Sheffield United 6 Peterborough United 2: Iliman Ndiaye and Ben Osborn both score twice as Blades steamroller Posh to claim their first Championship win under Slavisa Jokanovic
Forty-eight hours beforehand, when Slavisa Jokanovic listed the qualities that would later earn Iliman Ndiaye his first Sheffield United start, he cited technique, dynamism and an eye for space as the youngster’s most precious assets.
The Serb forgot to mention goals, with the young Frenchman scoring two and creating another as the hosts took-out their frustration following a poor start to the campaign on newly promoted Peterborough.
Previously frozen out but brought back in from the cold after signing a new contract, Ndiaye repaid Jokanovic’s faith with a display full of creativity and clinical finishing. Debutant Morgan Gibbs-White, whose strike was crafted by the 21-year-old, joined John Fleck and Ben Osborn on the scoresheet as he impressed as well.
Perhaps the only thing missing from United’s performance, which saw Jokanovic claim his maiden Championship win in charge, was an effort from Billy Sharp who befuddled the visitors time and time again during an attacking masterclass.
After entering the break on level terms when Jack Marriott exploited a mistake by Jack Robinson, Peterborough briefly reduced the deficit late on when substitute Jonson Clarke-Harris netted from the spot. But they were well and comfortably beaten, with Osborn converting again.
Last month, when the search for answers to United’s disappointing form was already gathering pace, Sharp identified their failure to begin matches quickly as this team’s most damaging trait.
It was an issue Jokanovic had spent the international break addressing. His work clearly had the desired effect with Ndiaye firing them in front after a quarter-of-an-hour. It was a deserved reward for the hosts who, a couple of anxious moments apart when Peterborough went long, dominated the opening exchanges. And even more encouragingly, rather than resting on their laurels United went for the jugular.
Christy Pym, who had earlier palmed away a cross from Norrington-Davies, was called into action again soon after Ndiaye’s strike; smothering a shot from Sharp at the feet of United’s captain before the ball was hacked clear.
There was plenty of intricate play. And accurate passing too. But it was a long-range effort from Oliver Norwood, as the movement of Gibbs-White and Ndiaye prised apart the gut of Peterborough’s defence, which forced the next save from Pym.
If Jokanovic had one complaint at this stage of the contest, it was the fact United had not hammered home their advantage more. That failure to translate territory, possession and momentum into a more commanding lead was punished just before the interval when Marriott, on loan at Sheffield Wednesday last term, stroked the ball home following a mistake by Jack Robinson who after first losing his balance was then out-muscled.
Purposeful going forward, United suddenly appeared nervous at the back with Wes Foderingham, selected with new loan signing Robin Olsen still in quarantine, denying Marriott. But two efforts in the space of as many minutes restored their poise. Sharp, reminding he can create as well as finish, provided both assists; first waiting until exactly the right moment to release Fleck before squaring for Osborn to fire home at first attempt.
Gibbs-White added another, wonderfully drilling past Pym at the near post before Ndiaye stretched United’s advantage. Clarke-Harris’ penalty, after he was fouled by John Egan, wasn’t even a consolation for Peterborough as Osborn converted from Oli McBurnie at the death.