Blades go Fourth
It was a matter of eight points from four games as a 67th minute winner from loan man Matt Phillips was enough to put the Blades into the top four. The Blades had taken a first half lead when Richard Cresswell finished calmly after a nice Blades move. However, this was cancelled out as a result of a piledriver from MK Dons midfielder Gleeson.
The Blades started with a back five that comprised of three Shirecliffe academy products. Seventeen year old George Long was the most surprise inclusion in the team, replacing the much maligned Steve Simonsen for his full home debut. The other change of note was the recall of Richard Cresswell up front, brought in to replace Chris Porter.
With Bramall Lane half empty and a meagre away following the atmosphere was not at exactly fever pitch. This was shown in the early exchanges with the Blades lethargic and the MK Dons certainly starting the brighter but there neat passing play did little to penetrate the deep defensive set up of United. It was clear from an early point that the Blades with the extra pace of Phillips and Clarke would be dangerous on the break and some early United attacks stopped due to misplaced passes.
After a serene first ten, the first incident of note came in the twelfth minute. United's Quinn was seemingly barged off his stride by MK Dons full back Smith when sent through on goal. After giving the free kick it would have been of no surprise if the referee sent of the Dons player for preventing a goal scoring opportunity. However, it was decided that the challenge only warranted a caution and the match remained 11 vs 11.
Reeling from this incident the Blades switched off on fifteen minutes and a penetrative run down the left by the Dons winger allowed him to cross, and this ball found its way to a Dons player in just outside the six yard box. If it was not for an important block from Montgomery in the six yard area the Dons would have definitely taken the lead.
This incident rejuvenated the Blades and though they continued to look more and more threatening on the break and were creating chances by the bucket load. After a mêlée in the box Williams was offered two chances to open the scoring but his second effort went high over the top corner of the goal. Nevertheless this was a prelude to the sweeping move involving Quinn,Clarke and CRESSWELL who subsequently opened the scoring. The goal was as attractive as you would have seen at the Lane in the last few seasons. After one twos between Quinn and Clarke the ball was given to an unmarked Cresswell on the edge of the box, who with only the keeper to beat, cooly slotted into the bottom left corner.
The goal did not put an end to United's attacking endeavour and they continued to create chances. Maguire sent a header just wide from a corner, Phillips found the goalkeeper with a shot from a Quinn cut back and McDonald could not find space to shoot after the goalkeeper was caught out of position. With half time approaching Blades were in the ascendancy and but for a lack of quality in certain areas could have been more than one goal up.
The second half began with a strong penalty claim from United as Cresswell seemed to be bundled over by defender Lewington. The protests were waved away and within minutes United were on the receiving end of an MK Dons break of their own. Similarly to United's first goal a sweeping move from left to right ended up with Gleeson smashing a low drilled shot into the helpless Long's bottom right hand corner. United had let a lead slip again and the frustrations in the crowd were for all to see.
With the dynamics of the game having changed Evans was brought on by Wilson as a means to to get another goal. Within minutes of his arrival the Blades had got this goal. Another neat one two between Quinn and Clarke saw the Blackpool man one on one with the Dons` central defender Beevers. His pace took him to the byline and his drilled cross come shot was side footed into an open net by PHILLIPS. The Blades had taken a deserved lead and a nervy 20 minutes were in store for the home crowd.
MK Dons young manager Robinson reacted to the goal by bringing on three substitutes in attacking positions to aid a final assault on the Blades goal. As is becoming characteristic of the Blades with a lead they sat back and allowed the Dons to come onto them. It was the substitute Balanta that came close on 80 minutes with a drilled shot that found the clutch of Long. Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch Dons full back Smith was shown his second booking for a crude challenge on Flynn.
The nerves grew when the fourth official put up 5 added minutes on the board and the Blades, seemingly unable to hold onto the ball, were under constant pressure from the 10 man Dons. Centre Half and ex-Wednesday man Lee Beevers was put up front as a make shift target man. With the added time well into the sixth minute a final Dons corner saw their goalkeeper who had attacking fray fouling Quinn and with that the final whistle. The Blades had won their eighth game of the season.
This has to be seen as an important result for the Blades that maintains our challenge at the top of the table due to teams around us losing. Nonetheless, I still do not feel the level of performance is anywhere near their best. Do not get me wrong there were many positives in terms of performance to be taken out of yesterdays game but I still feel we could get better. Firstly, we need to keep hold of Phillips and particularly Clarke. Both these inject pace and creativity to the Blades and it is no coincidence since that we have scored more goals and created more chances since they have been brought into the first team. I still do see a mental fragility there and this was for all to see for the second goal. The Blades just switched off and the scorer Gleeson should never have been left alone. After we took the lead again we just sat back and lacked confidence. If we were authentic automatic promotion pushers we would continue to attack or at the very least try to defend outside of our area. Finally, I think Wilson should stick with Long for a spell of games now. There didn`t seem to be the nervousness in the defence when the high ball was put in the Blades box yesterday and I think this has something to do with the omission of Simonsen. Give the young lad a go for a couple of games as he definitely does have ability.