Scunthorpe v Sheffield United: Mixed feelings as strikers score and youngster catches the eye
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The moment the Sheffield United manager revealed his picks for Saturday’s visit to Scunthorpe, it became clear he wasn’t treating it as a dress rehearsal for next month’s Championship’s opener against Watford.
Which was probably just as well given the scoreline, as two goals from Colin Daniel and another from Alfie Beestin put Keith Hill’s side in control before Rhian Brewster and Iliman Ndiaye pounced. The sight of United’s record signing scoring for the third time in two outings, having netted twice during Tuesday’s behind-closed-doors meeting with Lincoln, was the most obvious positive Heckingbottom could take until fellow substitute Ndiaye scored one of the magical efforts which have become his trademark. Both, one suspects, will be important weapons in United’s arsenal when competition proper gets underway.
“It’s a reminder,” Heckingbottom said, before expressing his satisfaction with the visitors’ work after the break, “That you have to be 100 percent on it every single game right from the start.”
“But there was a lot we can take from that as well,” he added, confirming suspicions the main purpose of the exercise, at least from United’s perspective, was increasing fitness levels.
Despite his experimental selections, there were still some basic principles Heckingbottom expected his team to adhere to during the third outing of their summer warm-up programme. One of those will have been the ability to defend with purpose and conviction. So, after a promising start which saw Will Osula and Oli Arblaster cause Keith Hill’s men some problems, United’ bench must have been desperately disappointed to see Scunthorpe take the lead midway through the opening period.
Not because there was much riding on the contest. Despite always doing their best to pretend otherwise, coaches are more bothered about performances at this time of the year than actual results.
But the ease with which Daniel was allowed the slide home, following George Broadbent’s miskick, won’t have made pleasant or encouraging viewing for Heckingbottom.
The same went for the sight of Beestin doubling the hosts’ lead soon after. And also when Daniel claimed his second of the game and Scunthorpe’s third just before the break; directing a header back across Jordan Amissah following a routine cross. Had the young goalkeeper been a couple of years older, he would have done more than simply cast those around him a disbelieving stare.
“The three we conceded were disappointing from our perspective,” Heckingbottom admitted.
Despite the sparse home crowd inside Glanford Park - a symptom of the malaise surrounding its tenants following last season’s slide into non-league - this fixture was a big deal for the likes of Amissah, Broadbent, Oliver Arblaster and Ismaila Coulibaly as they attempt to catch Heckingbottom’s eye. It was a significant moment for Scunthorpe’s on-loan goalkeeper Marcus Dewhurst too, as he started against his parent club after completing a temporary transfer to Lincolnshire.
Like Arblaster, who acquitted himself well, Dewhurst rose to the occasion. Having denied Jack Robinson an equaliser following Daniel’s opener, he made an even better save from Max Lowe.
But Dewhurst was powerless to prevent Brewster powering home immediately after coming on, before Ndiaye slid home following a ghosting run.