Sheffield United v Luton Town: Rhian Brewster on the mark again as The Blades enjoy a happy return home

It had been so long they’d probably forgotten what it felt like.

Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 7:10 pm

The Sheffield United players. And the Sheffield United supporters. After all, thanks to a controversial series of postponements over Christmas and New Year, this was the first football match Bramall Lane had staged for an age. Well, 55 days to be absolutely exact.

To begin with, it wasn’t exactly the extravaganza either had hoped for, as a combination of Luton Town’s resilience and United’s lack of intensity in the final third threatened to squeeze the life out of the contest.

But then two goals in as many minutes after the break ensured it was a happy and profitable homecoming for Paul Heckingbottom’s men. Reece Burke’s sending-off just past the hour capped a miserable afternoon for the visitors, whose manager Nathan Jones looked ready to combust when the red card was shown. Not because he disagreed with the decision.

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Rhian Brewster celebrates opening the scoring for Sheffield United against Luton Town: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

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Brewster, whose quick turn of pace forced Burke to commit the foul, had earlier laid the foundations for a victory which lifts United to 11th in the Championship. Now recovered from injury, it was their record signing’s third goal in six outings. Acquired at a cost of £23.5m, Brewster endured a miserable start to his career in South Yorkshire. But the former Liverpool centre-forward, whose team mate Jack Robinson quickly doubled United’s advantage, is now slipping into gear.

Plenty of things have happened since Heckingbottom last patrolled the touchline in front of the Tony Currie Stand. Some of them positive, such as a statement win over Fulham, which followed victories over Cardiff and of course Bristol City. But many of the issues which accelerated Slavisa Jokanovic’s departure have still to be properly addressed. Like his predecessor, Heckingbottom is still short of a centre-half and, with Robin Olsen cutting short his loan from AS Roma, now experienced competition for Wes Foderingham too.

Adam Davies is his preferred option to fill that particular void. But Foderingham will be difficult to shift, demonstrating excellent reactions to smother Cameron Jerome’s shot at the foot of his near post.

Jack Robinson of Sheffield United (L) celebrates after scoring the second goal with Billy Sharp: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

That was Luton’s best opening during a first half which threatened to be compelling without ever becoming so.

Jayden Bogle had an effort saved before a shot from Brewster fizzed wide as United tried to impose their authority. They came close on occasion, but never quite managed it. Brewster also tried his luck with a header just before the interval but it was gathered.

Former Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster fires homne for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Not so, at the beginning of the second period, when the United striker powered home from close range. Playing against a club he represented on loan last term, Rhys Norrington-Davies swept a cross into their area and, when it was only half cleared, Brewster’s shot on the turn flew beneath James Shea after Jayden Bogle had returned the ball with relish.

Three sides of the ground had barely finished celebrating when Robinson extended United’s lead, escaping his marker at an Oliver Norwood free-kick and beating Shea again.

Things got worse for Luton when Burke was dismissed for hauling down Brewster. Well, after seeing United surrender a two goal lead against 10 men at Preston on Tuesday, his departure could have been the moment when the visitors really started to believe.

It wasn’t, with Iliman Ndiaye and Norrington-Davies missing chances towards the end.

Sheffield United: Foderingham, Basham, Egan, Robinson, Bogle, Norrington-Davies, Norwood, Hourihane, Ndiaye (McGoldrick 82), Sharp (McBurnie 86), Brewster (Berge 71). Not used: Eastwood, Baldock, Fleck, Gordon.

Luton Town: Shea, Burke, Bradley, Naismith, Kioso, Mpanzu, Campbell, Lansbury, Bell (Clarke 60), Muskwe (Osho 63), Jerome (Adebayo 54). Not used: Sluga, Berry, Gomes, Onyedinma.

Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire).