Sheffield United picked up a huge three points in their bid for a miraculous survival with Billy Sharp scoring a second-half winner in a 2-1 win over West Brom.
A classic Sam Allardyce smash-and-grab looked on when after defending their box superbly, a counter-attack ended with Matt Phillips opening the scoring from close range (41).
Chris Wilder’s team were very ponderous with their possession in the first 45 minutes but stepped it up a gear after the break and Jayden Bogle started the comeback with a left-footed strike (56).
The game then opened up significantly with a draw not helping either team and Sharp showed his poaching talents to seize upon a loose ball in the box (73) after some brilliant wide play from Chris Basham.
A third win from their last five games takes the Blades to within 10 points of safety.
Sheffield United: Ramsdale (7), Basham (8), Egan (7), Ampadu (7), Baldock (6), Lundstram (6), Norwood (5), Fleck (7), Bogle (7), McGoldrick (7), Sharp (7)
Subs: McBurnie (7), Burke (6)
West Brom: Johnstone (6), O’Shea (6), Ajayi (6), Bartley (6), Townsend (6), Livermore (5), Phillips (7), Pereira (5), Snodgrass (7), Robinson (7), Diagne (6)
Subs: Robson-Kanu (6), Grant (6)
Man of the Match: Chris Basham
How Sharp shooting cut down the Baggies…
Allardyce had called this a “must not lose” encounter and he made his team tough to break down from the off, utilising Callum Robinson’s pace on the counter-attack.
Oliver Norwood wasted a free-kick in a good position on the edge of the penalty area early on, while Robinson flashed a shot across goal and narrowly wide in a lively start.
The pattern then slipped into an attack vs defence situation but although Wilder’s men dominated the ball, they lacked any inventive play in midfield.
Sam Johnstone did well to hold on to a low drive by David McGoldrick before palming away another shot from outside the box from Ethan Ampadu.
West Brom then struck with a well-constructed counter-attack.
Robinson was the architect, cutting inside down the left of the penalty area and bringing a save from Aaron Ramsdale, who then reacted quickly to make another fine stop to deny Mbaye Diagne from point-blank range. However, the goalkeeper only flicked the ball into the path of Phillips, who could not miss from two yards out.
Wilder added more weight to his frontline in the second half, replacing Norwood with fit-again striker Oli McBurnie, back after a month-long absence with a shoulder injury.
It triggered a response in terms of their tempo and they were level 10 minutes later.
Sharp’s cross caused confusion inside the penalty area and Basham did well to protect the ball and lay it off to Bogle, who drilled home a shot from 12 yards out to beat Johnstone at his near post.
McBurnie then saw an effort bravely blocked before John Fleck stung the palms of Johnstone.
The game was now swinging from end-to-end and Ramsdale had to produce a fantastic point-blank stop to keep the hosts level. Phillips’ cross was met by Robinson’s perfectly-timed run and he looked certain to score sliding in inside the six-yard box, only for the ball to be blocked away by Ramsdale.
Buoyed by that moment inspiration, Sharp soon had the Blades in front soon afterwards.
Basham’s cross from the right was kept alive in the penalty area by a strong challenge from John Egan and the ball fell to the captain who drilled a shot beneath the goalkeeper from 10 yards out.
Man of the match: Chris Basham
The marauding Sheffield United defender lived up to his “Bashambauer” title with a performance of a sheer class down the right. His ability to join the attack and play dangerous passes was the catalyst for the brilliant second half performance by his team. It was no coincidence that both of the Blades goals came down the right flank.
Many would have panicked into taking a shot on when he found himself in the box surrounded by Baggies defenders but he shimmied into space to set up Bogle for the opening goal. And then his cross causes the carnage in the danger area that was finished off in deadly fashion by Sharp.
What the managers said
Chris Wilder said: “This is where we are, this is the position that we are in and this is the division that we are in – they are professional and they have to play under pressure and if they can’t cope with that then they are not going to survive at the highest level.
“It’s not about me testing them, it’s about me demanding more and asking the question can they come up with the answer.
“We have a huge challenge, not getting carried away at all.
“Next up is Chelsea and it’s an incredible challenge every week but as I have said and what others have said about us, we are alive and fighting and giving it a go.”
Sam Allardyce said: “It’s very damaging for us.
“We have done all we can in the window and hopefully the players such as Robert Snodgrass can give us that bit of Premier League quality we need to turn the corner.
“We should be sat here with four points from last two and have only ourselves to blame.”
- Sheffield United have now won three of their last five Premier League matches (L2) – as many as in their previous 27 in the competition (W3 D4 L20).
- West Bromwich Albion have conceded 26 goals in nine Premier League games under Allardyce – as many as they conceded in 13 games under Slaven Bilic this season.
- In just 10 appearances in all competitions for Sheffield United, Bogle has scored as many goals as he managed in 90 games for Derby County (3).
- Phillips scored his first league goal of the season – he has now found the net in each of the last 13 seasons in English league football, stretching back to the 2008/09 season.
- Since Chris Wilder first game in charge of Sheffield United in August 2016, Sharp has scored 76 goals in all competitions – 44 more than any other Blades player in that time.
Sheffield United are back in action on Sunday with a home clash with Chelsea, live on Sky Sports. West Brom also play on Sunday against Tottenham at 12.30pm.