VAR, bagsman Billy and a breath of fresh air new signing: Heroes and Villains from Sheffield United's FA Cup win over Bristol City

For what seemed to be the first time in a while, Sheffield United were on the right side of a VAR call as they booked their place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup last night,

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 12:15 pm

The Blades were drawing 0-0 with Bristol City at Bramall Lane when the game's major incident saw Alfie Mawson handle David McGoldrick's shot, deflecting it onto the crossbar.

After a VAR review Mawson was sent off, a penalty was awarded and that man Billy Sharp stepped up once again to send his side through to the last eight.

Here's our heroes and villains from the game...

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Bagsman Billy

He scores goals, as we all know and the banner on the Kop proudly proclaims. But Sharp's all-round game seems to get better by the year and at 35, he's possibly a more complete striker now than at any point in his career before.

It's not just his predatory instinct and his knack for being in the right place at the right time. After a good move down the right, Sharp was only denied a typical Sharp goal in the six yard box when a defender desperately cleared Chris Basham's cross.

Sheffield United's Billy Sharp (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the winner from the penalty spot against Bristol City (Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images)

But his work-rate is exceptional, and the way he worked the channels yesterday to create opportunities for his side really came across from the stands at Bramall Lane. It's something that may not be picked up by the TV cameras, but that off-the-ball work is so vital for the team.

Sharp could have probably got on the scoresheet earlier, but he looked like he tried to square the ball for teammate Rhian Brewster rather than shoot himself after being played in. Many wondered that, after reaching 35, Sharp's days at Bramall Lane may be numbered. But with five goals in 14 appearances this season, he's shown that there's still life in the old dog yet.


What is it good for? Well, in this instance, correcting a wrong that was missed in real-time by referee Robert Jones, as defender Mawson made a good save in deflecting McGoldrick's shot onto the bar.

Jayden Bogle of Sheffield United fires in a shot during the FA Cup match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Once Jones consulted his monitor and saw that Mawson had used his hand to block the shot, he really had no option than to send the former Barnsley defender off as well and despite Dean Holden's protestations afterwards, it was surely the right decision.

Holden had a good point, though, in that the decision would not be given had the game been played at Ashton Gate. Not for reasons of partisan crowd or unconscious bias, but simply because VAR wouldn't have been in operation because City aren't a Premier League club.

How can that be fair? If they were playing away, United would have been denied a nailed-on penalty and City would have continued with 11 men, and who knows how the game would have panned out.

Refree Rob Jones checks a VAR penalty during the FA Cup match at Bramall Lane: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

VAR is supposed to be there to correct clear and obvious errors, not just those made at certain grounds. Either have it for everyone, and everywhere, or for no-one and nowhere at all.

Jayden Bogle

What a signing this kid has been, especially for the bargain fee United paid when they prised him and Max Lowe away from Derby County in the summer.

Yes, he is still raw and no, he is far from the finished article. Who expects him to be? He's 20 years old and has played eight Premier League games.

But he is incredibly exciting and even fun to watch. He has that knack of appearing in brilliant attacking positions and seems to have at least one chance to score per game, which is impressive enough for a right-back but especially one playing at this level.

The thing I like most about him is that he plays with a freedom that seems to have rubbed off on his fellow players. He doesn't appear to have any fear whatsoever about him and in a team wracked with self-doubt after results this season, he has been a breath of fresh air down the right.

George Baldock was watching from the stands last night, and will know he has a hell of a fight on his hands to get back in the team after Bogle took his chance.

But that's exactly the scenario Wilder was hoping would develop when he signed the defender in the summer. Bogle knows Baldock will be breathing down his neck, and vice versa if and when he does claim the shirt back. And the net winner from that? United.

Rhian Brewster

What better mentor for the young striker to learn from than Sharp? It just wasn't the former Liverpool man's night last night. Everything he seemed to try didn't come off, and his frustration looked to grow as the night went on.

But to his credit, he didn't hide and, albeit with words of encouragement from Wilder ringing in his ears, he continued to press and harry the City defence, which resulted in a chance for McGoldrick moments after Sharp's goal.

The striker will clearly be disappointed that he hasn't got off the mark so far for the Blades and, having made him the club's record signing, United may privately have expected more too.

But manager Chris Wilder still clearly has faith in the striker, who clearly needs a goal to get that particular monkey off his back. When it arrives, both club and striker will hope it's the first of many in red and white.