Yes you want to start building your patterns and building your confidence. We had some young boys playing there as well. I thought Harrison Neal was outstanding in the middle of the park for us tonight.” [SUTV]
“You don’t like losing any game, but it’s preseason. I’ve watched the goal back, and it’s a bit of a fluke”
McCall shared some insight into what Sheffield United plan on doing in their upcoming friendlies:
“We’ve got a game tomorrow, a lot of experienced players like Egan, Berge etc will be playing in that, so it’s split teams again. We’ll go into Saturday’s game against Derby with an eye on a lot of them getting 90 minutes. It’s a gradual build up.”