Sheffield United: A tale of two very different teams - and approaches - at Vicarage Road

There were periods of this game when it appeared as if Watford's defenders had been told that straying too far from their penalty area would elicit some sort of draconian punishment and a two week club fine.

Sunday, 6th October 2019, 4:23 pm
Updated Sunday, 6th October 2019, 6:57 pm
Sheffield United travelled to Vicarage Road: Nigel French/PA Wire.

But try as they might, despite pushing and probing in what proved a fruitless attempt to translate possession into three points, Sheffield United failed to discover a way of fathoming out a strategy which, by Quique Sanchez Flores' own admission, had been purposefully designed to stifle their attacking instincts.

Indeed, were it not for Dean Henderson's powers of recovery and strength of character, the hosts might well have pulled off the kind of smash and grab raid usually reserved for luxury Mayfair boutiques.

This match at Vicarage Road, against opponents still rooted to the bottom of the table and searching for their first win of the new campaign, proved a test of patience rather than resilience for Chris Wilder's side which, as the United manager later insisted, highlighted the progress his players have made since winning promotion to the Premier League. Likewise, the sense of disappointment he could detect inside the away dressing room following the final whistle. Still, reflecting upon some of the talent at Flores' disposal, Wilder warned it would be a mistake to view the result as a missed opportunity. Every positive result, he reminded, edges United a step closer towards another season at the highest level.

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Had United chosen their final passes better, or executed them with greater care, Watford's brittle confidence would surely have cracked under a weight of pressure. But with United's midfielder struggling to tempt Flores' charges out of position, it was actually the hosts who ended-up enjoying the better openings.

Inevitably, given Watford's cautious approach, those came on the counter attack with Andre Gray scooping over the crossbar following a lapse in concentration at the back before Danny Welbeck was thwarted by Henderson when clean through on goal. The youngster, whose error seven days earlier had gifted Liverpool a win in South Yorkshire, excelled himself again during the closing stages when Craig Cathcart's header threatened to cross the line. Earlier, United's record signing Oli McBurnie had been inches away from connecting with a Chris Basham cross with Ben Foster, who himself made a fine save to prevent Cathcart turning into his own net, stranded.