Sheffield United 3 Fleetwood Town 0

Ash Hunter
Ash Hunter

When you’re looking to rebuild your season there are a few golden rules.

High up on that list, particularly when approaching your first away trip, is don’t concede in the opening minute.

Tecnhically there were more than 90 seconds gone when Fleetwood’s game plan flew out of the window but the point remains.

It’s hard enough heading to a place like Bramall Lane without handing advantage to the hosts with barely a ball kicked.

Dionotan Teixeira was the man who set off the sequence of events - a clumsy foul on the edge of the Fleetwood box.

Billy Sharp’s free kick was blocked but Town failed to deal with the pressure - the ball pinging back around the area, Chris Maxwell saving a second effort, this time from Chris Basham. but unable to hold on - Che Adams tapping home at the back post with the goal gaping.

It was the nightmare start Town didn’t want but there was no panic, the visitors stepping into the high-tempo pressing game which is fast becoming the trademark of new boss Steven Pressley.

The resulting game was not one for the thrillseeker - both sides enjoying their share of possession, the balance of play ebbing and flowing but neither team taking control.

The Blades were content to deny Town their time on the ball, looking to work Pressley’s side and they hurried around the pitch.

It was effective but not the game the home crowd wanted to see against a side they would consider well out of their natural habitat.

The boos which echoed from the Bramall Lane stands were disrespectful to Fleetwood who were workmanlike and well drilled but lacking in bite.

The decision to start Ash Hunter didn’t produce the extra pace Pressley might have been hoping for, the young wide man showing he’s better suited to a late impact role at this stage in his career.

Town’s best chance of the first half came from man of the moment Bobby Grant - a free kick whipped from the right channel after he’d been felled by Neill Collins.

Mark Howard in the United goal did his best to emulate Maxwell’s early error, Town desperately trying to pounce but nobody able to beat the keeper to the loose ball.

The home crowd were eventually rewarded with the attacking football they craved, a mistake from Teixeira opening things up for Sharp to launch a break, the ball moved forward to Adams, Conor McLaughlin racing back to close down the goalscorer before he could pull the trigger for a second time.

Maybe the crowd’s punishing critique got to the Blades, or maybe Nigel Adkins shared a quiet word at the break - either way the hosts were a different animal from the restart.

They moved the ball quicker, closed down the space with greater effect and looked to impose themselves on Fleetwood.

Town barely managed a touch as United took control of the midfield.

But when they did manage to put together an attack the combination of Jamie Proctor and Grant - so potent on Saturday - nearly produced an equaliser.

Grant it was who knocked down for Proctor, six yards out, waiting for the ball to drop but unable to connect cleanly, hurried defensive work from Sheffield United almost opening the door for Hunter, who crept in at the back post but couldn’t get a clean shot away.

Fleetwood, for a while, looked like clawing their way back.

And then the Blades turned up the heat, a period of sustained pressure ending with Adam grabbing his second of the night.

The introduction of former Preston midfielder Paul Coutts was the catalyst, his endevour in the middle of the park opening doors.

Matty Done was a nuisance too, keeping play going down the left hand side, eventually setting in motion the sequence of events which allowed Basham to cross for Adams, his finish showing composure, Town in trouble.

And thinsg soon got worse, a slack moment at the back opening Town up down the left once more.

This time it was Kieran Wallace who strode to the edge of the box, a low ball drilled across the face bundled home by Sharp.

Town had already thrown the dice on the bench, throwing David Ball and Jamille Matt into the action.

But unlike United’s changes they had made little difference on the field.

Matt came closest to stemming the flow (turning the tide already beyond Fleetwood).

He found space on the right hand side, charging into the channel and releasing a dangerous cross into the six yard box.

Proctor arrived but maybe a second too late, stretching to connect with the header, sending the ball flying over the bar from five yards out.

It was the best chance Town had managed - the tempo in the second half too slow, their pressing game nullified by a home side content to play in possession.

It’s almost as if Fleetwood had fallen back into old habits, narrow, less direct, nervous and unable to keep the ball.

Sheffield United for all their quality, including Premier League loanee Dean Hammond, were no great shakes - their three goals neither gifted nor earned - Steven Pressley’s side for the first time simply not at the races.

The belief had fallen out of Pressley’s men - that second minute goal the disaster they simply couldn’t afford.

Playing to their potential Fleetwood have more than enough talent and grit to survive this term.

But the turnaround, after what seemed a new dawn at the weekend, may take a little longer than some expected.