SHEFFIELD United breezed past League Two opponents Oxford United in their FA Cup tie on Saturday.
Anything can happen in the FA Cup and so, given the Blades’ poor current form, Wilson named a full-strength squad ahead of the match.
The Oxford manager, Chris Wilder, received a round of applause from the Bramall Lane crowd, having spent four years of his playing career in the red and white stripes.
The atmosphere inside the ground was lacking its usual electricity, with the kop unavailable to fans – the travelling Oxford supporters were supplying plenty of noise.
But, 12 minutes into the game, they were silenced.
Ched Evans powered the ball under the helpless Ryan Clarke, after Richard
Cresswell failed to connect with his acrobatic air shot.
Despite taking an early lead, United didn’t quite look the same outfit without Matt Philips and Billy Clarke, who both returned to Bloomfield Road last week, having spent a month on loan.
Doyle and Montgomery, in the centre of midfield, were industrious but lacked the execution and precision of the departed tangerines, relying on Williamson and Quinn for creativity.
However, Ched Evans looked deadly every time he received the ball and he soon netted again, 7 minutes after his opener, smashing home a freekick from 20 yards.
The Welshman looked hungry for more – Evans was denied another by the palms of Ryan Clarke and then again by the flag of the assistant.
Oxford, on the other hand, struggled to create any chances whatsoever in front of the vacant Kop, to the appreciation of the under-confident Steve Simmonsen, between the posts for the Blades.
With Evans’ brace giving Sheffield United a 2-0 lead at the break, and Wilder’s players barely participating, the home side looked certain to progress.
Consequently, the second half began slowly, littered with sloppy passes.
But Oxford United benefited from the more scrappy play and they began to apply an increasing amount of pressure on the Blades defence.
The away side were not to be rewarded with a goal, despite the occasional test of Simmonsen, and, in the 71st minute, any desperate hopes of a comeback were put to bed.
Young Irish winger Ryan Flynn was introduced by Danny Wilson with immediate impact, firing an inviting ball into the roof of Oxford’s net.
That was that – a well deserved brace for an inspired Evans and a desperately needed clean sheet for the relieved Simmonsen.
Not a classic cup clash but the Blades will be happy to progress to the second round of the FA Cup where they meet yet another League Two side, Torquay United, at the Lane.
By Sam Fletcher