Danny Wilson made three changes from last Saturday’s Capital One Cup disappointment with McAllister, Blackman and Cofie coming in for Flynn, Miller and Porter. Miller retained his place in the match day squad sitting on a young bench with Flynn and Porter joining the likes of Cresswell and Montgomery in the stands.
Kicking off towards the Kop, it was a nervy start for both teams as they struggled to sustain possession in the opening minutes. That said, the Blades got off to a dream start when a few minutes in Quinn and Williams put a good move together down the left, with the full back swinging in an inviting cross… McAllister who had clearly been given instruction to drive into the box, got in front of his man and placed a wonderfully controlled volley into the top corner. It’s safe to say that despite it coming against a team he’s spent some time with, he enjoyed scoring the opener of the Blades 2012/2013 season, celebrating in front of the John Street Stand.
Not long after the goal, a miscue from Collins meant his man got the better of him, but the centre back recovered and blocked the shot. The resulting corner saw the ball flying wide, but it was one of a number of warning shots that kept the Blades fans grounded.
Nick Blackman, who showed a range of useful attributes, was starting to cause trouble and had the beating of his man down the right hand side. The pacey forward looked for the opposite corner of the goal but his shot crept wide. Moments later he looked to get involved again, plucking a Maguire long ball expertly out of the air, but he just couldn’t get enough on his attempted flick to his striking partner Cofie.
John Cofie himself had an effort well saved by the visiting keeper as the Blades tried to double their advantage. The Shrews were still very much in the game though and were working hard to close down United. This allowed Blackman to demonstrate his strength, holding off the attentions of four of the visitors before playing the ball to a fellow Blade in the middle of the park.
At times, the midfield were stretched and offering little protection to the back four, Neill Collins having to put in a quality tackle just as they looked to be being overrun. Back down the other end, Stephen Quinn delivered a delightful, teasing cross which Blackman was close to meeting with an attempted diving header.
The visitors twice gave us a scare as first an effort which looked goal-bound was somehow kept out via a combination of their own man and Howard’s back post, then the keeper coming to the rescue two or three times as the Blades gave their opponents too much space. The visiting supporters managed a short celebration during the flurry, when Gornell turned the ball home from close range, the Blades were stood still unconcerned as he was clearly offside.
Early in the second half, Quinn won a free kick on the left and supplied Maguire who headed over the bar, from his reaction, the youngster thought he could have done better. Howard was forced into action, routinely collecting a long range effort before a lull in chances.
The Blades were alternating between playing too much in the air to the two new front men and making large numbers of short passes around the edge of the box trying to construct an opening. Some of the home crowd got restless, but it was clear the players had been told to be patient and that keeping possession was the most important thing.
Cofie was tiring and after chasing down a back pass from the visitors he was replaced by Miller.
Howard set Blackman on a run down the right with a long direct kick, the striker got the better of his man and then played a good ball inside to meet the intelligent run of McMahon. The full back calmly skipped further into the area before shooting across the goalkeeper forcing a good save. Miller had his first opportunity shortly after, linking up well with Quinn, but in a busy penalty area his shot was blocked by the body of a defender.
Quinn and McDonald both had efforts from outside the area not far over the bar, but it was down to Howard to ensure the points were secure producing a few confident saves as Shrewsbury looked to grab an equaliser.
Sheffield United: Howard, Maguire, Doyle, Blackman, McDonald, Collins, McAllister, Cofie (Miller 65), Quinn, McMahon, Williams.
Unused Substitutes: Harriott, Chapell, Philliskirk, Ironside, Long, McFadzean.
Shrewsbury: Weale, Grandison, Summerfield (Hall 68), Jones, Purdie, Wright, Richards (Wildig 81), Morgan, Parry, Hector, Gornell (Bradshaw 73).
Unused Substitutes: Jacobson, Taylor, Hazell, Anyon.