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Thread: United 4 Wigan 2 - report

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008

    United 4 Wigan 2 - report

    The Blades went back to the top of the table after a 4-2 win over Wigan Athletic at Bramall Lane. Billy Sharp was the hero with a hat trick as United saw off the plucky Latics who certainly came and had a go. In truth the home side were not at their best but were much more ruthless than they had been in the week when in a much better performance they had failed to beat Stoke City. Arguably it was the poorest performance of the week but the once that yielded the most points as United got back to winning ways.

    Chris Wilder was in the United eleven the last time that they beat Wigan at Bramall Lane; going back to 1988 with goals from Simon Webster and Brian Deane. This time as manager he had to make changes with injuries to John Egan and Mark Duffy. David McGoldrick played in the number 10 role as Billy Sharp came back in as skipper to partner Leon Clarke. Richard Stearman came in to replace Egan in the central role of the back three. Ben Woodburn was back on the bench.

    Wigan could not pick former Blade Lee Evans and had a few injury problems with no place for injured Will Grigg but another key man Nick Powell was back from injury. Former Blade Dean Windass’ son Josh started for the away side.

    The game began in bitterly cold conditions and it was the visitors who settled quicker and Powell had a headed effort that Henderson saved comfortably but they won a few early corners also. United were not having it their own way and indeed Wigan had as much of the early ball. United did finally get into the last third but Walton saved a few crosses. United gradually started to have more of the ball and McGoldrick was getting on the ball but the same man was booked for obstructing a free kick after a foul. Roberts had a free kick which Henderson turned over. It was a save you would expect him to make but had to be made non the less. Dunkley then headed over from another Wigan corner. United then broke out and Clarke nearly got in.

    The first goal came when a quick Freeman throw caught the visitors out again (Roberts appealed for offside from a throw in!) and Basham was in. His low cross hit two Wigan defenders and the final touch saw DUNKLEY (OG) knock it clumsily over his own goal line. United had not been at their best but had the ***** lead.

    Wigan had to make a change and Roberts came off for Naismith. Powell had an effort wide of goal but soon after Wigan were level and it was the substitute who scored. O’Connell had been excellent in two calm and skilled pieces of play but gave it away and then lost his man, Powell and then Byrne got in down the right and his cross came in, Wigan had men over. NAISMITH was unmarked and took a touch and fired home even though Henderson got a touch; he could not make the save. Wigan had deserved to be level on chances and possession so far but it was a sloppy goal to concede.

    United came back and it was not long after they got in front. They won a free kick on the right and Norwood’s clever floated set play found Stearman at the back post who intelligently headed across goal. It was only a half chance but SHARP hit it high into the roof of the net for a typical poachers’ finish.
    United had a chance for a third right on half time as Wigan gave it away and the Blades broke and Sharp played it through to McGoldrick on the break but he took too long and his attempted chip was perhaps too clever and was blocked out for a corner.

    The second half saw the game switch from end to end. Clarke forced a save at the near post after a lovely move and Freeman’s ball across was met on the full but Walton turned behind. At the other end Powell had a good chance but headed over.

    After this chance was missed; United switched play and scored a delightful third goal. Norwood played a slide rule pass into the path of Clarke who hit a cross on the run right into the path of SHARP who swept home at the far post. It was a great move and a brilliant ball from Clarke who turned and clenched his fists in celebration to the South Stand before joining the scorer Sharp to celebrate.

    Coutts came on for McGoldrick and the game became less action packed for a spell as United took the sting out of things a bit more but the fourth goal effectively sealed the game. Norwood’s exquisite ball with the outside of his foot was played into the path of Stevens and as James dithered, the wing back poked forward. SHARP managed to get there and with the keeper advancing delicately dinked it over him and into the net. It was a hat trick for the prolific striker in a game where he had effectively had three chances and scored all three. Ruthless and efficient striking at its best after he had been ‘rested’ in the week.

    GARNER had entered the fray and he got on the scoresheet after a ball down the right was allowed to bounce and Windass sent over an inviting cross and the sub turned home past Henderson. This gave Wigan new life and they won a series of corners and free kicks and the United keeper had to be alert to ensure they did not get a further goal back with some saves from headed efforts.

    At the other end a corner saw O’Connell’s header smash off the bar and appeals for a penalty against Stearman on the rebound was waved away despite the Wigan man going through the back of him. A cynical foul from Basham on another sub McManaman on the edge of the box saw the United man booked and gave Wigan a good chance. The effort from James was right on target but Henderson flicked over showing his athleticism to spring up and touch away.

    Fleck was booked for kicking the ball away and then Garner for a poor late foul as Sharp departed replaced by Washington drawing applause from four sides of Bramall Lane and even some Wigan fans applauded him off sportingly. Wigan won another series of corners with the dangerous Burn always a threat and saved from Naismith and Garner with good chances.

    There were five minutes of stoppage time but United managed to play most of it out in the final third and ended the game comfortably and took all three points and returned to the summit of the league. All that was left was Sharp going up the match referee to take the match ball before celebrating in front of the Kop.

    United – Odd one really as we were much better for 45 minutes against Derby and 75 minutes against Stoke. Yet we won today and scored 4 goals and, in the end, won comfortably despite some nervy spells in the game. Wilder and many Unitedites have rightly said we have never won a game unjustly and every point we have kind of deserved. Only maybe Birmingham is a game that we got something we did not deserve but the rest we did deserve to win and some we have not picked up the points we should have done; Swansea, Bristol City, Derby and Stoke all should have seen us picking up more points than we did.

    Today 4-2 did flatter us. We basically were much more ruthless than we have been in other games and certainly than the last two. Sharp had 3 chances and scored all 3 and we got an own goal. McGoldrick had another decent chance and Clarke made the keeper make a good save and O’Connell hit the bar. So, we still had good chances and in a weird way maybe created more than we have in the games we have dominated. Wigan had lots of chances and 15 efforts to 12 and 7 to 4 on target says it all for them having plenty of the game. They had 11 corners to our 6 also. It seemed more to me. They had a lot of headed efforts too and with a bit better finishing or a few shots/free kicks going the other side of Henderson could have scored as many as us. It was quite an even game. I felt we never had control really as odd as that seems and only when it went 3-1 and then 4-1 for that 10-minute spell did we really ramp it up.

    They then scored straight away though and then it was like Tuesday and we got nervy. You felt they got a third and we would probably chuck it away but maybe that was just expecting the worst with United! Wigan certainly had a go and for long spells has as much off the ball as us – 49% to our 51% possession. Midfield did not quite have the control it has in games. I felt we went long a bit today and it was a bit scrappy. Still for us not having the intricate moves and control for longer spells like we did in the other two games this week; when we did get it right and move it forward we had good play that led to clear chances, the last two Sharp goals and the Clarke chance in the second half. We moved it forward a bit quicker and with more purpose. They had gambled more men forward at times so it made it more open as a game.

    I felt individually and collectively we were not quite at our best and Wilder says the team were a bit down in the dressing room which says it all about the standards of the performance and what he expects. Today I suppose was a bit of pay back from the game in the week when if that had finished with a score line like today it would have been more deserved – indeed 4-1 or 4-0 would have been a fair representative of things. Today, the game was quite even for long spells, we just took charge in the two boxes I suppose more.

    Great to be back at the top but it is tight in terms of the points between teams but we are in the position everyone else would like to be. It is important to just enjoy things and not worry too much about the future. We need to enjoy the ride! Even today when not quite at the standards we have been; we scored 4 and won at a relative canter I suppose in the end. We can go to Forest and have a real go. Then our city rivals come down here. Basham will miss next week suspended and at least be free for the Wednesday game – expect Egan will be back and Stearman to play wide right even though he won’t offer the same type of threat of course. Duffy may also come back in. He may even rest McGoldrick with him being on 4 bookings. Freeman and Stevens avoided a booking today so should be ok – of course so long as none gets send off.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Wigan – They came and had a go – fair play to them. They did not sit back and had lots of chances – not loads of clear ones but lots of corners, headed efforts and should have scored more. We never really got a total grip of them despite our finishing and scoring goals at a really good time. At the back they could not cope with Sharp’s movement on the big moments and I felt they looked slow – the two lads Dunkley and Burn – Sharp caused them both big problems. In midfield they did have a fair bit of the ball and had a lot of free kicks/chances to maybe do more with it but Henderson made 3 or 4 good saves – ones you would expect though. They were always right in the game but the 2nd goal kind of killed them after they got back into it. After we got 3 and 4; they looked a bit bewildered but got back into it and could have got another and made it a nervy finish.

    They have a few players out and not helped two more went off with muscle injuries. The lad Powell is a good player (worth a look at for the 10 role in January or would he cost too much?). James is a decent player but had a mixed day today. Not sure Roberts has the pace/stamina for this level but maybe only got a start due to other injuries. Morsy is a busy midfielder who gets his foot in but not sure Burn who is a Brighton player (back on loan) is better than anything we have. If he is worth 4 million than Jack and Bash are both worth double that and maybe shows Egan was not that expensive.

    They had 3 players that many seemed to want us to sign, Byrne, Morsy and Burn who had contrasting games.
    I like Paul Cook - done a great job wherever he has been and speaks really honestly all the time. Gave us credit pre and post game. They have struggled away from home but with the approach they have will be comfortable in mid table or just below for me. They have some decent players and will always have a go as they showed today.
    Opponent man of the match – Powell showed some lovely touches and got on the ball into little areas. He was the main man who they looked to get on the ball. Windass was a bit in and out and not sure they had a direct striker until Garner came on with Vaughan on the bench and Grigg out.

    Weak link – Either of the two centre backs. Dunkley scored a sloppy own goal but his partner had a poor game. Burn who is a Brighton player (back on loan) is better than anything we have. If he is worth 4 million than Jack and Bash are both worth double that and maybe shows Egan was not that expensive. He is painfully slow and gets turned easily.

    Henderson 8/10 – Thought after his error in the week, he got back to his standards. Made a few athletic push aways from free kicks – the second one was really good from the effort from James as he had to get across and up. The first was more routine. His handling was excellent from a number of headed efforts and took the sting out of things by going to ground at the end! Looked a really good keeper. You saw the difference between him and the lad at the other end who did not make direct mistakes but did not have same commanding presence and he was a big lad too.

    Freeman 6.5/10 – Not his best today for me and first half other than the quick throw for the goal which was clever, thought he was a bit slow to react at times and made some mistakes both defensively and with the ball. Got better second half and put in one great cross for Clarke but was slow to react on the goal as the ball came across. Like the rest of the team not the standards he has been.

    Stevens 7/10 – Inverse of Freeman. Thought he played well first half and got forward and made some good runs and was neat and tidy but second half gave his man way too much room although to be fair they did have two on one at times. He did assist in the build up to our fourth and showed some great energy to get up and down today.

    Stearman 6.5/10 – Steady game but I will say his main role as the central defender is to clear and head and sweep up. He did this at times but I thought he did not win enough headers for me. They had several headed attempts on goal when the centre backs did not get their first and with better finishing could have scored a few from such efforts. Has to be a bit stronger in those key situations and the sort of situations where we conceded soft goals last year. On the goal he let the ball bounce and Windass turned and face him up.

    O’Connell 7/10 – Some good stuff and some poor stuff but felt he came onto the ball well. Showed some lovely pieces of control to take the ball out of the sky and keep possession but then gave it away with an error which they profited from. Second half he was slow on the second goal as he only had one man to mark I felt when it came across. He had the great headed effort that hit the bar – bullet header which was unlucky.

    Basham 7.5/10 – Another solid performance. He has a few dodgy moments but his energy and commitment was superb again. He kept going up and down the pitch and was all action again at both ends. His final product sometimes seems him panic but he assisted in the first goal of course with a good run and cross into an area. Ball came over his head on the first one and maybe should have been a bit more switched on.

    Fleck 6.5/10 – Another quiet-ish game. Not been quite at his best recent weeks again and today that continued. He was involved in some decent bits but not enough of an influence and his passing was up and down when he had it. His role today was muddled with McGoldrick in there and had to sit back and play deeper I suppose with McGoldrick not being a natural midfielder.

    Norwood 7.5/10 – Not sure he has the same control and influence he has in other games. We never really controlled midfield all game. He played a few delightful balls in and amongst this though accounting for his mark. He played the free kick in for the second and took a few other clever ones. He then hit a super ball for Clarke and another good one for Stevens. So, for someone who did not see as much of the ball as normal or maybe use it as much still was involved in 3 goals!

    McGoldrick 7/10 – Glad he was given a go in this role. It worked to some degree as he got in little pockets and played some nice passes and showed his clever footballing brain. He is a lovely player to watch and makes time when everyone seems to be panicking around him (for us and the opponent). Should have done better with a good chance before half time. At times he did not track back as much as he maybe needed to in that role and maybe that is why they had a fair bit of the ball in this area for an away side (well used to the domination we normally enjoy in this area). Came off at the end when we needed to just get a bit more of the ball.

    Sharp 9/10 – 3 chances. 3 goals. All clinically taken. None were easy chances but made them look easy. Poachers efforts all of them. Outside of this his work ethic was excellent and he never stopped and I felt even outside the goals he played well with hold up play, runs into the channels and good link play with others. People keep writing him off but he keeps answering.

    Clarke 7/10 – Worked hard again. Maybe not as much impact as the week but he did cover a lot of ground and I felt gave the defenders a tough game. He won a few headers and flicks and had a decent effort saved and the set-up Sharp with a superb ball. He seems to be more with it in terms of work ethic. Hopefully the goals will start coming if he continues this application but has been better in the games this week.

    Subs –

    Coutts – Got just under half an hour (2 minutes away from a mark qualification in more less than precise system). He did ok and kept it nice and simple. He needs more time and I see him being used in this role for a good 6 or 7 games before he would be considered for a start as still not quite up to the pace of things. What he can do is keep the ball and he showed that in spells.

    Washington – Came on and again not sure he touched it. Ran around a lot and chased defenders down in the short time he was on.

    Wilder 7.5/10 – Today we won and went top of the league. Gambled with the McGoldrick positional pick but he did ok in this role. Today we were not at our best but got the win and after two good performances where we only got a point; it was important just to get the win really. Also, his subs worked a bit better – albeit the Washington one was late but Coutts gave us a bit more control for a period.

    Referee – Tony Harrington. Thought he was the type of referee you do not want to see. Did not let things low, over complicated a relatively easy game to ref and gave some soft free kicks. He seemed to be constantly blowing his whistle. An away-er too which is off when we won 4-2. He seemed to give them a lot of free kicks and not many for us. I felt many of the 50-50’s went to them and he also was quite fussy. He kept stopping the game to talk to people. The Basham booking was fine but not sure many others were bookings and quite soft. He seemed to want to be the star of the show. Really poor. Got booed off and that said it all that fans noticed him when we won and had gone top.

    Fans/Crowd – 24,429. Wigan only brought maybe 700-800 and one of poorest away followings. They were quiet too but so were the home fans save for a few spells of the new Wilder ‘Rotterdam – Beautiful South’ chant. The noise went up when we scored the goals but we need to ramp it up a bit I feel to give the team a bit more of a lift. Should be no such issue at the next home game. Looking forward to a sold out away end at Forest – I am there so expecting a match report either late Saturday or early Sunday depending on the result and how much ale I consume!

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