sheffield UNITED’S Will Hoskins came off the bench to start the goal trail against Wycombe.
There was no shortage of handshakes before this match.
But, just like the Premier League’s lunchtime fixture between Liverpool and Sheffield United’s namesakes from Manchester, friendliness was in short supply as Wycombe Wanderers’ rearguard came under immediate pressure.
Evans and Lowton looked to immediately wrestle the initiative as early as the first minute but the Wales striker prodded wide following a driving move down the flank.
The two men combined again soon after when Jean-Francois’s centre was only half cleared by Wanderers’ five man defence but the ball was eventually hacked upfield.
Given the congestion in front of keeper Bull, a moment of magic was required to break their stoic resistance.
Evans came within a whisker of providing it in the eighth minute with a deft feint which wrong-footed his marker and created the space from Jean-Francois to cross but the full-back could not find Cresswell lurking on the edge of the six yard box.
With Wanderers, quite understandably, looking to suck any sense of urgency out of the match, United had to remain on their guard and, after 15th minutes, they were nearly caught napping.
Winfield nodded the ball down and Beavon, who scored the winner when these two rivals met at Adams Park in September, spun before drilling a low shot wide.
Quinn headed high and wide soon after as United mounted a response before looping a set-piece over the wall but into Bull’s arms.He nearly picked out Evans at the far post in the 26th minute but a Wanderers defender intervened before the United striker clipped wide from the ensuing corner.
Harper, the former United player, was using all of his experience to patrol the area in front of the Wycombe penalty box. Bloomfield became the first player to be cautioned when, in the 31st minute, he was deemed to have dived after knocking the ball beyond Maguire. McDonald, who has been encouraged to try his luck in front of goal by United’s coaching staff in recent weeks, went close with a terrific angled effort soon after. Maguire sent a long-distance shot wide as the frustration grew.
Half-time: United 0 Wycombe 0
Wilson, doubtless aware of the need to increase the pace at which United played, introduced Flynn for the start of the second-half with Williamson the man to make way.
Breaking down opponents who had spent the first 45 minutes dropping deep and crowding the space in front of the box was always going to be an arduous task.
United had been patient but, at times, lacked the variation and zip required to prise Wanderers apart.
McDonald, who together with Evans had consistently appeared the likeliest United player to break the deadlock, was unfortunate to loop past the post from outside the area.
Cresswell,.who had worked tirelessly off the ball, deposited a header on the roof of Bull’s net from Maguire’s excellent cross in the 60th minute. It proved to be his final contribution of the afternoon with Hoskins taking his place to warm acclaim from the home crowd.
Wanderers were starting to become increasingly more adventurous on the break.In the 67th minute, though, United finally edged themselves in front. Doyle forced the issue on the left-hand side of the Wanderers’ area and when the ball broke loose off an opponent, HOSKINS showed excellent anticipation to predict how events would unfold and stroke home a clinical finish.Six minutes later and United doubled their advantage.
Lowton flashed a cross across the area, Jean-Francois collected it at the other side and EVANS showed good industry and invention to engineer enough space to score the 32nd goal of his Bramall Lane career. In the 90th minute, McDONALD got his reward when a long-range strike deflected off Winfield.