Sheffield United extended their unbeaten run to 11 league games with a 2-1 victory over MK Dons.
But what did we learn from the Blades’ victory?
If this was United’s toughest test, then it was a success
Chris Wilder was right when he said in his pre-match press conference that MK Dons would be one of the toughest tests his side would face at Bramall Lane this season. Despite sitting just one place above the relegation zone, Dons proved a threat throughout and made the home side work hard until the final-whistle.
The Blades have shown in recent weeks that they have the talent to be one of the teams battling for automatic promotion at the end of the season, but Saturday’s win showed that not only do they have the ability, but they also have the character too.
Sheffield survived another test of character after relinquishing the lead just after half-time when Darren Potter cancelled out Stefan Scougall’s early opener. But just as the momentum began to shift, Billy Sharp put the Blades back in front in the 63rd minute.
United had to withstand difficult periods and were made to work hard until the final whistle, but Sharp’s goal proved to be enough and keeps Chris Wilder’s side in touch with the early League One pace setters.
Captain Sharp leading by example
At the start of the season there were some people who questioned whether the captaincy would be a burden to striker Billy Sharp, but he once again led by example and scored the decisive goal on a difficult day for the player and his family.
Sharp’s 10th goal of the season came on the fifth anniversary of the tragic death of his son Luey Jacob. In a fitting tribute to his son, he capitalised on poor defending by MK Dons to score a real poacher’s goal; tapping in from close-range to score his fifth goal in three games.
Wee Scougall has the ability to make a big impact
Stefan Scougall has started only three league games this season as Chris Wilder’s decision to change to a 3-5-2 formation did not do the attacking midfielder any favours. Despite this the 23-year-old remains a key member of the United squad and he seized the opportunity after being recalled to the starting XI to replace Matt Done, who was ruled out with a fractured jaw.
Scougall was handed a chance to impress and he delivered what was a man-of-the-match performance. He made an instant impact scoring after just five minutes, something Done has failed to do since last month’s victory over Peterborough.
The attacking midfielder then later turned provider for Sharp. The 5ft 7in midfielder, nicknamed “Wee Scou”, did brilliantly to keep John Fleck’s diagonal ball in play on the by-line, before producing an inch-perfect cross for Sharp to tap-in.
With Done expected to be out for at least another week if not longer, Scougall will no doubt be keen to continue to impress and to secure a regular place in Wilder’s starting XI.
League position can be deceiving
MK Dons arrived at Bramall Lane just a place above the relegation zone and managerless following the departure of manager Karl Robison after six years in charge. Dons, though, demonstrated that the league table can be deceiving as they looked anything but a team in danger of slipping into League Two.
Dons showed their undoubted qualities and made the home side work hard until the final-whistle. They posed United some real problems which led to Chris Wilder having to make several tactical changes, including moving Chris Basham from defence to midfield to counter the visitor’s numerical superiority and quality in central midfield.
Whoever replaces Karl Robinson as boss, must pick up a side that is low on confidence, but there is no doubt that they feature many qualities and quality players, including Darren Potter, Samir Carruthers and Dean Bowditch, it is just about getting the best out of them and getting the results the Dons desperately need. Easier said than done, I must add!
The twelfth man is no myth
Chris Wilder has identified home form as the key to securing promotion to the Championship and he has made improving the atmosphere inside Bramall Lane one of his top priorities since becoming manager in the summer.
The best way to improve any atmosphere is by a team’s results and performances at home and for the 20,495 supporters in attendance at Bramall Lane on Saturday, they witnessed the Blades’ fifth win in seven home games this season.
Their total of 11 goals scored is surprisingly low given their winning record (especially considering four came last time out against Port Vale), but no team has conceded fewer when at home. The Blades supporters recognised their team’s efforts after a hard-fought win against MK Dons and their support and home form will be key as the season progresses.