Preston North End 0, Sheffield United 1: The Talking Points from Deepdale
The Star's James Shield identifies some of the key themes to emerge from today's match at Deepdale.
Both Chris Wilder and Alex Neil have proven themselves to be shrewd operators in the transfer market, signing previously unheralded or under-valued players and then watching them blossom in the right team structure. After scoring for the 13th time this season, prodding home from close range after John Egan had drawn a save from Declan Rudd, David McGoldrick has become a poster boy for United's recruitment policy. It seems remarkable, especially now he is back in the Republic of Ireland fold, that the former Ipswich Town striker was without a club last summer.
Even Better Support
Officially, around 5,500 United fans had made the journey to Deepdale. The actual number, given that a large group had also secured seats in the Sir Tom Finney Stand after buying corporate hospitality seats, was probably far higher. Speaking earlier in the week, Wilder insisted the presence of so many supporters inside the stadium would be a huge boost for his players. Their backing certainly helped United haul themselves through a difficult period before McGoldrick edged them in front.
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Under the Radar
Sometimes, seemingly insignificant details can actually turn out to be vitally important. For instance, just before McGoldrick fired them in front, John Fleck had flung himself at the ball to prevent Callum Robinson's effort from reaching Dean Henderson. Later, in the second half, Preston appeared to be on the verge of prising apart United's rearguard until Chris Basham made two vital interceptions in quick succession. In the battle for automatic promotion from the Championship, guts will be just as important as guile.
On the Horizon
United's win over Preston, combined with Leeds' loss to Birmingham City, saw Wilder's side regain second place in the Championship table with only six matches left to play. Their next match, on Wednesday night, is at St Andrews. Clearly, with Marcelo Bielsa's men losing there, it will not be a routine assignment. However, Preston showed enough here to suggest that Leeds, who travel to Deepdale a day earlier, will not have it easy either.