A happy milestone and an unconvincing audition - Heroes and Villains from Sheffield United 2 Plymouth 1

Sheffield United sealed their place in the fifth round of the FA Cup yesterday with a 2-1 victory over Plymouth at Bramall Lane.

Sunday, 24th January 2021, 12:21 pm

Goals from Chris Basham and Billy Sharp put United in control, before Panutche Camara pulled one back to make things less comfortable for the Blades than they should have been in the last 15 minutes.

Chris Wilder's men now face Bristol City in the fifth round, and here are our man Danny Hall's heroes and villains from the game at Bramall Lane.

Billy Sharp

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Billy Sharp scores goals, as we all know, but he also made one here for Basham and on another day, could have also walked away with the matchball.

Boss Wilder noticeably declined the invitation to single his skipper out for praise after the game, but this was a display that certainly deserves it.

He was a constant handful for the Plymouth defence and unselfishly squared for Fleck to score when through one-on-one, only to be farcically flagged offside from about an hour before by the linesman.

There is clearly a gulf in quality between the back line of Plymouth and that of Manchester United and Manchester City, United's next two opponents in the Premier League.

Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale attempts to claim a cross against Plymouth: Tim Goode/PA Wire.

But Sharp looks to be as fit as he's ever been, and his all-round game is stronger than ever. Plus, when the ball's there to be stuck away, he has shown he can still do just that.

There's a lot of life in the old dog yet.

VAR

Everyone's favourite topic. Ryan Lowe, the Plymouth boss, called it "rubbish" and hopes that he never has to work with it again.

That's despite his side appearing to be on the right side of a bizarre VAR call, when Kelland Watts saved Ethan Ampadu's shot impressively. The problem being that Kelland is a centre half and as the ball rebounded off his arm, United couldn't believe a penalty hadn't immediately been given.

Off it went to Stockley Park, where Jarred Gillett declined to award a penalty.

It looked as clear a spot-kick as any given all season - his arms certainly weren't in a natural position and the ball looked to cannon into his arm from my vantage point.

When we've seen so many similar penalties given so far this season for almost identical instances, it really does make a mockery of the system - which is only ever as good as those operating it.

Ollie Norwood

Yes, it was against League One opponents and yes, the occasion was less high-profile than his last outing against Spurs.

But Norwood deserves immense credit for his display yesterday, after his mistakes cost United a couple of goals against Jose Mourinho's men.

He didn't hide at all, saw as much of the ball as he has all season and sprayed it beautifully, creating Sharp's goal with a sublime through-ball.

It was his 100th appearance for the Blades, and the fact he was taken off with a good portion of the game remaining suggests his 101th may come at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Ethan Ampadu

Another who has come in for criticism in recent weeks but was excellent yesterday, rampaging forward from left centre-half and also doing his fair share of defensive work when needed too.

Again the quality of opposition should be taken into account before getting too carried away, but he has looked more like a player who plays centre half for his country in recent weeks and may be the one who deputises for the suspended John Egan on Wednesday evening.

Aaron Ramsdale

Many Blades fans wondered whether Ramsdale would play against Plymouth or be taken out of the firing line, and for large parts of the first half he might as well have pitched up a deckchair at the Kop end.

But not long before half time he came to claim a cross and dropped it, and then allowed Plymouth's goal to squirm through him.

But perhaps Wilder and his staff felt that resting him would have damaged his already-brittle confidence even further.

A clean sheet here would have done him the world of good, even taking into account the standard of opposition.

It wasn't to be, and it didn't take long for the knives to come out for him on social media.

He'll likely be in for another busy evening on Wednesday night, and this was hardly the most convincing warm-up for that game against Martial, Rashford, Greenwood, Cavani, Fernandes, Pogba and Co.

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