Blades Stun Doubters
Tuesday 20th March
A superb all round performance by The Blades at Meadow Lane last night was exactly what was required to allay supporters fears after the disappointment of the two previous draws at Colchester and home to Tranmere.
Travelling fans were delighted to see Kevin McDonald in the starting line up, though given the state of the ploughed field that passed as the playing surface, we were a bit concerned that it might not be the right match to risk a come back, given his importance to the side for the final run in. However, after watching just a couple of minutes at the start of the game it was clear to all that this was exactly the right decision.
Despite the state of the pitch, United played their usual passing game as much as possible, the only ball in the air came from defenders under pressure - and that didn`t happen very often. Right from the off United took the game to County at a very high tempo, pressuring high up the pitch and every player working hard to hold and gain possession.
McDonalds control in midfield, his passing and his ability to bring other players into the game with just a change of pace and direction reminded us of what had been missing for the past few games.
United`s total control of the first half began to produce goals after a quarter of an hour. Williamson out on the right slotted a pinpoint pass through to STEVEN QUINN on the penalty spot who controlled and slotted the ball into the left corner of Nelson`s net.
The second duly arrived a few minutes later when Cresswell flicked on to CHED EVANS who with close attention from two defenders was forced wide to the by line 8 yards from goal, created a foot of space and powered the ball in from the very tightest of angles.
Five minutes later The Blades had a third when Williamson`s free kick was only half cleared to MATT LOWTON 30 yards out who thundered a left footer low into Nelson`s left bottom corner.
Ex Blade Jon Forte and winger Lloyd Sam looked to be County`s only threat, but United`s back four comfortably dealt with their pace whilst McDonald and Doyle were totally in control in midfield.
In amongst the goal fest, The Blades created numerous other good chances, the best of which being Cresswell`s shot which hit the keeper`s legs and Evans who put one just wide.
On the stroke of half time a training ground move provided goal number four. Quinn rolled the corner back to McDonald whose measured cross to fast arriving COLLINS left him with the simple task of thundering his header past Nelson from 8 yards out.
Half Time - Game Over.
There was no way The Blades could maintain the pace and tempo of the first half, especially as hundreds of gallons of water were poured onto the already heavy pitch through out the interval but with the game effectively over, it was all about maintenance and ensuring that there were no injuries.
Forte sliced away County`s best chance soon after the break, then down the other end United should have extended the lead. Keeper Nelson somehow managed to push a K McD shot around the post then Lowton`s dipping shot was pushed over the bar as United looked likely with every attack. McDonald then hit a shot inches wide of a post.
County brought on the rotund, much travelled Adebola on the hour just before Kevin McDonald was withdrawn to rapturous applause and singing from the Blades fans. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief that he had got through unscathed and that he was rested with the game effectively won.
Beattie replaced Cresswell with 17 minutes to go and clearly enjoyed being involved for a bit longer than his usual 5 minutes!
County got on the score sheet with 13 minutes left. Maguire challenged the experienced Adebola who felt the defender at his back and allowed his considerable frame to hit the mud in theatrical fashion. JUDGE`S perfect free kick left Simonsen with no chance.
With 10 minutes left, County`s Neal Bishop was shown a second yellow, this time for a lunge at Quinn. Bishop had previously had a spat with Williamson and Cresswell as his general aggressive bad temper let him down.
Ched Evans was withdrawn to an ovation with just a few minutes left, before WILLIAMSON took advantage of a County defensive mix up to fire home in the last minute. 'We want 6` was the chant, but the final goal came at the other end as United lost a bit of concentration.
In the 4 minutes of added time, Sheehan`s free kick was poorly defended and KELLY headed home.
Has to be Kevin McDonald. Not only did he control the game for an hour but he had a tremendous effect on others, giving them confidence and bringing key players into the game.
Phew. A whirlwind of a game that just didn`t stop for the 45 minutes of the first half. United simply blew Notts away playing a high tempo and some excellent football, much of it centred around the skills and vision on Kevin McDonald. The entire team worked tirelessly to win the ball and compete high up the pitch. Defenders mixed it up when they had to, Collins and Maguire were enormous, and Lowtons link up with Williamson was terrific.
Up front the Evans Cresswell partnership was always a threat - how Ched squeezed his goal in from on the by line I`ll never know - and out wide Steven Quinn is in his best form of the season right now. No team in this division could have lived with that performance, or many in the Championship I suspect.
It seems a bit churlish to moan about County`s goals but Maguire - and referee Eltringham - were 'done` by the wily old Adebola and some slack defending gave away a goal at the death. Danny Wilson will not be happy with conceding two set piece goals in a match completely dominated by United.
Some tough games to come and the pressure will be on for every one of the final 8 games but if United can maintain this form its going to be an exciting run in, especially as every away game will be a sell out for BLades fans.