Sheffield United: SIX things we learned from the Blades' dramatic 3-2 victory over Preston North End

Sheffield United's impressive start to the Championship campaign continued on Saturday, when they beat Preston North End 3-2 to move up to fourth in the table.

Tuesday, 25th September 2018, 12:51 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th September 2018, 12:57 pm
John Egan, Enda Stevens and Billy Sharp of Sheffield Utd applaud the fans after the Preston win - Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Here's a selection of six talking points from an afternoon which saw Billy Sharp, Chris Basham and David McGoldrick find the net.

The Blades back to their best?

John Egan, Enda Stevens and Billy Sharp of Sheffield Utd applaud the fans after the Preston win - Simon Bellis/Sportimage

They surely weren't far off. For the first 45 minutes of the game on Saturday they seemed to be permanently camped in Preston's half, save for a few breakaways and half-hearted efforts from the visitors. It was a mystery at half-time how United weren't further ahead, although Basham did do the honours in the second half before a frantic last ten minutes or so made the result less straightforward than it perhaps should have been.

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A popular goal

That's how Wilder described Basham's header, from Oli Norwood's pin-point free-kick, after the game. And it's easy to see why. Basham is United's longest-serving player and one of their most admired, for both his performances and his personality.

Probably the closest thing United have to an unsung hero, Basham was again exceptional at the back and then showed his valuable versatility when he was moved into midfield later on.

He isn't the most talented member of the group '“ although he's more technically accomplished than some give him credit for '“ but every team needs a Chris Basham. And, as Wilder later added, United are lucky to have him.

McGoldrick comes up trumps eventually

At 2-0 ahead and cruising, it seemed the perfect chance for a striker. John Fleck won the ball, Mark Duffy travelled with it and striker McGoldrick looked odds-on to put it in the back of the net, before appearing to snatch at the chance a little and putting it wide.

It was a similar story the week before at Bristol, when he had enough chances to score a hat-trick of his own, but when it mattered late on McGoldrick was in the right place at the right time to score the winner. Sure, it was a chance he couldn't really miss but as they say, you've got to be there to score 'em.

A sublime player to watch when in full flow, hopefully this will give him the confidence he perhaps needs in front of goal and if he starts scoring on a regular basis, United have some player on their hands.

Enda Stevens

Take a bow. His cross for McGoldrick's winner may have got lost a little in the noise, but it was a sublime piece of play and, one suspects, one straight out of the Wilder and Alan Knill wing-back playbook.

The presence of mind to play a one-two with Marvin Johnson, who looks good so far in his formative Blades career, and then not rush the cross was brilliant, instead taking an extra touch to create the angle to find McGoldrick.

At this stage, an apology is due too - this reporter credited the assist to Johnson, purely based on the speed at which the player moved. Sorry, Enda.

Billy's no kid '“ but keeps on scoring

He's too old, too slow. Won't cut it in the Championship, they said. Don't believe a word of it. Sharp, at 32, is scoring with the same swagger he's possessed throughout his goal-laden career and is showing no signs of slowing down.

By scoring against Preston, he moved level with Wayne Rooney in the list of English league goalscorers since the turn of the century. Only Rickie Lambert now lays ahead of him, by 11 goals. It's not a matter of if he'll get there, but when. And what a record that'll be to hold.

The traffic

The reason was moving-in day for Sheffield Hallam students. Not their fault, particularly '“ and my colleague Martin Smith wrote an excellent column reminding that yes, there are benefits to having them in our fine city '“ but a situation that surely could so easily be avoided.

The date these students will move to Sheffield isn't made up on a whim a few weeks before. So why can't the University, United and the EFL work together, to ensure United have an away tie on that date? Wednesday's Hillsborough ground would have no such issues, out of the city centre near the border with Barnsley.

There were similar issues last year and if it happens again in 2019 '“ affecting football fans, students themselves and ordinary folk caught in the slow-moving crossfire '“ then there are no winners, only tens of thousands of losers.