Paul Coutts issued a timely reminder of his fitness levels tonight, ahead of possible inclusion in Sheffield United’s Championship run-in, as the Blades lost 2-0 to Sheffield Wednesday’s U23s in their Professional Development League clash at Bramall Lane.
The midfielder played 90 minutes in the mini-derby defeat, captaining a Blades side which also included Simon Moore, Kean Bryan and Conor Washington, who limped off a minute into the second half with what looked like a hamstring injury.
With fellow midfielder Oliver Norwood one booking away from a two-match ban, Coutts could realistically play a part for Chris Wilder’s first team between now and the end of the season as they chase promotion to the Premier League.
And this outing will have done him no harm, despite the visitors from Hillsborough taking the points thanks to goals from the impressive Rolando Aarons and Connor Grant.
In front of a healthy crowd at Bramall Lane, the Owls were forced into an early change when Jack Stobbs hobbled off and was replaced by Fraser Preston and the lively Aarons showed early signs of his pace, forcing Jake Wright to use every ounce of his experience to time his challenge perfectly in the penalty area.
Moore did well to tip Preston’s stinging left-footed shot over the bar, but the Owls went ahead when Aarons was played clear. His touch took him past Keenan Ferguson and he fired past Moore with his left foot, despite the Blades ‘keeper getting a touch on the ball.
Ferguson then did well to deny Winnall, who was otherwise quiet throughout, a sight of goal after United's George Broadbent had his pocket picked just outside his own box, and Owls ‘keeper Joe Wildsmith passed his first real test of the game when he clawed away Bryan’s top-corner-bound header excellently, colliding with a post for his troubles.
Wednesday doubled their lead when Grant seized upon a defensive error by Wright to fire past Moore, and it could have been worse had the impressive Newcastle loanee Achraf Lazaar’s stinging effort crept inside the post. Instead, it crashed against it and rebounded to safety.
Simeon Oure, who replaced Washington, fired wide after connecting with Harry Boyes’ corner on a night which was largely one to forget for the Blades.