What we learned from Sheffield United's final pre-season friendly, as Preston deny them a third straight win
Sheffield United completed their pre-season schedule with a 2-2 draw against Preston North End.
The Star’s James Shield highlights some of the key things the contest told us about Chris Wilder’s side, who saw John Lundstram and Billy Sharp hit the target, as they prepare for September 14th’s visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
It’s the same old: Billy Sharp: At the end of last term, Chris Wilder challenged his team to score more goals. He repeated that message again before the first of four warm-up matches - against Dundee United, Hearts, Derby County and Alex Neil’s side. Billy Sharp has picked up the gauntlet, scoring in all but one of those. Every season, the United captain gets written off. And every season he proves the doubters wrong. Do not be surprised if he does the same again.
The Blades would benefit from: An injection of pace. Although Lys Mousset has got plenty, the centre-forward’s physical conditioning clearly leaves much to be desired. If he can be encouraged to get fit - and show more self-discipline in terms of keeping himself in shape - then United have a genuine top-flight marksman on their hands. But on the evidence of his performances since scoring five times in 10 matches last autumn, it would be a huge gamble to rely on Mousset keeping himself fit. Indeed, after receiving a knock soon after coming on, he was later replaced by Antwoine Hackford.
But their goalkeeping department: Looks stronger than ever, thanks to the arrival of Wes Foderingham and Aaron Ramsdale. Signed from Bournemouth earlier this summer, Ramsdale has big gloves to fill when he returns from international duty with England’s under-21’s following the now departed Dean Henderson’s sterling performances over the past two years. But he is capable. With Foderingham also in situ following his move from Rangers, Wilder now has genuine competition between the posts.
Foderingham is also: Very good with his feet. The size of the fee United have invested in Ramsdale means, whatever the manager says about every player being forced to earn a shirt, only injury is likely to cost him a starting place when Wolves visit South Yorkshire a week on Monday. But, besides his organisational and shot-stopping ability, it is easy to see why Wilder wanted to recruit Foderingham. The 29-year-old distribution, particularly when he went long, was unerringly accurate.
But Wilder’s men must be careful: Not to over elaborate. Only the width of a post prevented Preston from taking the lead before Lundstram’s opener. Not once but twice. The opening, which came when Chris Basham lost his footing bringing the ball out of defence, would almost certainly have been exploited by a top-flight side. But first Scott Sinclair and then Tom Barkhuizen hit the woodwork.
And finally: Ben Osborn found the back of the net against Derby County on Tuesday and, despite failing to score in this match, was in fine form again. The midfielder posed a real threat going forward and was tenacious in the tackle. Osborn will have given Wilder serious food for thought.