West Bromwich Albion v Sheffield United: How Paul Heckingbottom's side wrecked Carlos Corberan's big day

The word “Bienvenido” was emblazoned across the front cover of the matchday programme, as West Bromwich Albion marked Carlos Corberan’s appointment as their new head coach.
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Sheffield United had an altogether different kind of welcome in mind for the disco dancing Spaniard, whose theatrics on the touchline made for more compelling viewing than the relegation threatened hosts.

It came in the shape of a ruthlessly efficient performance which, thanks to strikes from Iliman Ndiaye and Oli McBurnie, lifted Paul Heckingbottom’s team to fourth in the Championship and delivered their first win since the international break.

Iliman Ndiaye and Oli McBurnie were on target for Sheffield United against West Bromwich Albion: Andrew Yates / SportimageIliman Ndiaye and Oli McBurnie were on target for Sheffield United against West Bromwich Albion: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Iliman Ndiaye and Oli McBurnie were on target for Sheffield United against West Bromwich Albion: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
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“It felt good and it looked good,” said the United manager, before going easy on Albion for the first time all afternoon. “But I wouldn’t say dominant, because we had to earn it.”

Analysts and pundits can dress things up how they like. But goals, the ability to score them to be exact, is usually one of the hallmarks of a promotion winning side. So, despite their faltering form en route to the Midlands, United should take a huge amount of encouragement from the sight of Ndiaye and McBurnie both taking their respective tallies for the season to seven. The same will go for the clean sheet they kept after becoming uncharacteristically porous in recent weeks. Still, until finding their rhythm late on, Albion were pretty woeful. Unfortunately the same goes for United’s fitness record, with Rhian Brewster limping-off soon after coming on with a hamstring issue. Another game, another injury. Oh, and a suspension too with Anel Ahmedhodzic collecting the booking which rules him out of Tuesday’s visit to Bristol City.

Heckingbottom, understandably, preferred to focus on the positives.

“Going two up so early,” he continued, “Changed the pattern.”

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom was delighted with his team's performance: Andrew Yates / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom was delighted with his team's performance: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom was delighted with his team's performance: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
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Having only been in post for a matter of days, there were no radical changes from Corberan. Nevertheless, Heckingbottom had warned the 39-year-old’s presence would “just make things feel different” for a squad of players which had flummoxed and frustrated his predecessor Steve Bruce in equal measure. It didn’t, with the visitors’ flying start exposing the fault lines between Albion’s players and the home crowd. The cheers which greeted Corberan when he emerged from the tunnel before kick-off, fashionably late of course, turned to howls of derision as first Ndiaye and then McBurnie pounced inside the opening half an hour. Albion’s only chance of note during a woefully inadequate first-half display came right at the fag end, with Adam Davies denying Matt Phillips.

“I know it’s difficult for our fans, they’ll have watched this many times before,” conceded Corberan.

Ndiaye’s strike was all about precision, with Tommy Doyle landing a beautiful pass right at the feet of George Baldock whose cross was missed by McBurnie but turned home by his team mate. The same went for United’s second, with the Scotland international picking his spot perfectly as Albion’s defence again went AWOL. But United owed their grip on the contest to some raw power too, with Ndiaye’s direct running punching a hole in the hosts’ rearguard. The Senegalese is developing into a very special player. It was no surprise his switch back into midfield, during the closing stages of the contest, coincided with Albion’s best period of the game.

“They’re really good players,” said Heckingbottom, also noting McBurnie’s contribution. “Football clever and cute.”

Erik Pieters of West Bromwich Albion challenges Rhian Brewster, before the Sheffield United substituted was subbed: Andrew Yates / SportimageErik Pieters of West Bromwich Albion challenges Rhian Brewster, before the Sheffield United substituted was subbed: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Erik Pieters of West Bromwich Albion challenges Rhian Brewster, before the Sheffield United substituted was subbed: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

West Bromwich Albion: Palmer, Furlong, Townsend (Reach 76), O’Shea, Livermore (Swift 58), Phillips, Diangana, Pieters, Wallace (Molumby 58), Grant, Gardner-Hickman (Thomas-Asante 86). Not used: Button, Kelly, Yokuslu.

Sheffield United: Davies, Baldock (Robinson 76), Osborn, Basham (Stevens 86), Egan, Ahmedhodzic, Norwood, Fleck (Brewster 66, Sharp 76), Doyle, Ndiaye, McBurnie. Not used: Amissah, Khadra, McAtee.

Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire).

Attendance: 22,270.