After the Blades U18’s earlier in the day ensured that both the first team and the youngsters finished the pre-season unbeaten, it was Burton Albion who brought the fans back down to earth with a bump, dumping United out of the Capital One Cup in the very first round.
In Wilson’s first selection at Bramall Lane this season, Howard, McMahon and Miller made their competitive debuts for the Blades whilst Westlake and Blackman had to be content with a place on the bench.
Kicking off towards the Bramall Lane end, the Blades started positively almost immediately winning a corner after good work from Flynn. Referee Trevor Kettle rather predictably made a quick start in bringing attention to himself too, with a neat interception as Miller tried to play the ball to a teammate in the United midfield.
Despite the Blades having the better of the early possession it took a while for a proper chance to arrive, with a visiting defender throwing his body in front of a Porter shot after the big man had brought down a McMahon cross.
Shortly after, his partner in attack Miller looked to make an early impact forcing the goalkeeper to push wide with a shot from 25 yards. Harry Maguire then headed the resulting corner just over the bar.
Miller once again got involved as he headed a Flynn free-kick goalwards forcing the keeper into a good save.
Burton almost immediately went down the other end of the field and scored the opener, Kee finding Yussuf down the right after McDonald had lost possession, the ex-Leicester man gratefully skipped towards the penalty area and beat Howard with a shot into the bottom corner.
After the restart, Flynn took advantage of a loose ball from the Brewers defence, knocking the ball past his man and powering towards the touchline before standing up a cross to the back post. Miller managed to get a good connection, but saw his header well saved by the keeper who looked to have tipped the goal-bound effort against the far post.
The last half chance of the game came from good work down United’s right resulting in Porter’s diving header being deflected for a corner, before Michael Doyle volleyed high over the bar into the empty Bramall Lane Upper Tier.
Danny Wilson decided that half time was a good time to make his first change, giving Blackman his first run out in Blades colours at the expense of Chris Porter.
Blackman didn’t take long to get involved five minutes into the second half, though he’ll have been dreaming of a slightly more glamorous finish to score his first for the club. Miscuing a header whilst challenging for Flynn’s cross, the 6 foot 2 striker saw his effort loop high and then down under the Burton crossbar with despairing keeper Atkins making a mess of trying to keep it out.
The Blades were back on level terms and after McMahon’s long range effort was beaten away by the keeper, Danny Wilson introduced McFadzean replacing Miller.
The switch meant that in a familiar sight for those taking in the pre-season, Stephen Quinn once again pushed further forward to support the attack with McFadzean taking his place on the left.
The hard working Quinny had a shot from the edge of the area, just clearing the bar as the home crowd sighed at an announcement reminding those at the Lane that the game would go to extra-time and penalties if needed.
With both seeming to be playing with more freedom since the substitution, Flynn and Quinn combined well down the right hand side before Flynn sent a teasing ball across the six yard box causing panic and a short scramble before coming to nothing.
The Blades continued to attack with intent, but in truth the game looked to be coasting to extra time, with only a Blackman shot destined for the bottom corner for the visiting keeper to deal with as three minutes added time was announced.
With the game going into extra time, Wilson made his third and final change, with McAllister coming on for Flynn.
The first half of extra time saw the Blades continue to attack with purpose, with Quinn feeding Blackman not long after the restart. The new signing cleverly ran onto the ball and headed over the oncoming keeper, leaving him stranded. Sadly, the header took him a little too far wide and from an acute angle near the byline his shot hit the side netting rather than the back of the vulnerable net.
Neill Collins, finding himself 20 yards out with a clear sight at goal then saw his effort pushed past the post.
In a similar story to the opener, Burton came back at United getting the ball forward quickly to Taylor, who got the better of Williams before placing the ball across the helpless Howard into the bottom corner.
The Blades were handed a lifeline as, after linking up with Quinn, McFadzean’s direct running saw him taken to ground in the area, Kettle pointing to the spot after deciding Stanton had fouled the youngster. From the moment the whistle blew, Neill Collins had decided he was to be the one to take it and after waiting patiently for Kettle to clear the area he placed the ball to the keepers left. Atkins guessed right, but could only palm the defenders shot back into the middle of the goal where the relieved centre back was waiting to tap into the back of the net.
Stanton could consider himself lucky to have only been booked as he ran up to the goal scorer and shoved him, but in the aftermath it was Holness heading for an early bath after talking his way into the referee’s notebook twice in quick succession.
The teams went into the second half of extra time level, with Blades fans hoping that something would happen to prevent a penalty shoot-out for the second time in successive competitive games.
McAllister had a header at the back post easily saved by the visiting keeper before Quinn’s shot was blocked by the hand of a defender, this time Kettle gave nothing. With around 7 minutes remaining Kevin McDonald shot high and wide from range before the Burton Albion bench riled the home fans by throwing the ball away as McMahon looked to collect it and take a throw in.
Blackman looked to be pulled to the floor in the area, which again the referee chose to ignore before a short panic in the Burton area as time ticked down.
The last two or three minutes petered out and it was down to a penalty shootout to decide the tie.
Thankfully, this time around it took just 12 penalties rather than going through the entire teams, but the result was the same as Burton won 5-4 after a miss from Maguire and Atkins saving Doyle’s all important sudden death penalty.
Sheffield United: Howard, Maguire, Flynn (McAllister 90), Doyle, Porter (Blackman 45), McDonald, Miller (McFadzean 70), Collins, Quinn, McMahon, Williams.
Unused Substitutes: Westlake, Long.
Burton Albion: Atkins, Stanton, Diamond, Taylor, Weir, C. Palmer (Dyer 68), Yussuf (Webster 79), McCrory, Holness, Bell, Kee (Richards 60).
Unused Substitutes: Corbett, M. Palmer, Lyness, Garnett.