A graduate of Coverciano and a former Serie A coach of the year, Alberto Cavasin should know a thing or two about the art of keeping a clean sheet.
Unfortunately for Leyton Orient’s beleaguered manager, a tour-de-force performance from Sheffield United ensured this FA Cup first round tie will be best remembered for some car-crash defending and Harry Chapman’s first senior hat-trick rather than a masterclass in catenaccio.
Chapman, the on-loan Middlesbrough winger, netted three times in the second-half as Chris Wilder’s side ran riot and Cavasin’s crumbled. The visitors, already low on confidence following a miserable start to the League Two season, appeared tailor-made for a team which has now scored 18 times in its last five outings when the draw was made. But not even Wilder, overseeing United’s record win in the competition, could have dreamt they would be quite so subservient. Although, as he justifiably maintained, the margin of victory owed as much to his players’ mind-set as it did Orient’s lack of pluck.
“The attitude was first class, the work ethic was first class and so was the play at the end of it,” Wilder said. “Those two, the attitude and work ethic, come before the third.”
United survived an early scare when Aaron Ramsdale, making his debut in goal, saved well from Ollie Palmer. But, from that moment on, the match resembled a training ground exercise of attack versus defence. With a little more tempo and less over-elaboration, United would have scored long before Chris Basham converted John Fleck’s centre after Daniel Lafferty had earlier gone close. Stefan Scougall, who helped the League One promotion hopefuls reach the semi-finals two years ago, doubled the hosts’ advantage before Kieron Freeman headed home when Alex Cisak was again left horribly exposed. Cisak, a former Australia youth international, blocked a Jack O’Connell attempt soon after the interval but Chapman, who celebrated his 19th birthday 24 hours earlier, was not to be denied. His first effort, a low drive into the far corner following Paul Coutts’ pass, underlined why Wilder believes he can become a key figure in United’s plans while the third, after a cross from David Brooks had been clinically dispatched, came following an Alan Dunne error. It was a gift but well-deserved.
“If you look at their team sheet, they’ve got players who have been at a much higher level,” Wilder said. “You don’t know how they’ll turn up but we took that out of their hands.”
Chapman celebrated only his second start for United by claiming the match ball. The England under-20 international, who represents his country in South Korea later this week, has been forced to bide his time since arriving in South Yorkshire but, as Wilder acknowledged, that can be attributed to a recent change of formation rather than a lack of talent on the teenager winger’s part.
“Harry has come in and it’s been difficult for him because of that,” Wilder said. “The same goes for Stefan, who also scored, too. I don’t think he played well for the first 20 minutes but, when the game opened up, he just flew.”
Having impressed during a temporary spell at Barnsley last season, Chapman is highly regarded by Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka. Wilder shares that viewpoint but, like the Spaniard, still thinks he has much to learn. Citing a second-half incident, when Chapman elected to square the ball to Paul Coutts rather than shoot, United’s manager said: “He shouldn’t have done that, Billy (Sharp) certainly wouldn’t have passed it. We have to add the other bits to his game to make him fit in with what we’re all about. But he’s got something, undoubtedly. He’s had to work hard to get into the team and that’s what I want.”
Like Chapman, Ramsdale has also been forced to wait longer than Wilder and his staff would have possibly have wanted before being handed a first team chance. The Steelphalt Academy graduate, who has been named in the England under-19 squad for the forthcoming European Championship qualifiers against Wales, Luxembourg and Greece, is highly regarded by coaches at Bramall Lane. With United choosing to rest Simon Moore as a precautionary measure, Ramsdale seized his opportunity with an assured if uneventful performance between the posts. He saved well from Palmer after the Orient centre-forward had been held-up by Jake Wright before blocking a long-range shot from Gavin Massey. United, leading 1-0 at that stage, placed Orient in a stranglehold thereafter. But Ramsdale showed his maturity, and vocal skills by helping to organise the defence.
“They got in once with a long ball,” Wilder said. “Jake got a toe on it but it was a good save. A lot of good things came out of that. Aaron can be pleased with his debut and another young lad, David Brooks, has also come on.”
Wilder, with Sharp feeling unwell before kick-off and Caolan Lavery not yet deemed fit enough to complete 90 minutes after his mini pre-season was interrupted by a ligament complaint, made several changes. But, a footballing traditionalist, he was at pains to point out United’s selections were not a mark of disrespect towards the FA Cup. Wilder’s reverence rubbed-off on United’s players.
“People paid good money to come and watch,” Wilder said. “There wasn’t 20,000 inside the ground but we created our own atmosphere.”