The Blades kept marching on with a tremendously gutsy performance to see off Brentford at the Lane and kept another clean sheet in the process. The 2-0 score line does not tell the story at all. United were not at their best early on but took the lead thanks to an Olly Norwood penalty after George Baldock had been fouled in the box. However, Gary Madine was given a straight red card to shock most inside the crowd and United had to play nearly an hour with ten men. Faced with such a good football side, United produced a display packed full of heart and they defended superbly. Brentford created chances but Dean Henderson kept them out when they did break through but a superb rear-guard action took United right to the closing stage. Then after winning a corner, David McGoldrick headed home after John Egan had nodded back across and the noise inside the Lane was as loud as it has been all season with an almighty roar. This sealed the win and made sure United go into the big clash at Elland Road still right up with the top two. Despite the Madine blow (he will miss three games); Norwood did not get booked. It was a different kind of display to one we have seen before but one that showed the bravery and togetherness of this group summed up by Wilder’s bold approach even at 10 men.
There was a surprise in the starting line up when Wilder went with Madine and Hogan up to with the latter starting against his former club. Dowell came in for Duffy. With Wrestler Mick Foley in attendance, Billy Sharp was on the bench. Brentford were one of the form sides in the league and had won at Middlesbrough at the weekend. They fielded talented attacking trio, Maupay, Watkins and Benrahma but were without first choice keeper Daniel Bentley; starting with Luke Daniels between the sticks.
As it did on Saturday, the game started with a swirling wind and rain lashing down; United did start well once again with an early cross from Fleck just being clutched from Daniels with Hogan missing the cross narrowly. Watkins had the first effort for the away side but was well off target from range. United then had an effort from a corner with Madine’s header being off target when he ought to have done better. United continued to move it around well and Fleck had a searing effort that flashed wide.
Brentford slowly started to come back into the game. A dangerous cross from the left from Barbet dissected the defence and Maupay met it but Henderson saved brilliantly. The move, effort and save was reminiscent of the one at Hillsborough just over a week ago.
The away side started to move it around well and a clumsy late tackle rightly earned Basham a yellow card and a good chance for Brentford. Benrahma the man who had been fouled took it and his effort was on target but Henderson pushed over in the middle of the goal. United were sitting off and the Bees were showing real quality on the ball moving it from side to side.
It was maybe against the run of play when United took the lead. After Brentford dithered, Baldock got in on the blind side of Barbet and nicked the ball and the defender clearly upended him. The assistant referee saw it and flagged immediately and the referee pointed to the spot. With Sharp and McGoldrick both on the bench, acting skipper NORWOOD took it (he had missed his only other penalty for United in the shootout v Hull on his debut) and he sent the keeper the wrong way to score with ease.
Baldock then had a looping effort nodded just side after a deep cross. Madine was penalised for a late foul but did not learn his lesson and soon after he went in very late on Konsa. It seemed a regulation yellow and was a real shock when the referee produced a red card.
United had to see out over 10 minutes of the first half and initially Basham seemed to be pushed into midfield and United went to a flat back four. Brentford almost levelled immediately. Watkins effort was parried by Henderson and Maupay fired over badly when he really should have scored. Egan gave away a free kick in another dangerous area but Benrahma fired over. United were hanging on a bit as the half time whistle finally came.
At the break Wilder sent on Cranie and McGoldrick for Dowell and Hogan. Basham was in the midfield area still and Cranie went to centre back as United had a 5-3-2 formation. The changes almost had an instant impact as McGoldrick was in and hit a fierce shot that Daniels pushed behind. O’Connell’s header was straight at the keeper from the resultant corner.
After this it was all Brentford for the next period of the game. Odubjao had a shot blocked and then O’Connell and Fleck both threw themselves on the lines to stop further attempts. Brentford were moving it from side to side and United could not get out. Maupay had another effort saved from Henderson but then the keeper somehow kicked a clearance behind himself and had to run back to parry away!
On the hour mark, as Brentford won another corner, Mokotjo was teed up and his shot rattled the post. The rebound was fired over by Jeanvier. It was a let off for United who were now really hanging on in there. Brentford continued to move it about and stretch the United defence but the Blades were keeping a decent shape and trying to ensure that Brentford had to shoot from range rather than be able to penetrate deep into the heart of the home box.
More shots came in and were repelled with Benrahma and then Odubajo also having shots blocked yet again.
United were just punting the ball away and then reverting to a defensive shape and Wilder saw this so he replaced Baldock with Sharp in a very brave attacking move. Clearly, he wanted to see if United could keep the ball and have more of a threat the other way. Thomas Frank responded sending on Emiliano and Canos for Odubajo and Konsa as Brentford tried to push more men forward.
Sharp made his presence felt and from a chance after a free kick, he pulled it back but Egan could not quite turn home.
Brentford came again and Sawyers worked an opening but again Fleck got his toe in. O’Connell then made a crunching tackle to deny another opportunity. United broke out and had another half chance when Sharp fed off Basham’s good work to feed McGoldrick but the striker’s pass did not find Sharp and the chance was gone.
Canos twice wriggled through but his shooting was poor and he was off target on both occasions with players screaming for the pull back. Brentford were now starting to shoot more from range and United’s collective will was impressive as they started to see the clock ticking down. Benrahma fired miles off target and then Maupay was wide before Henderson pounced on a loose ball on the next attack. The work from Egan and O’Connell to keep concentration and make so many clearances and blocks was immense. Fleck then was the next to make another big defensive block.
The ball went through and the ever willing Sharp pressured Jeanvier into knocking it out for a corner as the keeper reacted too late. As the corner came over Egan sent it back across and MCGOLDRICK arched his body to power his header home off the underside of the bar. The roar that erupted around Bramall Lane was deafening. A huge goal and a pivotal moment potentially in the season.
United’s fans had really helped the team second half to got the extra yards and they sensed the victory now; cheering every tackle, block and clearance. Stevens nipped in to clear and then more superb covering from Fleck kept Brentford out. Canos then shot wide again and Henderson had to be alert on the next chance as the game entered four minutes additional time.
Brentford won two corners but Henderson fielded the final effort and more incredible energy from Stevens, Fleck, McGoldrick saw Brentford chased all over the field in the last minute. United forced Brentford to kick it out and more cheers erupted from the crowd. Soon after the final whistle went and every United player seemed to replicate the fans on the terraces in punching the air. It was a big big three points.
Report by deadbat_db