And the Beat goes on
Blades 3Beattie (57 83 pen)Stead (90)Wolves 1Elliott (24) Attendance: 26,003
SHEFFIELD United are, according to England's more statistically-minded supporters, the unluckiest team in the country.
But fortune, good or bad, played no part in events at Bramall Lane on Saturday as Bryan Robson's side crafted their second victory of the Championship season on blood, sweat, toil and tears.
Displaying all the qualities they had so sorely lacked at Scunthorpe a fortnight before, United survived the crushing blow of conceding the opening goal on home soil.
And in doing so they repaired the damage, both psychological and mathematical, that woeful performance at Glanford Park had threatened to inflict upon their promotion credentials.
They also sent a statement of intent echoing through the rest of the division.
Once again it was James Beattie, the striker who commanded a club-record fee when he moved from Everton in the summer, who enjoyed headline billing.
Having taken his tally in United colours to four goals in five appearances, it is becoming apparent that Robson has a player at his disposal capable of wreaking havoc among defences at this level.
Wolves had taken the lead in controversial fashion though Stephen Elliott when Beattie exploded into life, beating Wayne Hennessey twice during a dramatic second-half before substitute Jon Stead applied the coup de grace in cold, calculating fashion.
It cost 4 million to prise Beattie away from Goodison Park but, despite the striker's stay on Merseyside ending in disappointing fashion, Robson insists there was no risk attacked.
"There was never any worry for me paying that type of money for James," the United manager insisted. “I’m not relieved that he’s started well and got off the mark quickly because that’s what judgement is all about.
“I already knew what James is capable of doing because his record at the highest level speaks for itself and all we’ve done is make sure that he gets the service he needs to do the job.
“No disrespect to David Moyes at Everton because he’s done a brilliant job there, but he likes to employ a 4-5-1 formation and I don’t think that brings the best out of James.
“He likes to have someone alongside him supporting him and two wingers on either side to put in the crosses.
“That’s what we try to give him.
“I don’t think there was ever any pressure on James because he’s moved for big money before in his career and the reason he’s done that is because he’s a quality centre-forward.”
Beattie is proving to be an inspired piece of business and should his rich vein of form continue then the return to the international fold he craves may not be quite as improbable as it seems.
Angered by United’s failure to fulfil their undoubted potential in recent weeks, Robson had demanded improved levels of industry and application on the eve of this fixture and his harsh words provoked the desired response against a Wolves team certain to challenge the top six positions.
United’s performance may not have been as slick as Robson’s dark blue suit but it did lift them to within touching distance of the play-off places which, with the likes of Rob Hulse and Lee Hendrie still missing, will have those clubs above them looking anxiously overv their shoulders.
“I think we’ve been quite lucky so far because we’ve not done so well yet but we’re still right up there,” Beattie said.
“But, equally, that goes to show what we can be capable of when we do start to play like we can.”
United are still far from the finished article and despite dominating the opening exchanges - Chris Armstrong and Danny Webber both going close before Matthew Kilgallon shaved the crossbar - confidence and composure visibly drained when Wolves took advantage of a series of woeful refereeing decisions to edge in front.
Kilgallon made a clean tackle on an opponent but was wrongly adjudged to have committed a foul and, with the ball still rolling, Kevin Foley’s quick free-kick was worked forward by Michael Kightley and Stephen Ward whose blocked shot fell kindly for Elliott.
But with Michael Tonge curbing his attacking instincts to shackle the dangerous Seyi Olofinjana, Leigh Bromby producing an accomplished shift on one flank and Gary Naysmith, fully recovered from the knee injury which has hampered his progress so far this term, cool and calm on the other, United are slowly but surely showing signs that they are getting to grips with Robson’s modus operandi.
Beattie, who but for the legs of Hennessey would have claimed a deserved hat-trick late on, wilfully took one for the team when he collided with the goalkeeper to head home the equaliser before outmuscling Gary Breen to win a penalty which he duly converted.
Beattie’s contribution was soaked in blood and thunder, but Stead’s was achieved with a minimum of fuss and maximum efficiency when he pounced on Beattie’s flick-on to slide the ball home in stoppage time.
Robson said: “We were well on top at the start and showed good character to come back after the break.
“I don’t think anyone can have any complaints.”