03/07/2013 – Greenock Morton 0 – 1 Sheffield United
Starting his Sheffield United career in his homeland, David Weir has taken advantage of pre-season to get stuck in to his assessment of the squad and instill his ideas on a side who will be expected to be in contention for promotion next season.
Beginning at Cappielow Park with a fixture against Greenock Morton, the changes were evident from the off, with the warm up noticeably different – causing hilarity amongst those that had never seen the bands around the ankles.
Of the summer signings, only McGinn was chosen to start the match, with the Blades kicking off with the following lineup: Howard, Westlake, Williams, Maguire, Hill, Doyle, McGinn, McFadzean, McDonald, Cresswell, Ironside.
With McDonald and Ironside getting the game underway, it was stopped almost immediately for the Morton physio to treat one of their midfielders who felt the effects of an early challenge.
It was the home side who were to have the first real chance, as Callum McFadzean was outmuscled in the middle of the park allowing Morton to break, but as the youngster chased back, Matt Hill was on hand to stop the dangerous looking attack.
The Blades looked to get down the other end and first Westlake had a good cross headed over by a defender, then Doyle (retaining the captain’s arm band) had his ball into the box hacked behind.
It became evident as the first half continued that the new manager wanted his team to play with impetus, the ball being moved much quicker and more decisively than last season. What really helped was the increase in movement in the middle of the park (McGinn making himself continually available) and increased communication across the side. Free kicks and throw ins were taken quickly and barring the odd trademark ball forward to the opposition, the midfield looked to use the ball more intelligently. Cresswell spent quite a bit of time dropping on the right hand side of midfield, allowing Westlake to overlap and himself switching a few times with McFadzean.
With Kevin McDonald playing a role further forward just behind the strikers, Ironside was played through on goal but before he could get his shot away he was flagged offside.
Williams was the next to win a corner after deftly flicking the ball over the right backs head and running into the box. The corner was once again dealt with by the home side, who shortly after created themselves another chance, heading a corner safely over Howard’s bar and into the terrace.
Having switched the the right hand side, McFadzean sprung clear of the defence and instead of shooting, elected to pull back to the edge of the box to the arriving Kevin McDonald. The Scot put his shot on target, but the keeper managed to push it past the post with a great dive to his left hand side.
It was McDonald who then almost turned creator only for the outstretched boot of a defender to get the smallest of touches as he looked to have sent Ironside one on one with the keeper.
Half time saw Weir make 11 substitutions allowing him to take a look at the rest of the squad that had travelled, including trialists Grainger, Saunders and Kayara along with new boys Brandy and McGinty.
As Michael Doyle came to sit in the stand joining family of the Scottish players and roughly 100 travelling Blades, Neill Collins took the arm band.
Keen to make an early impression both McGinty and Kayara had efforts at the beginning of the half, before on the hour Kayara played an intelligent ball in behind for Porter. The striker moved into the space and hit a shot goalwards only to see his effort well saved by the goalkeeper, turning the ball past the post and safely out for a corner.
Morton came back down the other end quickly with the Blades playing themselves into trouble, first Saunders had to be alert with a last ditch block and then Willis tipped over the bar as the home side had arguably their best chances of the game so far.
With Brandy’s pace and direct running beginning to make an impact, the new man was taken to the floor in the area on around 70 minutes with the referee immediately pointing to the spot.
Chris Porter stepped up and calmly put the ball past the keeper for United’s first goal under David Weir.
Soon after, Greenock came close to coming level forcing George Willis into a fantastic stop, with the ball heading for the top corner before the young keeper tipped it over the bar at full stretch.
With his hamstring tight, Brandy jogged off as a precautionary measure, being replaced by McFadzean.
Willis was called into action once again in the final stages, with confident hands catching another goalbound effort before watching another half chance sail well over his crossbar and into the empty terraces as the frustrated home side ran out of time.
In front of the announced attendance of 709, the Blades had a second half with less possession and without showing as much through the middle, but had done enough to secure David Weir’s first victory as manager.
Trialists: Both Grainger and Saunders didn’t look particularly fit. Grainger looked confident on the ball and didn’t look out of place. Saunders made a couple of mistakes, but made a good saving tackle/block and tried to get involved as much as possible – EDIT: Both have since gone elsewhere. Kayara looked positive, confident on the ball, didn’t mind running at people and picked a few passes out that no-one particularly expected (in a good way!)
First Half XI – Howard, Westlake, Williams, Maguire, Hill, Doyle, McGinn, McFadzean, McDonald, Cresswell, Ironside
Second Half XI – Willis, Grainger, Higginbotham, Collins, Saunders, Murphy, Whitehouse, McGinty, Kayara, Brandy, Porter
Attendance – 709