Billy Sharp marks landmark appearance in style as Sheffield United beat Hull City thanks to John Egan's brace
Billy Sharp marked his 300th appearance in Sheffield United colours with the opening goal as the Blades beat Hull City 3-1 at the MKM Stadium.
The Blades skipper also missed a penalty on the stroke of half-time, before centre-half John Egan scored two second-half headers to put United in command before Keane Lewis-Potter pulled one back for the hosts.
Despite being backed vociferously from before kick-off by around 4,000 travelling Blades behind Robin Olsen’s goal, the Blades’ plans were rocked even earlier when Sander Berge injured himself in the warm-up and was replaced by Rhian Brewster.
The Norwegian, who scored what United thought would be their winner in midweek before Preston equalised in injury time, was one of four changes to the Blades side from that game, with Conor Hourihane, Ben Davies and Ben Osborn all starting.
But it was a young man who has been impressive since the minute he stepped foot inside Bramall Lane that helped put the Blades ahead. Morgan Gibbs-White had overhit a couple of ‘sighter’ crosses previously, but found his radar perfectly in the 17th minute as his centre from the right cut out the City defence and found Sharp in space. From there, the Blades skipper did what he does, and the Blades led.
With Hourihane and John Fleck anchoring midfield in the pivot roles and allowing Gibbs-White to roam and dictate, United predictably continued to dominate after taking the lead and Gibbs-White stung the palms of Matt Ingram with a stinging effort after a brilliant driving run from Fleck.
At the other end, Robin Olsen had his first real test when he dropped on Richie Smallwood’s tame effort, as City’s wait for a goal ticked over nine and a half hours.
It could, and probably should, have ended soon after, when Di’Shon Bernard rose highest to get his head on a City corner but somehow planted his effort wide of Olsen’s post, when it seemed easier to have got it on target.
Sharp was then handed a golden chance to double his, and United’s, tally for the afternoon when he was fouled by City’s Jacob Greaves in the area. Sharp was sent clear on goal, no flag was forthcoming despite suspicions that the United skipper was offside and Greaves was booked for the challenge.
But that was as bad as it got for City as Ingram saved Sharp’s effort, down low to his right, on the stroke of half-time.
The second goal did arrive early in the second period, as John Egan took advantage of some average defending, at best, to head home a corner taken by his Republic of Ireland teammate Hourihane.
Whether it was Egan’s clever movement or abject defending will be open to interpretation, but the defender was essentially presented with a free-header – which was dispatched, in front of thousands of jubilant Blades.
Gibbs-White almost lit up the game with a moment of magic, after shifting beautifully onto his left foot before forcing a save from Ingram, before a bit of a pantomime rivalry developed between Sharp and half-time Hull sub George Honeyman.
At every set-piece, Honeyman grappled with Sharp so obviously that it only seemed a matter of time before another penalty was given. Instead, with almost all eyes on those two and the referee, Egan ghosted in to flick home his second goal of the game, from another Hourihane corner.
That was to be Hourihane’s last major act of the afternoon as he was withdrawn for Adlène Guedioura to make his Blades debut – the Algerian picking up a booking moments later to endear himself to his new supporters – and City scored their first goal in over 10 hours of football when former Blade Tyler Smith, on as a substitute, crossed for Keane Lewis-Potter to slide in and finish at the back post.
Smith thought he had further halved the arrears when he finished past Olsen, not knowing that the flag had already been raised for offside, but that was as nervy as it got for the Blades. Indeed, it could have been more in the dying minutes, as Guedioura’s clever pass set fellow substitute Oli McBurnie clear. His left-footed effort flashed past Ingram, and his post. But it mattered little, and the job had long since been done.
Hull: Ingram, Coyle, Elder, Greaves, Smallwood, Wilks, Lewis-Potter, Moncur (T Smith), M Smith (Cannon), Bernard, Magennis (Honeyman). Not used: Baxter, Emmanuel, Longman, McLoughlin.
Blades: Olsen, Baldock, Egan, Davies (Basham), Norrington-Davies, Hourihane (Guedioura), Fleck, Brewster, Gibbs-White, Osborn, Sharp (McBurnie). Not used: Foderingham, Norwood, Bogle, Ndiaye.