Sheffield United carried their momentum from before the international break into Saturday with a 4-0 victory over Port Vale at Bramall Lane, including two goals from an unlikely goalscorer.
But what else did we learn from the Blades’ victory?
Blades carry momentum from before international break
Manager Chris Wilder will have been well aware that last season the international breaks interrupted Nigel Adkins’ sides rhythm and they never quite recovered from it as they finished 11th in League One. Wilder will have been pleased with his team’s response on Saturday after their game with Walsall was postponed last week because of international call-up’s.
In their last League One outing the Blades scored a 95th minute equaliser away at Fleetwood Town to claim a precious point and they appeared to carry their momentum into the game against Port Vale on Saturday.
Despite sitting two points above Sheffield heading into the match, Vale were no match for the hosts and Wilder will have perhaps been disappointed not to see his side put the contest beyond reach at half-time after a hugely impressive first-half performance.
The Blades will now be hoping to extend their unbeaten run to nine games when they travel to Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday night.
Ebanks-Landell the unlikely goalscorer yet again
Defender Ebanks-Landell was the hero two weeks ago as he rescued a point for the Blades at Fleetwood and once again he was the unlikely goalscorer as he took his tally to three goals in two games.
The centre-back, who joined on-loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer, was signed with the hope he would stop goals being conceded, rather than him scoring them, but he has proved to be a key asset at both ends of the pitch in the last two games.
The 23-year-old used every inch of his 6ft 2in frame to power his header past Vale goalkeeper Jak Alnwick from John Fleck’s corner to give the Blades the lead. The defender then acrobatically put the ball into the back of the net with a scissor kick after Vale failed to clear.
In his post-match interview, Ebanks-Landell was asked what would have happened if United got a 90th-minute penalty and the defender replied, “I’m on it”, and with how clinical he has been the last two games you would not have bet against the defender completing his hat-trick.
Scoreline didn’t flatter the hosts
Quite often comprehensive victories flatter teams, but Sheffield United’s 4-0 victory certainly didn’t and they would no doubt be disappointed that it wasn’t more, especially after having four ‘goals’ disallowed for offside.
First Matt Done’s header was ruled out, before John Fleck’s shot from the edge of the area beat Alnwick. But as Bramall Lane and the United players celebrated, the referee consulted with his linesman before deeming the ball had touched Billy Sharp, standing in an offside decision, much to the disapproval of the home supporters.
Sheffield had another ‘goal’ disallowed two minutes into the second-half, before Billy Sharp was denied by the offside flag after tapping home. While Vale goalkeeper Jak Alnwick had to be at full-stretch to deny Fleck’s 30-yard effort in the first-half and Harry Chapman in the second-half to stop the Blades extending their winning margin further.
Chris Basham is by no means certain of recall
Midfielder Chris Basham served the final game of his three-match suspension, but he is no means certain of an instant recall against Shrewsbury Town, after John Fleck, Paul Coutts and Mark Duffy all impressed in midfield.
Basham has been a regular in the Blades midfield since joining from Blackpool in 2014, but Wilder must now decide whether to disrupt the in-form midfield trio of Fleck, Coutts and Duffy for the visit to Shrewsbury on Tuesday night.
Fleck opened up the pitch magnificently and, not only forced a good save from Alnwick from a 30-yard effort, but he also saw his ‘goal’ from the edge of the area disallowed after touching Billy Sharp, who was in an offside position.
Coutts impressed both offensively and defensively, while Duffy capped another impressive display with a goal, before he was substituted, no doubt with Tuesday in Chris Wilder’s mind.
United a major threat from set-pieces
Both of Ebanks-Landell’s goals came from corners and Sheffield looked a real threat from set-pieces against Port Vale. Ebanks-Landell was waiting at the back post to power the ball past Alnwick from Fleck’s corner, before the defender’s second goal came after Port Vale failed to clear a corner.
Even in the opening minutes United looked a major threat from set-piece situations as Jack O’Connell saw his header go just beyond the far post from Mark Duffy’s in-swinging free-kick, but Port Vale ignored the warning signs.
If Sheffield can continue to put the ball into the dangerous areas from set-pieces and use the height of O’Connell and Ebanks-Landell then teams are going to struggle against the threat that the Blades present from set-pieces.
Tim Adams’ Player Ratings
Simon Moore-8- Calming influence at the back and was only called into major action once when he saved Alex Jones’ late effort
Kieron Freeman-8- Outstanding work in tracking back 50 yards early on to deny Anthony Grant s certain goal. Resolute all afternoon
Ethan Ebanks-Landell-9- Will be remembered for scoring two very different goals but he was a nightmare to get past in defence
Jake Wright-7- Pushed forward in a 3-5-2 formation and produced an authoritative commanding role in the false number six position
Jack O’Connell-7- Missed a sitter in first three minutes but a rock at the back
Daniel Lafferty-8- Consistency of quality crosses let him down although the left wing back produced a defensive masterclass against dangerman Alex Jones
Paul Coutts-7- Fairly anonymous throughout the match but in breaking up Port Vale’s play he was the foundation to the win
John Fleck-8- The midfielder and Wright opened up the pitch magnificently, creating a lot of space. Wilder’s praise deserved
Mark Duffy-10- Not easy to give any player a 10 but Duffy’s mesmerising performance warranted the mark. Awareness, accuracy and acceleration in number ten role significant to this big win
Billy Sharp-8- No idea how he did not get on the scoresheet. Both of his goals were disallowed for offside but instrumental in holding up play in the opposition box
Matt Done-8- Given standing ovation due to his persistent pressing. A nuisance for the Port Vale defenders
Subs: Chris Hussey-6- No major impact off the bench but by that time the game was a formality
Harry Chapman-6- Had a late shot saved by Jak Alnwick
Stefan Scougall-7- Got name on scoresheet with a late header
Jak Alnwick-4- Incredibly tough afternoon. Had to pick the ball out of the net eight times
Ben Purkiss-4- Given a torrid time at right back due to Done’s great enthusiasm to close down the ball up the pitch
Nathan Smith-5- The best of the Port Vale centre backs but looked lost in the box
Remie Streete-5- Too slow and lacked urgency although he did produce a fair number of essential blocks
Kjell Knops-3- Much like Streete too lethargic. Duffy had a field day in the number ten role
Anthony Grant-6- Athletic performance in the number six role. One of the better Port Vale players on a very tough afternoon for the away side
Sebastian Amoros-3- Rightly taken off early by manager Bruno Ribeiro after a horrid performance. Was always two steps behind Fleck in midfield
Alex Jones-5- Had a late shot saved by Freeman but was frustrated all afternoon by Lafferty
Sam Foley-5- Struggled to replicate his early season form against a resolute United defence
Sam Hart-6- Crossing ability let him down after finding a large amount of space on the wings
Martin Paterson-5- Subbed off mid-way through the second half after getting dominated by the three United centre backs
Subs: Quentin Pereira-4- Sharp and precise but subbed on when game was already over
Dan Turner/Kiko-N/A- Both couldn’t influence game because of lack of time on pitch