Striker ched evans wielded a brickbat rather than bouquet as he propelled sheffield united into the second round of the competition at the expense of their namesakes from oxford.
Striker Ched Evans wielded a brickbat rather than bouquet as he propelled Sheffield United into the second round of the competition at the expense of their namesakes from Oxford.
With chris wilder and alan hodgkinson, among bramall lane’s most popular alumni, returning to the stadium where they both excelled as players, the pre-match hype had inevitably focused on this tournament’s propensity for romance.
But evans, who united manager danny wilson feared would be spirited away by wales on the eve of the contest, dampened their ardor with a devastating display which not only earned him two goals but also the respect of team mates and opponents alike.
Ryan flynn, whose second-half effort ensured the final score reflected the home side’s superiority, said: “i think we got what we deserved. We want to go as far as we can in the competition because we want to keep on winning. It’s a good habit to have and a great one to get in to.”
Evans, who was denied a hat-trick by two fine ryan clarke saves, will dominate the headlines.
But richard cresswell, his fellow centre-forward, was the unsung hero of this one-sided show.
The former stoke city centre-forward enjoyed a pivotal role in both of evans’ goals, but it was some slavish running which prompted wilder, the oxford manager, to make a damning distinction between cresswell’s contribution and those delivered by his own lack-lustre players.
“This game was never about me from my point of view but i have to say my team really disappointed me,” he said. “Sheffield united competed better and they did the fundamentals better.
“We didn’t show any of those attributes barring a 10 or 15-minute spell in the second half.
“Evans and cresswell gave our boys a lesson in how to close down. They were closing down at 3-0 up in the 88th minute and if they can do that - given the careers they’ve had, particularly cressy - then it speaks volumes.
“I was only ever going to enjoy myself if we’d won. Hodgy (oxford’s goalkeeping coach and former blade alan hodgkinson) is exactly the same. He won’t have enjoyed himself either.”
With united entering this tie on the back of a jp trophy defeat by bradford city - 14 places below oxford in the league two table - many observers had predicted saturday’s contest would herald a shock result.
But the frank discussions wilson held with his squad following that disappointing reverse four days earlier had the desired effect.
James constable’s introduction during the interval provided oxford with a cutting edge they had previously lacked but, shorn of the vastly experienced michael duberry, their reshuffled back four was penetrated almost at will during the early skirmishes.
Evans, on standby for the principality’s international with norway, broke the deadlock with a thunderous low drive after cresswell’s attempted overhead kick had distracted marker steve kinniburgh, before taking his figures for the season to seven in as many starts with a fiercely-struck set-piece following andrew whing’s push on his fellow centre-forward.
Clarke foiled evans and stephen quinn, who was later withdrawn with an injured back, as oxford threatened to crumble.
But although wilder, one of the brightest young managers in the english game, will have been encouraged to see constable’s glancing header force steve simonsen to save soon after the re-start, flynn’s first in united colours since a summer transfer from falkirk ended oxford’s faint hopes of snatching a replay.
Again cresswell was involved, hassling the otherwise impressive clarke into a fatal error.
United, fifth in the league one rankings, resume their bid for promotion against carlisle this weekend.