Daniel Jebbison makes history - and a Premier League win for Sheffield United - on a memorable night at Everton
Thank you Paul Heckingbottom. Oh, and Daniel Jebbison too.
Finally, after watching Sheffield United spend the past few months perfecting the same way of losing a football match, you’ve given us something other than missed tackles, missed opportunities and the misery of being relegated to talk about. It has been a long time coming. But better late than never.
Jebbison’s first senior goal on his first Premier League start, only eight days after making his first team bow, helped United tear up the script which had been written before this visit to Goodison Park - securing a hard-fought but deserved victory over European hopefuls Everton. It also saw him become the youngest player to score on his full debut in the competition since its inception nearly three decades ago.
THE NEW KID ON THE BRAMALL LANE BLOCK
Still two months shy of his 18th birthday, the cynics will argue it was an easy decision to include Jebbison given that United are already consigned to the Championship following what, until tonight, has been a memorable season for all the wrong reasons. Yes, he is approaching the end of his spell in caretaker charge, with Bramall Labe’s board of directors expected to make a permanent appointment soon after Sunday’s home game against Burnley. But Heckingbottom deserves credit for showing the bravery to name Jebbison in his first choice eleven. And Jebbison, who rewarded his manager’s faith by converting Jack Robinson’s cross after Ben Osborn and Enda Stevens had combined, deserves a pat on the back for ensuring he will probably stay in at Newcastle on Wednesday. Some tireless running and intelligent positioning, which seemed to reinvigorate everyone around him, meant the finish wasn’t the most impressive aspect of his performance.
WHAT WAS BREWSTER THINKING?
As Jebbison attempted to compose himself before kick-off, a penny for Rhian Brewster’s thoughts. Signed for £23m from Everton’s neighbours and rivals Liverpool only seven months ago, he had hoped to be returning to the city where he completed his sporting education a short stroll away across Stanley Park as United’s go-to centre-forward. Instead, 28 appearances and no goals later, he found himself sat on the bench watching a teenager performing the role which should have been his own.
Heckingbottom’s selection, no matter how hard he might try to persuade Brewster otherwise, was a damning indictment of his contribution so far. Unlocking the youngster’s talent, ensuring the mental scars of what has been an utterly depressing season are completely healed next term, will surely be at the top of the new manager’s in-tray.
Brewster did all the right things when Jebbison fired home during the early skirmishes. But as he rose from his seat to join in the celebrations and punched the Merseyside air in delight, another small part of Brewster probably died inside. He knew that should have been him.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A GOAL MAKES
There have been times of late when you wondered if this wasn’t actually United you were watching - the squad that stuck two fingers up to the top-flight en route to a ninth placed finish last term - but rather a group of dispirited, dishevelled and yes at times disinterested group of blokes trying and failing to impersonate elite level professionals.
Goals don’t just change games. They change demeanors too, with United going about their work with much more conviction and purpose following Jebbison’s intervention. It was like welcoming an old friend back after four months or so in the cold, with Stevens and George Baldock charging up and down the flanks while John Egan and Chris Basham defended with discipline whenever Everton had the ball.
Predictably, given they are managed by one of the best in the business and have a number of wonderful talents at their disposal, Carlo Ancelotti’s men created several chances themselves before the interval with both Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, previously of United, going close midway through the opening period. But when Everton were able to prise apart a rearguard bolstered by Robinson’s return from injury, they found Aaron Ramsdale in fine form. The double save he produced to first deny the Brazilian and then Calvert-Lewin from point blank range served as a reminder that Jebbison wasn’t the only exciting youngster on the pitch for United. Having only turned 23 two days ago, Ramsdale is a baby in goalkeeping terms.
DANIEL NEARLY GETS GREEDY
Not content with one goal, Jebbison nearly grabbed a second before the interval when only a good reaction block from Jordan Pickford prevented him from clipping the ball into the back of Everton’s net. It was an impressive save from the England international, who second guessed United’s new kid on the block as he surged towards the box. But not as good as the one Ramsdale would later produce to frustrate Calvert-Lewin. Or, on a surface which grew increasingly perilous at the contest wore on, the sliding challenge John Egan made on Everton’s number nine as he prepared to pull the trigger from the edge of the six yard box soon after the interval. Egan nearly made his presence felt at the other end of the pitch too, glancing a header just over the crossbar as United looked to exploit Everton’s decision to commit greater numbers forward.
Everton: Pickford, Holgate (Sigurdsson 46), Keane, Allan, Richarlison, Digne, Doucoure (Gomes 78), Rodrigues (Bernard 78), Godfrey, Coleman, Calvert-Lewin. Not used: Virginia, Olsen, Delph, Iwobi, Nkounkou, Davies.
Sheffield United: Ramsdale, Baldock, Stevens, Basham, Egan, Robinson, Norwood, Fleck, Osborn, Jebbison, McGoldrick. Not used: Foderingham, Lundstram, Lowe, Jagielka, Bogle, Brewster, Bryan, Brunt, Gordon.
Referee: Jonathan Moss (West Yorkshire). VAR: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).