FAMILY gatherings can often be pretty spiky affairs but, fortunately for Sheffield United, last night’s friendly at the New Manor Ground lived up to its billing.
Ilkeston, with the visiting manager’s son and brother of defender Harry Maguire both on their roster, demonstrated some neat touches during both halves of an energetic if not absorbing encounter.
United also seemed content to cruise through the first match of their summer schedule with Maguire breaking finally breaking the deadlock after nearly 60 subdued minutes. Sibling Joe capped Ilkeston’s late flurry by snatching an equaliser during the closing stages.
Nevertheless, despite his obvious frustration, there was still plenty for Danny Wilson to ponder ahead of next week’s games against Zejtun Spartans and Hibernians in Malta. New loan signing John Cofie produced some intelligent runs after appearing as a substitute at the start of the second-half while Darryl Westlake, whose transfer from Walsall should be ratified shortly, delivered a solid shift after replacing Jack Dean.
Another trialist - former Stevenage and Rotherham centre-half Luke Foster - was relatively untroubled during his 30 minute cameo.
With United expected to rely heavily on home grown talent throughout the forthcoming League One campaign, Wilson will have been encouraged to see Elliott Whitehouse emerge as arguably the evening’s most accomplished performer.
Solid in the tackle and assured on the ball, the youngster did not look out of place in a midfield containing the likes of Nick Montgomery and Erik Tonne.
Danny Philliskirk and Montgomery both went close before Maguire headed home Tonne’s corner in the 57th minute. Tonne tried his luck from long distance but, when Whitehouse failed to convert soon after, Ilkeston substitute Russell Peel should have punished that rare slip.
However, that task fell to Joe Maguire with only two minutes remaining.
Mark Howard, who moments earlier had seen Peel drag wide, was powerless to prevent him curling a perfectly placed shot into the back of United’s net.
* UNITED: Howard, Dean (Westlake 46), Williams, Montgomery (Montgomery 46), H Maguire, Collins (Foster 62), Chappell (McAllister 46), Whitehouse (Ironside 82), Cresswell (Porter 46), Philliskirk (Cofie 46), Tonne.