Cardiff City versus Sheffield United: Morgan Gibbs-White excels as The Blades win but Wes Foderingham deserves a huge pat on the back
Morgan Gibbs-White, David McGoldrick and of course the irrepressible Billy Sharp ensured this absorbing contest against 10 man Cardiff City ended in Sheffield United’s favour.
But really it was their goalkeeper rather than goalscorers who emerged as the architect of a victory which saw Paul Heckingbottom’s side continue their climb up the Championship table.
Steve Morison, the City manager, highlighted Sean Morrison’s red card soon after the interval as the “pivotal moment” of the match. And in a sense it was, with Sharp and McGoldrick stretching United’s advantage after Gibbs-White had cancelled out Mark Harris’ opener.
“It was a worldy, an absolute worldly,” was how Morison described Gibbs-White’s equaliser. He could have said the same about some of Foderingham’s saves, with the former Rangers player making big blocks at key moments either side of Harris’ effort. They proved crucial when, right at the death, Mark McGuinness pulled one back.
“There were some good individual displays but it was all about team work,” Heckingbottom insisted, before going briefly off message by hailing Foderingham as “excellent”.
Never one to make wholesale changes unless it’s absolutely necessary, Heckingbottom selected 10 of the players who had started his first match in permanent charge of United last weekend.
The one left out, Rhian Brewster, was excused from duty as a precautionary measure after damaging a hamstring after scoring the opening goal of that win over Bristol City. His replacement, Sharp, was also on target against Nigel Pearson’s side and entered this game only two strikes shy of the record set by David Nugent since the competition’s rebranding. It should have been none by the time he trotted off the pitch. But before edging United in front following Gibbs-White’s equaliser, Sharp failed to convert from close range after meeting Jayden Bogle’s cross.
If Alex Smithies was surprised not to be beaten - the sight of United’s captain missing a chance is one of the rarest in football - he definitely won’t have been when McGoldrick also directed the ball straight into his chest after being released by Oliver Norwood. The former Republic of Ireland international is a wonderful talent and shrewd reader of the game. But finishing definitely isn’t his forte, despite extending United’s advantage after Gibbs-White and Sharp had pounced.
Their profligacy was punished during the closing stages of the half when Harris scored his second of the campaign.
Foderingham, who moments earlier had excelled himself by turning Curtis Nelson’s header onto the post, could only watch as the youngster swept the ball home following Joe Ralls’ delicate assist.
United were indebted to their goalkeeper for intervening again when Isaak Davies sliced through a rearguard which had previously struggled in the air. Had the youngster converted, it would have been a contender for goal of the season. But Foderingham made himself big at the near post and turned away Davies’ cross.
Morrison’s dismissal at the beginning of the second period changed the dynamic of the contest – upending Sharp as he darted towards the area.
Gibbs-White swept home from distance before Sharp touched home for the 120th time in the division from the midfielder’s centre. McGoldrick appeared to have put the fixture to bed but McGuinness ensured the outcome remained in the balance when he converted, after Foderingham had acrobatically denied Kieffer Moore.