It is still far too early in the season to speak of turning points or defining moments.
But the relief among Sheffield United’s players and staff following the final whistle at Morecambe last night was almost palpable as Nigel Adkins, three days after seeing his coronation ruined by Gillingham, celebrated his first win since taking charge at Bramall Lane.
The goal which sealed United’s progress into the second round of the Capital One Cup was also a cathartic moment for Neill Collins. The Scottish defender, banished from the squad by Adkins’ predecessor Nigel Clough, celebrated wildly and theatrically in front of the travelling support after heading home in stoppage time.
It was his first goal for 10 months and the pain and frustration of last season, part of which was spent on loan at Port Vale, came surging out in a primeval roar.
Meticulous preparation is a hallmark of any Adkins team. He will not have cared a jot that this proved a scruffy but ultimately deserved win.
There was a delicious irony too given that set-pieces, which cost United so dear on the opening day of the league campaign, was their route to victory here.
Jim Bentley cuts an imposing figure on the touchline and Morecambe are a team crafted in their manager’s image. Robust and resourceful, with a touch of invention to boot, they provided stoic resistance until United’s class finally told.
“We’re through and that’s the main thing,” Adkins said. “We’re a work in progress and we knew they would test us.
“But we were resolute and, at the end, clinical. So that’s good.”
Adkins made seven changes to the starting eleven beaten 4-0 at Priestfield although, having begun drafting his selection policy for this match last week, refuted claims the return of James Wallace, Marc McNulty and Mark Howard could be interpreted as a response to that calamity in Kent.
David Edgar, whose loan from Birmingham City was completed on Monday morning, made his debut alongside Jay McEveley at the heart of a rearguard also containing youngster Kieran Wallace.
McNulty was clearly intent on giving Adkins a not-so-gentle nudge after missing United’s opening fixture of the new campaign. Only a lack of composure at the vital moment prevented him from embellishing a spiky first-half performance with a goal. Particularly when, midway through the opening period, he combined well with Conor Sammon only to snatch his shot.
The hosts, though, gave as good as they got and pieced together a series of promising moves which posed United’s new-look defence numerous problems until the contest began to swing in the visitors’ favour after the interval.
Collins, who moments earlier had replaced Edgar, made the pressure pay by converting James Wallace’s 90th minute corner after Sammon, Basham and fellow substitute Che Adams had also gone close.
Morecambe were missing captain Peter Murphy as they attempted to avenge the 5-0 defeat they suffered a Bramall Lane in the same competition eight years ago. The midfielder, who left League Two rivals Wycombe Wanderers earlier this summer, suffered knee ligament damage less than 10 minutes into his debut at Hartlepoool last weekend and was replaced by Alan Goodall.
With Andrew Fleming the only other alteration to the team beaten 2-0 in the North-East, Morecambe were clearly intent on exploiting any indecision or miscommunication among their opponents reshuffled ranks.
Simon Beeley tested Howard’s handling and positional sense with a fierce early shot while only a superb tackle from Kieran Freeman prevented Laurence Wilson from following suit.
But McNulty reminded Morecambe’s players - and Adkins for that matter - about the depth of attacking options which now exist within United’s squad by ghosting beyond his marker and forcing Barry Roche, the former Chesterfield goalkeeper, to save.
As the evening progressed, both teams continued to carve openings. Basham could, indeed should, have broken the deadlock after meeting a Stefan Scougall corner but headed over the crossbar before Lee Molyneux saw a free-kick cannon back off the foot of a post.
Howard, despite appearing to be wrong-footed by the flight of the ball, parried a Jamie Devitt effort away to safety but Adams’ introduction at the start of the second-half coincided with United seizing control.
The youngster immediately made his presence felt with a burst of pace which left Ryan Edwards trailing and ended with Roche producing a fine one handed save. Moments later, Sammon was about to wheel away in celebration after meeting a looping cross at the far post but again the goalkeeper, in tandem with a colleague, scrambled clear. Kieran Wallace was the next to show, sweeping a long-range strike over the crossbar after surging forward before Sammon drove just wide.
McNulty timed his run well but failed to make the desired connection as United continued to press.
But another move involving the Scottish centre-forward, which broke down when an off-balance Sammon was unable to control, summed-up United’s night so far.
Shaun Miller, the former United marksman, probed well but Morecambe were wobbling as Adams, Sammon and Basham all saw attempts hacked clear before Collins pounced.
MORECAMBE: Roche 7, Beeley 6, Edwards 7, Devitt 7 , Molyneux 7 (Miller 79), Mullin 6, Goodall 6, Wildig (Kenyon 57, 6 ), Fleming 6 (Ellison 70), Wilson 6, Parrish 6. Not used: Thompson, McGowan, Ryan, Doyle.
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Howard 6, Freeman 7, McEveley 7, Edgar 6 (Collins 83) K Wallace 6, Scougall 8, J Wallace 7 (Reed 90), Basham 6, Woolford 6 (Adams 46, 7) , McNulty 6, Sammon 6. Not used: Long, McFadzean, Reed, Higdon, Sharp.
REFEREE: S Martin 7