Returning striker Ched Evans stepped up his recovery by playing an hour as Sheffield United’s U23s beat their Ipswich Town counterparts at Portman Road tonight.
Evans, making his comeback after ankle surgery, was withdrawn after 61 minutes of the 2-1 victory in the Premier League Cup, sealed by goals from Jordan Hallam and Tyler Smith.
Evans, the former Welsh international, was replaced by another striker on the comeback trail in Jake Wright, who badly damaged his ankle while on loan at Harrogate Town last September.
After a quiet start to the game in Suffolk, the Blades sprung into life and drew first blood in the 11th minute when Smith worked his way into the box and awaited the arrival of Hallam who finished calmly into the bottom corner.
Ipswich increased their intensity and pressure on the United backline and a throughball put Ben Folami in on goal as he looked to level the scores - only for a great last ditched tackle from Rhys Norrington-Davies to deny the hosts an equaliser.
A great chance went begging on the half-hour mark when Regan Slater won the ball back in midfield and Hallam played in Smith, who couldn’t quite get the ball under control and fired just over the bar from 12 yards.
Just a couple of minutes later Smith made amends, when he got in behind the Ipswich defence to poke Hallam’s pass past Ipswich goalkeeeper Michael Crowe.
Evans almost added a third on the stroke of half-time when he met Stephen Mallon’s corner but turned his effort just wide of the post.
United goalkeeper Marcus Dewhurst was forced into a very good save just after the break when a deflected cross wrong-footed the United stopper and forced him to change body shape and get down low to his right and turn the ball round the post.
Smith was denied a second on the hour mark by the assistant referee’s flag, and United breathed a sigh of relief going into the the final quarter of an hour as a low cross was met by Tristan Nydam at the back post - but he somehow turned over from very close range.
But United held out comfortably for the remainder of the tie and returned to South Yorkshire as worthy winners.
n Ipswich: Crowe, McLoughlin, Nydam, C. Smith, Webber, Hyam (Clements, 87), Sagaf (McKendry, 69), McDonnell, Morris, Folami, Drinan (Patterson, 89). Not used: Wright, Ndaba.
n Blades: Dewhurst, Deidrick-Roberts (Portman 68), Norrington-Davies, Doherty, Graham, Mallon (Broadbent 83), Gilmour, Slater, Evans (Wright 61), Hallam, Smith. Not used: Warhurst, Oure.