Sheffield United put on an impressive display in a 3-1 win over Derby County earlier this afternoon. Anis Slimane found the net for the first time in a Sheffield United shirt and then came an equaliser from Korey Smith, but late goals from George Baldock and Iliman Ndiaye registered United’s second win in pre-season.
With only a couple of weeks until the opening Premier League fixture, Paul Heckingbottom selected a strong starting eleven, and the vast majority saw 90 minutes for the first time this pre-season.
Blades XI: Foderingham, Baldock, Lowe, Berge, Egan, Ahmedhodzic, Robinson, Osborn (Brooks 88), Slimane (Basham 75), Ndiaye, Osula.
Unused: Davies, Freckleton, Marsh, Neal, Larouci.
United started the better of the two, as the midfield trio of Berge, Slimane and Osborn dictated proceedings. Derby County did not crumble, however, and they grew into the game, whipping in some testing crosses.
After some intricate play around the edge of the box, a cutback found Slimane in the centre of the penalty area, but he was leaning back, and his first-time effort flew over the bar. Nevertheless, he scored his first goal for United just two minutes later, with an unstoppable shot past Wildsmith after Ndiaye took the ball past the keeper, only to be denied by Bradley.
The Rams responded well, with Mendez-Laing forcing Foderingham into a routine save. Foderingham had to be alert again to tip over a cross from Cashin that was destined for the net. United came close to a second goal before the interval when Osula struck the top of the crossbar after some more clever combination play in the final third.
Just before the hour mark Derby levelled the score as Smith cushioned home from close range after an excellent cross from Mendez-Laing.
After conceding the equaliser, Osula was denied again, and Wildsmith saved Ahmedhodzic’s attempt from Berge’s through ball. Ndiaye and the Bosnian defender created another chance, but Egan faced a challenge, and Lowe’s shot was blocked.
In the final minutes, United scored two goals to secure a deserving victory. Baldock put United back in front, firing home with his weak foot after Lowe’s cross was not properly cleared. And, less than 60 seconds later, Basham intercepted high up the pitch and set Ndiaye free whose shot thumped the underside of the crossbar and into the net, sealing Sheffield United’s second win in this summer’s preparation for the Premier League.
Sheffield United will host Bundesliga side Stuttgart at Bramall Lane next Saturday, before entertaining Crystal Palace a week later in the opening game of the campaign.
After the game, Paul Heckingbottom spoke to SUTV about how he thought the game panned out:
“Lots of bits were very good, I thought we were composed with the ball, we tried to play, we created chances. Lots of bits that tested us with Derby on how they set up, they’re pretty direct and really good at all restarts, which is what we knew. I think that’s where we needed to be better, and it’s a good one for us because there’s lots of things we wouldn’t accept in a game that we saw today. But also lots of good bits which you could see the players working on and they’ll all be better for that 90 minutes.”
Every player other than Slimane and Osborn played the full 90 minutes, and the gaffer stated the only issue is mental sharpness. He added:
“It’s just mental sharpness, staying switched on for 90 mins, that’s the thing you’re practising. You’re probably not comfortable until you’re 6 games in.”