Sheffield United: Ben Osborn thanks The Blades' welcoming committee at Barnsley

An hour after the final whistle, Chris Wilder and Daniel Stendel were still locked in conversation on the concourse which slices through the heart of Oakwell's West Stand.

Friday, 26th July 2019, 5:42 pm
Updated Sunday, 28th July 2019, 10:23 pm
Chris Wilder:  Jonathan Gawthorpe
Chris Wilder: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Laughing, joking and ignoring the inclement weather, the admiration between them was evident. Two men who, despite coming from very different backgrounds, share an amazing ability to beat the footballing odds.

Around sixty-five minutes earlier, before Wilder's Sheffield United scored for a fourth time against Stendel's Barnsley, there had been another heart-warming display of acclamation and respect: Ben Osborn, previously of Nottingham Forest, being serenaded by visiting supporters following an excellent debut performance.

"I really didn't expect that," the midfielder admitted. "Genuinely, I was touched. It's been a pretty emotional week and I'm feeling really tired. So to see that, to hear them cheering my name as loud as they did, well, I can't begin to tell you what it meant."

The reception, as he made his way back to the dressing rooms after being substituted, was Osborn's reward for an industrious display during this hard-fought friendly. With fellow new arrival Dean Henderson also featuring in United's starting eleven, the midfielder emerged as one of the driving forces behind a win which, Wilder later acknowledged, had been much tougher to come by than the result might suggest. Strong in the tackle, tidy in possession and always making himself available to receive the ball, Osborn showcased his finishing skills too by firing it past Sami Radlinger midway through the first-half after an excellent interchange involving Callum Robinson, David McGoldrick and John Lundstram.

"It was nice to get off to a positive start," Osborn, who until last week had spent his entire professional career at the City Ground, said. "You want to make a good impression with the fans and your team mates so, hopefully, I've done that."

"This is a big move for me," he continued. "I've left the club that's been my home for my entire adult life and come somewhere new. I've not got a bad word to say about them (Forest) and never will. But this is a real opportunity for me, the chance to play Premier League football for another great club. I know I've got it all on to get in the team - that's my first aim - and then look to take it from there."

Osborn's contribution to United's latest pre-season victory - over opponents who also gained promotion last term - saw him take a step towards achieving that aim. With Henderson enjoying a relatively trouble free afternoon between the posts - he was powerless to prevent Cameron McGeehan drawing Barnsley level soon after the break - there was also a first appearance in United colours for Ravel Morrison, who has been nursing a heel injury since completing a successful trial.

Ben Osborn: Jonathan Gawthorpe

"It was a great game for us," Wilder, whose squad conclude their preparations for next month's trip to AFC Bournemouth at Stade de Reims this weekend, said. "People might look at the outcome and think it was relatively easy but, trust me, it wasn't. And that's what we wanted."

"Everybody wrote us of in the Championship last season," Wilder added. "Look what we did, we came second.

"People are probably writing Daniel's boys off in the Championship too but I think they're a bit like us, they'll go well. They've come up out of League One and they really pressed us. I thought we played well but there were also periods when they were on top."

Osborn's effort came following the type of incisive, well-thought out move United must piece together on a regular basis at the highest level next term. Robinson, who was later on target twice, swapped passes with McGoldrick before darting into the penalty area and screaming for a pass. But as Barnsley's defenders scrambled back to mark him, Lundstram was aware of the possibilities. Sweeping forward and using his colleague as a decoy, he picked out Osborn on the far side of the penalty area after providing McGoldrick with a much more favourable option. Osborn did the rest.

Barnsley head coach Daniel Stendel: Jonathan Gawthorpe

"We've tidied up going forward now," Wilder said. "That's good, it's one of the progressions we wanted to see, that rhythm coming back.

"There's still areas where we want to improve and we've got to improve. But we're going in the right direction which is really encouraging."

After beginning the second period slowly, McGeehan's equaliser roused United back into life. Robinson restored their advantage with a fine angled strike - Lundstram again providing the assist - before stretching it further from close range. Substitute Luke Freeman, who had prised apart the host's rearguard on that occasion, found the back of the net during the closing stages after combining with George Baldock.

"The new boys are settling in well," Wilder said. "Hendo has come back in on loan. Obviously everyone knows him after last season and what he's all about. But that will have been invaluable for Ben because it was his first time out there with the rest of the lads. I know he's going to settle in well behind the scenes because of his personality but you can see why the fans are going to take to him as well."

Barnsley: Radlinger, Williams (Pinillos 80), Andersen, Diaby, Sibbick (Cavare 80), Thomas (Thiam 64), Mowatt, McGeehan, Wilks (Halme 75), Woodrow (K Moore 80), Chaplin (Miller 75). Not used: Collins, Moon.

Sheffield United: Henderson, Baldock, Stevens, Fleck, Basham, Lundstram (L Freeman 64), Robinson (Morrison 75), Egan, Norwood, McGoldrick (Sharp 70), Osborn (Bryan 85). Not used: S Moore, Jagielka, K Freeman, Stearman.

Referee: Darren England (South Yorkshire).