Genius gamble pays off, 24 y/o comes of age: What we learned about Sheffield United on Wednesday

Sheffield United produced a fine and disciplined performance on Tuesday night to beat Brentford by a 2-0 scoreline at Bramall Lane.

This was an especially impressive result considering the Blades had to play most of the match with ten men, following striker Gary Madine’s first half dismissal.

Yet, despite being outnumbered by a very talented opposition, Chris Wilder’s side held firm against wave after wave of attacks and were even able to add a late second goal to secure the points.

With a potentially season-defining clash with fellow promotion-chasers Leeds United on the horizon, Wilder will be delighted with what he saw against the Bees. There were also plenty of lessons to be learned from their performance…

Jack O’Connell has come of age

Jack OConnell Sheffield United vs Leeds United - Genius gamble pays off, 24 y/o comes of age: What we learned about Sheffield United on Wednesday

Whilst fellow centre-backs John Egan and Chris Basham were impressive on Tuesday, Jack O’Connell produced a heroic display. The 24-year-old centre-back has been enjoying a fine season all round, but he confirmed with his midweek efforts that he must now be considered amongst the finest centre-backs in the division.

O’Connell certainly looks ready to make the step up to the top flight, and if the Blades fall short of promotion this season then there may well be plenty of Premier League interest in his services over the summer.

Who would make a combined Sheffield XI? Ingood Nick makes his picks in the video below…

Wilder isn’t afraid of a tactical gamble

Being a man down with almost an hour left to play is not a situation any manager wants to find themselves in. However, Wilder guided his side through the experience expertly. His substitutions were tactical masterstrokes that ensured his team were equipped with all they needed to withstand the inevitable onslaught.

Rather than overloading his side with defenders, Wilder brought on two strikers, David McGoldrick and Billy Sharp, to provide his side with an out-ball to pen back Brentford. The gamble paid off emphatically, as McGoldrick netted Sheffield United’s second late on.

Madine changes the way they play

Gary Madine Sheffield United vs Reading - Genius gamble pays off, 24 y/o comes of age: What we learned about Sheffield United on Wednesday

Cardiff City loanee Madine was the man to see red in the 35th minute. The 28-year-old target man has impressed since his January arrival from south Wales, but his attributes force the Blades to play a certain way.

Madine is at his best when using his physicality to hold up the ball or challenge in the air. With him on the pitch, Wilder’s side tend to go more direct and play long balls with greater regularity. However, this kind of approach doesn’t particularly suit the rest of the team.

Madine will now sit out the next three games, meaning Sheffield United will be forced back into their preferred style and system. Ultimately, then, the No. 14’s unavailability could prove a blessing in disguise.

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