AFC Wimbledon 2 Sheffield United 3: Job Done as Matty ends his Blades’ scoring drought in third successive win

Sheffield United's Matt Done scoring United's third
Sheffield United's Matt Done scoring United's third
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It might not send shockwaves rippling through the division or knock Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho off the back page.

But make no mistake, as manager Chris Wilder insisted afterwards, this result represented an ominous statement of intent from his Sheffield United side.

Sheffield United's Chris Wilder celebrates with Billy Sharp after victory over AFC Wimbledon

Sheffield United's Chris Wilder celebrates with Billy Sharp after victory over AFC Wimbledon

Not because AFC Wimbledon, a club built on team spirit and togetherness, are expected to challenge for promotion. But rather the manner in which it was achieved.

“If people want to play here, they have to be hungry,” Wilder said.

“But as long as they are ready to compete, as they have been all season, I won’t say they’re hiding or not wanting to get on the ball.

“Those are the principles we want. They have to stand up, stick their chest out for themselves, the supporters and the football club. That’s exactly what’s just happened out there.”

Sheffield United's Mark Duffy celebrates the opener

Sheffield United's Mark Duffy celebrates the opener

Wilder’s only complaint after watching United record their third straight win in League One competition was that the outcome remained in doubt until the final kick of a wet and windswept afternoon.

That owed more to the hosts’ doggedness than any particular failing on the visitors’ part as first-half goals from Mark Duffy and Billy Sharp put Wilder’s men in control before Dominic Poleon and Tom Elliott scored either side of Matt Done’s strike.

AFC Wimbledon huffed, puffed and refused to be beaten. But, as even their manager Neil Ardley conceded during a brutally frank post-match inquest, lacked their opponents’ quality and intelligence.

Some of the football United produced during the opening skirmishes of an absorbing second period was a joy to behold.

Ethan Ebanks-Landell caught the eye

Ethan Ebanks-Landell caught the eye

“It shouldn’t have remained a contest for as long as it did,” Wilder continued.

“We created good chances by opening them up and really should have put things to bed much sooner.

“You’ve got to give them credit for the fact we didn’t as well. But I’m not going to complain because the lads overcame the challenge we gave them.”

Wilder had warned that Kingsmeadow, probably English football’s most claustrophobic stadium, would test United’s character. They passed with flying colours and, crucially, demonstrated plenty of calibre too.

United celebrate Matt Done's goal

United celebrate Matt Done's goal

Duffy opened the scoring when following Darius Charles’ slip, he twisted and turned inside the area before firing the ball past Ryan Clarke. Sharp doubled United’s advantage when he turned home Done’s centre from close range.

Poleon, the former United loanee, reduced the deficit with a stooping near post header only for Done, who like Duffy had earlier missed a gilt-edged opportunity, to pounce for the first time since scoring a brace against Wigan Athletic in March.

Elliott applied the finishing touches to Dean Parrett’s clever free-kick during the closing stages but United were not to be denied.

“We took our foot of the gas a little because we were in complete control,” Wilder said. “But, generally, there were good performances all over the pitch.”

ethan was the right call

Wilder made only one change to the team which had beaten Gillingham six days earlier with Ethan Ebanks-Landell, one of 12 players United have signed since appointing the 48-year-old in March, replacing James Wilson at centre-half.

Despite initially appearing harsh on Wilson, who has made a solid if not spectacular start to his career at Bramall Lane, it turned out to be exactly the right call.

Like his fellow defender, Ebanks-Landell boasts plenty of athleticism which helps push United further up the pitch. But the youngster, who is scheduled to spend the rest of the season at Bramall Lane after being declared surplus to requirements by Wolverhampton Wanderers, is an absolute beast when it comes to physical battles too.

Tyrone Barnett, the AFC Wimbledon centre-forward, will overwhelm plenty of rearguards this term using sheer brute force. But he was dominated both in the air and on the deck by Ebanks-Landell.

a new outlook and mindset

Last season, as they limped to an 11th placed finish in League One, this was the type of contest United would have drawn or perhaps even lost.

But, after scoring the opening goal for the first time in the league since April, Wilder’s team imposed their authority on this game and confirmed, as they recorded a third straight league win, why he was right to undertake a major overhaul of the club’s playing staff during the recent transfer window.

Ten years ago, AFC Wimbledon were preparing to face Hendon in the Ryman Premier Division. United have come a long way in a short space of time too.