A headache at wing-back and a tale of two strikers: Heroes and Villains from Sheffield United's 2-1 defeat to Leicester City

Sheffield United's long wait for a first win of the current campaign went on yesterday as they lost 2-1 to a late, hearbreaking Leicester City goal.

Monday, 7th December 2020, 11:55 am
Dejected Sheffield United trio Chris Basham, Oli McBurnie and John Egan at the final whistle following the Blades' 2-1 defeat to Leicester City at Bramall Lane yesterday. Photo: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

United looked good for a valuable point in the battle for survival until Jamie Vardy struck in the 90th minute to secure victory for the Foxes, moving them to within three points of leaders Tottenham Hotspur.

The Blades, meanwhile, are six points adrift of fourth-bottom Fulham.

Here, we take a look at some heroes and villains from the game....

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Oli McBurnie

Not just for his goal, as welcome as it was after a fair old drought stretching back to July, but his general contribution, at both ends of the pitch.

McBurnie simply didn't deserve to be on the losing side. His typically industrious performance was capped with the equaliser, heading home John Lundstram's excellent corner, but also included a number of towering headed clearances at the other end.

On the stroke of half time he threw his body in the way of a shot to the left of the Blades box and, given his long goal drought and the unnecessary stick he has received on social media, it was pleasing to see McBurnie get off the mark. As one friend messaged me soon after the ball hit the back of the Leicester net: "I'm glad it was him."

Jamie Vardy of Leicester City is challenged by Ben Osborn (R) of Sheffield United (Photo by Jason Cairnduff - Pool/Getty Images)

McBurnie's head visibly dropped during his drought, but his work rate and effort never did. Hopefully getting that first goal gives him the confidence to go on and get a few more before the end of the year... because United sure need them.

Jamie Vardy

It just had to be him, didn't it? The Sheffield-born Wednesday fan, returning to Bramall Lane and scoring for the second year in a row.

The warning signs were there - he hit the post earlier on with a well-struck shot - but despite drifting wide to target the inexperienced Kean Bryan, Vardy was kept largely quiet until he popped up in the 90th minute. No-one really thought he would miss once clear and it was journalist Alan Biggs who raised the question of where United would be currently with a striker of Vardy's calibre?

Leicester's Marc Albrighton, left, and Sheffield United's Kean Bryan vie for the ball (Laurence Griffiths, Pool via AP)

Instead of a striker largely quiet for 89 minutes who scores in the other, United's forwards work themselves into the ground - without currently getting the rewards their graft deserves.

Ben Osborn

Introduced at half-time in the left wing-back position, with Max Lowe perhaps even lucky to make it to the break after another foul while already on a booking, Osborn gave United extra energy down the left and looked like a man determined to make the most of a rare opportunity this season.

A midfielder by trade, Osborn was used as Enda Stevens' back up until Lowe was signed in the summer but, for me, did enough in this cameo to suggest he should overtake the former Derby man in the pecking order.

Since an impressive debut in the EFL Cup against Burnley, Lowe has at times looked like exactly what he is - a young man learning a difficult system, at Premier League level, in a struggling team. Stevens should be fit for next weekend's trip to Southampton, which should strengthen United's back line.

Kean Bryan

Parachuted in from the cold at West Brom last weekend, Bryan did enough at The Hawthorns to keep his place against Leicester and again let no-one down. Targeted by Vardy, he stood up well to that particular test and also offered United more going forward than Jack Robinson has shown in the past.

It's been a difficult time for the former Manchester City youngster at Bramall Lane - any player playing in Jack O'Connell's position is bound to have game-time limited - but he clearly has some pedigree and ability. The big test will be at Southampton, if Stevens comes back - will he revert to centre-half, or will Chris Wilder persevere with Bryan there and leave Stevens at wing-back?