BRUTE force is supposedly the most potent weapon in the battle for League One promotion but the goals which settled last night’s encounter at Bramall Lane were things of beauty.
Against opponents full of endeavour but lacking ideas, United exploited the opportunity to record an emphatic win.
Stephen Quinn fashioned two of the four efforts which ensured Gary Johnson’s return to Yeovil Town ended in disappointment.
First, a perfectly-flighted cross enabled Richard Cresswell to apply the finishing touch before a subtle flick set in motion the chain of events that ended with Michael Doyle dispatching a long-distance effort beyond poor Rene Gilmartin. The United captain, scoring for the first time since arriving, connected with such venom the ball was in danger of leaving scorch marks across the turf.
Yeovil, Jon Obika and Gavin Williams apart, offered little. And another rasping drive - this time from Lee Williamson - sealed victory before the former Watford and Rotherham midfielder twisted the knife.
This result enhances United’s hopes of securing a top two finish. Danny Wilson’s squad are now second in the table - four points behind Charlton Athletic - and one ahead of Sheffield Wednesday who boast a game in hand. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to escape the feeling that events off the pitch will decide their fate. United’s commitment to new spending regulations means it’s impossible to guarantee that high-earners such as Nick Montgomery and Ched Evans will remain here.
United, making three changes to the side which beat Salisbury four days ago, did their best to wrestle the early initiative with Evans and Kevin McDonald, again a calming influence in midfield, both seeing shots blocked. Evans went close again but it was Doyle who ultimately put the match beyond the visitors’ reach with Williamson compounding their misery with a second-half brace.
Despite being in danger of leaving the division by the back rather than the front door, Johnson’s presence on the touchline meant Yeovil had made the journey north filled with hope.
The 56-year-old, who led the Somerset club out of the Conference and FA Trophy success during his first spell in charge, promised “Double bubble” after being appointed as Terry Skiverton’s successor on Monday but it has quickly burst. Skiverton, having accepted an offer to become Johnson’s assistant, flanked the former Crawley and Tooting winger inside the technical area throughout this one-sided encounter.
The smart money remains on Skiverton, who cut a lonely figure as the away supporters chanted Johnson’s name, ending his long association with Huish Park.
Wilson had warned that Johnson’s arrival meant Yeovil would be full of running during the opening exchanges and so it proved when the evening’s first move of note ended with Gavin Williams’ flashing a long range drive wide.
Obika, the on-loan Spurs forward, punched a hole in United’s rearguard soon after but Andrew Williams reacted too late to prod his low centre home.
United wrestled back the initiative when Cresswell pounced in the 19th minute but Andrew Williams, this time showing razor-sharp awareness, served notice that Yeovil harboured ambitions of their own by forcing a fine save from Steve Simonsen. Nevertheless, they were quickly dashed when Doyle doubled the hosts’ advantage five minutes before the interval and Williamson stretched United’s lead immediately after the re-start. Matthew Lowton saw another attempt batted away by Yeovil’s goalkeeper Gilmartin with substitute James Beattie also going close ahead of Williamson’s second.
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Simonsen 6, Lowton 8, Collins 7, Maguire 7, Jean-Francois 7, Williamson 8, Doyle 7, McDonald 7, Quinn 8, Evans 7 (Beattie 80), Cresswell 7 (Porter 80). Not used: Montgomery, Long, M Williams.
YEOVIL TOWN: Gilmartin 6, Ayling 6, Huntington 6, Ehmer 6, Dickson 6, A Williams 6, Upson 6, Wotton 5 (Massey 46, 6), G Williams 7 (Jones 88), Obika 7, MacLean 6(N‘Gala 46, 6). Not used: Agard, Stewart.
CAUTIONS: Gavin Williams (40), Kevin McDonald (85)
RED CARDS: None