Sheffield United's highs and lows against Norwich City
The Star’s Sheffield United writer James Shield identifies one high - and one low - to emerge from the win over Norwich City at Bramall Lane.
HIGH: Another win, another clean sheet, another goal for Billy Sharp and another huge contribution from goalkeeper Dean Henderson; who made an excellent block to deny the visitors an equaliser during the closing stages. Clearly, the biggest positive Chris Wilder will have taken away from this encounter is the result.
But scratch beneath the surface and there were no shortage of other sources of encouragement. United were not at their swashbuckling best but they were ruthless when John Lundstram whipped the ball across the penalty area for his captain to head home towards the end of the first-half.
Defensively, they were also solid throughout the majority of this match - even though Teemu Pukki struck a post before Sharp pounced. When Norwich did prise apart United’s rearguard, Henderson demonstrated superb powers of concentration by making two crucial saves at the death.
LOW: Wilder insisted he was withdrawn as a precautionary measure but the sight of Enda Stevens being substituted during the second half - the wing-back was making his return from injury after missing the FA Cup win over Reading through injury - is still a cause for concern.
Speaking after the match, United’s manager told journalists Stevens had not torn the calf muscle he damaged against Brighton and Hove Albion last month. But the fact he was clearly uncomfortable and deemed unable to continue suggests the issue has not cleared-up quite as quickly as hoped.
United’s fitness and conditioning department has shown itself to be one of the best in the business this season, with only suspension usually preventing Wilder selecting from a full strength squad since the beginning of the campaign.
With United set to visit Newcastle on Saturday, their skills will again be required if Stevens is to be declared fit to face Steve Bruce’s men. If not, fortunately Ben Osborn is a more than able deputy. He again impressed after replacing his team mate during the closing stages.