Match Report: Sheffield United 1, Ipswich Town 0

Blades v Ipswich
Blades v Ipswich
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It was not quite the resounding victory Sheffield United required to seize top spot in the Championship table but the performance confirmed Chris Wilder's side could emerge as dark horses in the race for promotion this term.

Ipswich Town, a club with serious designs of contesting the top six places themselves, posed a real threat to the host's hopes of continuing their excellent form at Bramall Lane and consolidating their place among the division's elite only six months after gaining promotion.

But Chris Basham's header, early in the second-half, ensured United recorded the victory their display warranted. The result moved them level on points with leaders Cardiff City ahead of next weekend's clash with Reading and means they have still conceded only two league goals on home soil so far this season.

The win, however, came at a price with Kieron Freeman being carried from the pitch on a stretcher just before the interval.

The nature, or extent, of the wing-back's injury was not immediately apparent although the sight of his colleagues frantically calling for assistance suggested it could be serious.

United, barring a brief flurry of Ipswich pressure midway through the first period, had spent the majority of the fixture on the front foot when Basham converted to ensure their superb start to the campaign continued.

The defender, who had edged further upfield following Freeman's departure, took advantage of a neat exchange between Leon Clarke and John Fleck to head home and give Wilder's team the breakthrough their efforts deserved. Although Ipswich could have no complaints about falling behind, the ease with which Basham was allowed to convert was surprising given the compact nature of their defence during the opening 50 minutes.

The introduction of Brooks, coupled with the scoreline, brought a different dimension to a match which had previously seen Ipswich attempt to frustrate and then catch United on the break. Indeed, seconds after entering the fray, the Wales international nearly escaped Jonas Knudsen's clutches with a darting run which resulted in the Dane receiving a yellow card. It was a borderline call from referee Tony Harrington given that Brooks would otherwise have been clean through on goal but, given the nature of their tangle, probably the right one.

Although Coutts' absence through suspension was undoubtedly a blow, the Scot's absence from United's starting eleven did present John Lundstram with another opportunity to shine. Opportunities have proved limited for the midfielder since his move from Oxford during the close season but, after impressing on his full league debut at Nottingham Forest last month, he appeared to have sent Clarke scampering through during the opening stages only for the centre-forward to lose his footing as he turned to shoot.

By then, the pattern to the contest had already emerged. Ipswich, with former Rangers striker Martyn Waghorn spearheading their attack, broke quickly on the counter but, for the most part, were content to try and smother United's creative instincts. It was a dangerous game to play and, during a flurry of corners, enabled United to go close again in the 18th minute when Jack O'Connell was inches away from getting what would have surely been a decisive touch on Basham's deflected cross. The fact that two centre-halves were involved in the move underlined United's desire to take charge of the game.

With captain Billy Sharp fit again and George Baldock nursing an injury, Wilder refused to keep faith with the team which had performed so well but been beaten at the City Ground a fortnight ago. David Brooks was again named on the bench after returning from international duty with Wales with Freeman earning a recall and James Hanson featuring among the substitutes. Clarke, like Freeman, was also restored and was a focal point for the centres which kept flashing across Bartosz Bialkowski's area before the break. Unfortunately, Freeman's afternoon ended in the 38th minute when he was carried from the pitch on a stretcher after a scramble in from of Blackman.

Moments before, the United goalkeeper had produced a fine reaction save to deny David McGoldrick as Ipswich began to creep into the contest. Certainly, as the interval approached, McCarthy's men had become increasingly expansive in their outlook. Mark Duffy, preferred again to Brooks, attempted to nip their progress in the bud by seeking out Sharp at the far post but Bialkowski got a hand to ball and diverted it to safety as the latter shaped himself to head home. The Pole, though, stood not chance when Basham headed United into a deserved lead five minutes after the break.

Ipswich immediately adopted a more forthright approach with Waghorn sweeping a shot against the crossbar after producing a delightful touch to escape his marker. But it is a hallmark of United's play under Wilder that, in such instances, they come out fighting themselves. So it was no surprise to see Clarke also strike the woodwork just before the hour mark after gliding into position on the right hand edge of the penalty area. Brooks fired just wide after ghosting into the penalty area with 10 minutes remaining before Clarke tested Bialkowski's agility with a header towards the far post.

Sheffield United: Blackman, O'Connell, Carter-Vickers, Basham, Stevens, Freeman (Wright 39), Lundstram, Fleck, Duffy, Clarke, Sharp (Brooks 68). Not used: Moore, Donaldson, Hanson, Lafferty, Carruthers.

Ipswich Town: Bialkowski, Iorfa, Knudsen, Chambers, Webster, Skuse, Waghorn, McGoldrick (Celina 72), Ward, Nydam (Sears 72), Kenlock (Downes 59). Not used: Gerken, Smith, Spence, Connolly..

Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland).

Attendance: 25,799.