Sheffield United 1-2 Bristol City Six Things: hapless Blades

Flint’s winner makes him Bristol City’s second top scorer with 6 goals… he’s a centre-back –

In an enthralling game that served up a fine advert for Championship football, Aden Flint’s injury-time winner gave Bristol City a dramatic 2-1 win at fellow high-flyers Sheffield United. Here’s six things from the game.

United’s first half pressure

Bristol City showed Sheffield United respect as midfielders Korey Smith and Marlon Pack sat deep, despite the latter’s technical capabilities. There was though a yawning chasm between right-back Bailey Wright, a conservative centre-back by trade and right winger Niclas Eliasson, who was often too far up the pitch. The hosts exploited that through good combination play between left wing-back Enda Stevens, who got forward at will and Mark Duffy, who came close on numerous occassions. The silky-footed magician’s 20th minute free-kick hit the far post, a quarter of an hour before two Billy Sharp efforts found the crossbar via foot and head respectively, the latter involving a fine save from the imperious Frank Fielding.

City’s unexpected opener

When Bristol City had tried to play long due to the pressure their hosts applied, they had little joy as false nine Bobby Reid lacked the physical qualities to get the better of Richard Stearman. Instead, the Robins’ better first half spells had come when they had the bravery to keep the ball and that was how they scored the opening goal, shortly before the interval. A slick passing move involving Smith and Josh Brownhill down the right found Jamie Paterson, who unleashed a wonderful right-footed curling effort into the far corner.

Another goal for Clarkey

The Bramall Lane stadium announcer had shouted Leon Clarke’s name to cheers eight times in the last three home games, so it was little surprise when he continued his fine individual form on 48 minutes. After a good ball from John Fleck to find Clarke, Nathan Baker backed off the 32-year-old, who had space in the box to drill home. Sheffield United took momentum from that leveller and could have gone ahead six minutes later when Duffy, now influencing matters on the right channel, curled the ball onto the far post.

Fleck in hell

The hosts were dominating but near the hour mark, the influential Fleck put in a bad challenge on Smith and was promptly sent off. The Scot’s dismissal handed the initiative to the visitors, for whom Paterson exploited the extra space with a couple of searching runs, one of which teed up Brownhill for a snapshot that was turned behind.

Wilder’s questionable substitutions

Chris Wilder introduced forwards David Brooks and Clayton Donaldson for Duffy and Sharp along with creative midfielder Samir Carruthers, who controversially replaced the impressive Chris Basham. Such bold changes led to an exciting finale, but they weren’t necessarily the shrewdest of moves, especially with fresh City forwards Milan Djuric, Matty Taylor and Jonathan Leko waiting to do damage at the other end. Bobby Reid dropped deeper to accommodate the trio and it was the 24-year-old who assisted the winner. After his initial pass was blocked, Reid fizzed a deep first-time cross to the back-post to find lurking Aden Flint, who prodded into the far side of the net to send all associated with the club into delirium.

Honest Aden

When interviewed after the match, Flint admitted that his side’s performance had not been the best. Having seen their own woodwork struck four times with Fielding pulling off a number of impressive saves before an opposing player was sent off, it may be misleading to say that Bristol City were the superior side. The result sees them move three points off second-place Severnside rivals Cardiff – who travel to Reading on Monday – and greatly boosts their automatic promotion hopes. By contrast, Sheffield United are left with just one point from their last four games. They are now fearing for not just their place in the top two, but the security of their top six status, after this unlucky defeat.