Nick Szczepanik's press verdict: Sheffield United

The media reports from Albion's draw with Sheffield United.

By Nick Szczepanik • 21 December 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
Danny Welbeck fired in his second Albion goal with the equaliser against the Blades.

There was not too much to cheer Albion fans among the early reports of the 1-1 draw at home to Sheffield United, but at least Kieran Gill’s intro in the Daily Mail raised a smile. He wrote: “Their strip looked like a red sock had been left in with the whites and unfortunately for Chris Wilder, Sheffield United are continuing to look similarly out of place in the Premier League.”

Most writers, as you would expect, led on the winless Blades narrowly failing to record their opening victory of the campaign – Mark Irwin of The Sun, for example. “Bottom of the table Sheffield United were denied their first win of a dismal season by Danny Welbeck's 87th minute equaliser,” he wrote. “The former Manchester United and Arsenal striker volleyed home from close range after the visitors failed to clear Leandro Trossard's cross.”

By Paul Hazlewood
John Lundstram was given his marching orders for a high challenge on Joel Veltman.

Very few noted that the Seagulls also narrowly missed out on a first home win but at least James Shield of the Sheffield Star was impressed by Albion's opening. “As the half wore on, Albion's passing became more fluent with Adam Lallana seeing a shot deflected behind for a corner, Connolly testing Ramsdale after punching a hole in United's rearguard and Dunk seeing another effort land on the roof of the net following a Solly March set-piece.

“United's best chance came when Fleck was withdrawn following another ineffective display. The Scot made way for Burke as Wilder changed United's system to try and alter the flow of the game.

“It nearly proved to be an inspired move, with Burke immediately winning a free-kick following a driving run which McGoldrick saw turned around the foot of the post. But United's hopes of testing Albion's tactical flexibility were dashed when Lundstram walked after [referee] Bankes, who had initially issued a yellow card, was shown a red when footage of his tackle on Veltman was reviewed.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Aaron Connolly went close on Sunday afternoon for Albion, but couldn't find a winner for his side.

Nick Ames of The Guardian noted that the Blades “had not laid much of a glove on Brighton before that, although their opponents looked insubstantial around the United box. Aaron Ramsdale saved from Aaron Connolly and prevented an own goal from Chris Basham, while Ethan Ampadu made one heroic block, but the scarcity of real openings would be a theme until Welbeck bailed out the home side.”

Ian Winrow took up the story in The Times. “The dismissal clearly tilted the balance of the game even more in favour of Brighton but if they were to take advantage, they would have to demonstrate more conviction in front of goal than they had done during the first half. There were certainly early signs at the start of the second half of a greater urgency to the home side's play, with Trossard wasting a good opportunity to test Aaron Ramsdale.

“Burke's pace meant the Blades still posed a threat on the break and the speed with which they countered after a corner exposed Brighton and might have led to an opening goal if Enda Stevens had not sliced his shot wide.

“That should have served as a warning to Potter's side, who remained vulnerable as long as they failed to convert territorial dominance into goals. They were undone once again in the 62nd minute when the visitors forced the lead after another break down the left. McGoldrick received Stevens' pass and worked his way to the byline before pulling the ball back for Bogle, whose shot was deflected past Sanchez off Webster.”

Former Sunday Times man John Aizlewood, now appearing in the Telegraph titles, wrote that “Brighton reacted with a flurry of substitutions and a new-found sense of unconvincing urgency, but United's defending now had belief as well as desperation and when Aaron Connolly headed over an open goal, they had luck too.

By Paul Hazlewood
Alireza Jahanbakhsh agonisingly hit the woodwork late on, which would have secured all three points for Albion.

“Luck, though, is a fickle mistress and when United seemed to have stemmed the tide, it swept in and almost flooded them. A short free kick fell to Trossard, who floated a cross in from the right. Chris Basham inadvertently headed on to Danny Welbeck who chested down and drove past Ramsdale with an aplomb that recalled his pomp. United despaired, but luck turned their way again in the dying seconds when, after an almighty scramble, Jahanbakhsh headed against the bar. Perhaps United finally have something to build on. Perhaps.”

Back to Kieran Gill of the Mail, who wrote that “in the 82nd minute, Brighton should have been level. All Aaron Connolly had to do was direct his header on target, with goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale having missed the cross. Yet Connolly missed the target and United survived for the time being.

“The visitors could even have doubled their lead via a breakaway through Oliver Burke, but they did not take that chance and were made to pay the price.

“In the 87th minute, Chris Basham tried to head clear a cross, but it turned out to be a nice assist for Welbeck. The Brighton striker chested the ball down and volleyed beyond Ramsdale.

By Paul Hazlewood
Lewis Dunk gets the ball out of the back of the net after Danny Welbeck equalised.

“Brighton should have then scored a stoppage-time winner, but some last-gasp defending and the woodwork saved United. First, Welbeck's header was cleared off the line by John Egan. Then Alireza Jahanbakhsh's headed rebound bounced back off the crossbar.”

With Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur playing later, and the return to the Premier League of Sam Allardyce also to be fitted into the Monday sports sections, there was little room for comment, but on the BBC website, Matthew Howarth wrote of “frustration for dominant Brighton.

“Having failed to beat fellow strugglers Fulham at Craven Cottage in midweek, this was an opportunity for Graham Potter's side to give themselves breathing space above the bottom three before a difficult run of fixtures over the festive period.

“In front of 2000 spectators, Brighton dominated possession from the outset and went close to taking an early lead when Lewis Dunk rose highest to head Trossard's corner on to the roof of the net.

By Paul Hazlewood
2000 supporters were at the Amex on Sunday to support Albion.

“Connolly also tested Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale with a low shot, before Chris Basham and Ethan Ampadu thwarted Maupay twice in quick succession.

“There was little change to the pattern of play after the restart as Trossard scuffed a low shot wide of the far post and George Baldock produced a fine block to deny Solly March.

“Connolly should have cancelled out Bogle's opener when he headed Jahanbakhsh's delivery over the bar from point-blank range, but Welbeck lashed home a deserved equaliser after controlling Basham's attempted clearance with his chest.

“Welbeck and Jahanbakhsh both spurned glorious opportunities to earn Potter's charges a crucial victory in added time, but the Seagulls had to settle for a draw.”