Sheffield United's bottle and a blooming good substiution inspire win at Cardiff City

Sheffield United reached the top of the Championship, for 24 hours at least, when they beat Cardiff City thanks to George Baldock’s second-half finish.
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The Star’s James Shield highlights five things we learnt about Paul Heckingbottom’s side, in their final outings before the World Cup break.

James McAtee is learning

Criticised in the past for failing to translate his skill into a series of match-winning performances, the England under-21 international, on loan from Manchester City, has undoubtedly taken time to acclimatise to the more robust nature of second tier competition. But he was much more aggressive here, albeit in mind rather than body, with his introduction for the start of the second period enabling United to “get on the front foot”, as Heckingbottom puts it. Despite not being involved in Baldock’s goal, McAtee’s presence changed the dynamic of the contest.

This team has bottle aplenty

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Ravaged by injuries since the start of the beginning of the season, United probably shouldn’t have left the Welsh capital in pole position and having recorded their fourth win in five outings. But they did. And that is down to their courage, determination and ability to improvise; an important quality given the number of enforced changes Heckingbottom has been forced to make in recent weeks. United weren’t at their best here but, just like at Bristol City nearly a fortnight ago, they came through.

Oliver Arblaster is a brave lad

Okay, so the 18-year-old’s full league debut did not go exactly as he would have hoped once it became clear he was starting this game. Substituted at half-time, albeit because United’s coaching staff suspected, correctly as it proved, McAtee’s ability to pick a telling pass would give them an edge, Arblaster failed to grab the game by the scruff of the neck before being withdrawn. And that, given his lack of experience, was probably only to be expected. Still, even though he sometimes surrendered possession, the midfielder kept demanding the ball. That shows he’s got the attitude which, if more opportunities are forthcoming, will give him the best chance of fulfilling his potential.

Chris Basham of Sheffield United celebrates with scorer George Baldock: Darren Staples / SportimageChris Basham of Sheffield United celebrates with scorer George Baldock: Darren Staples / Sportimage
Chris Basham of Sheffield United celebrates with scorer George Baldock: Darren Staples / Sportimage

City missed a trick

Why, with United’s midfield shorn of John Fleck, Tommy Doyle and Sander Berge, Mark Hudson’s side seemed disinterested in dragging them into the trenches remains a mystery. Instead of making their greater physicality count, the hosts kept attempting to move up the pitch in the type of subtle manner which failed to exploit a big weakness in the opposition’s armoury. Although they did create chances, particularly during the first-half, it came back to cost them. Sometimes it’s best to throw away the modern coaching manual and take the old fashioned approach.

Ciaran Clark faces an important four weeks

With Jack Robinson departing with a hamstring injury, the centre-half, on loan from Newcastle, could be set for a long run in the team when United return to action in the middle of next month. Clark has only just recovered from a fitness issue himself and, with that in mind, must use the World Cup break to ensure he is properly conditioned; therefore reducing the risk that he also suffers the same fate as his team mate. Heckingbottom later blamed Robinson’s set-back on the fact he has been forced to play too many minutes after a long period out himself.