Evan(s) Must be Missing a Goal Scoring Angel
It was Ched Evans whose name stole the headlines as the goal-machine's brace set up a comfortable Sheffield United 3-0 win over Rochdale on Saturday. A Richard Cresswell effort was sandwiched between
Evans' opener and 20 yard three kick to allow United to keep the pressure on the top two and provide United with their fifth win in five games.
Wilson's starting XI had two changes from the side that squeezed into the third round of the FA Cup last week against Torquay last weekend. On loan full back Marcus Williams was replaced at left back by Haitian internation Lescinel Jean-Francois and the central midfield saw Kevin McDonald come in for David McAllister.
The game started slowly as both sides looked to adjust to the wet conditions. It was United who created the first chance as Quinn sent a rather tame effort towards the Dale goal that was awkwardly tipped around the
ost by veteran keeper Lucas.
This was the only attack of note in the first twenty minutes until United nearly found themselves a goal behind as Rochdale managed to breach United's resolute defence. As Dale broke, Lescinel found himself caught out on the turn and Adams found himself in the clear and saw the onrushing Simonsen thwart his attempt. However, this was an aberration in a first half largely dominated by a confident United. This domination was soon converted into chances. Evans was first to go close as a penetrative run on the left wing from the effervescent Quinn was centred, but Evans could only prod the ball straight at Lucas. This was followed by a Quinn volley that sailed harmlessly right of the Dale goal.
The writing seemed on the wall for Rochdale and it did not take too long for that man Evans to once again get himself on the score sheet. Full back Lescinel sent an angled long ball towards the Welsh man and with the defence unable to deal with it Evans on the half volley struck the ball into the top corner to give United the lead.
After a ten minute interval due to the Dale keeper David Lucas receiving what seemed a serious concussion, United made sure they held onto their lead and were deservedly applauded off the field by the Lane faithful.
The second half began with both teams due to the long break rather sluggish in defence. Firstly, United's Williamson easily got in behind the Rochdale defence but his pacey cross was ballooned over the bar by Evans. Following this it was United's turn to gift Rochdale a chance. Lesinel who began the half with his mind back in the changing room twice gave the ball away in the United box resulting in Simonsen having to make a save low down to his left.
After nearly gifting the opposition an equaliser it was surprisingly Lescinel that was integral to United extending their lead. After good work on the left flank, Quinn released Lescinel on the touchline and his venomous ball from the byline was cleverly flicked in by the alert Cresswell. United now with a two goal lead could now relax and the removal of this pressure saw them play with a greater freedom and creativity.
This culminated in Cresswell breaking free in the middle of the park and as he looked to push forwards towards the edge of the box he was cynically tripped by ex-United man Jordan. After coming so close twice last week it was Evans who took control of the situation from about 25 yards he found a way around the poorly constructed wall into the Rochdale goal. In fairness the keeper had no chance and Evans had for the second game running earned himself a brace.
With the Blades oozing with attacking confidence and flair they nearly added a fourth a few minutes later. A poor backpass found its way to Evans but his effort from a tight angle was saved by the keeper and then from the rebound Cresswell's goalbound effort was desperately blocked on the line. From the resultant Collins saw an effort cleared off the line for the second time in a short period and then Maguire's header was directed over.
Wilson brought on Montgomery, Flynn and Porter for the last ten as United had to maintain concentration in the last ten minutes and Simonsen looked desperate to hang on to a third successive clean-sheet. Although Dale tried to go direct most was snuffed out by centre backs Collins and Maguire. It was a matter of job done when the final whistle blew at the unusual time of 5.05. United had gained their third successive win as well as another clean sheet.
While results against Chesterfield, Carlisle and Torquay have been good, I did feel that the performances were somewhat lacking. However, yesterday I thought United were brilliant going forward and at the back against a poor Rochdale side. Simonsen looks increasingly more confident and as a result the defence look a lot more confident in him. Three clean sheets in a row are a pleasing reward for a player who has had his struggles this season. The central defence is definitely United's strength at the moment. Both Maguire and Collins have hardly put a foot wrong in the last few weeks and another commanding performance cemented their place as one of the best defensive partnerships in the league. Lowton seems once again back to his best. His play in the Dale half was as good as it usually is but we also saw a more assured defensive display. Lescinel is not the answer at left back and was the weakness in the defence yesterday. He was caught out on many occasions and his mistakes at the start of the second half highlighted his dopeyness at times. However, he did react well to this and had a major hand in both goals. The most refreshing thing to see was how well the midfield played. Doyle aside whose distribution was one again woeful, the United midfield looked a far more creative unit. Both Quinn and Williamson were dangerous on the wings and McDonald was brilliant in midfield. Although he is obviously not the fittest, he is the only United central midfielder that can put his foot on the ball and find a pass. He also ran a lot more with the ball yesterday which was good to see. Up front both strikers worked hard and were rewarded with their goals.
There were many stand out performers yesterday. The two centre backs again laid a claim to the award. McDonald was instrumental to the win in midfield and pulled the strings and dictated the pace of the game. However, for the countless time this season Ched Evans wins the award. United have not often recent years had a striker that can find the net regularly but Evans at the moment looks like he will score every time he receives the ball. Yesterday he was a constant threat and could have had five again. For the first time I can remember we have the in-form striker in England. It is essential if we want to go up that we must keep him.
Stinker of the Day
Hard to pick out anyone for too much stick. Nevertheless, I did feel defensively we missed Williams. Lescinel gets far too lose to his man at times and this leaves him susceptible to being turned. His five minutes of madness at the beginnig of the first half was ridiculous too.