Sheffield United’s long wait for a first Premier League win of the season is over, after Billy Sharp’s penalty ensured the Blades took full advantage of an uninspiring performance from Newcastle United to keep a faint flicker of avoiding relegation alive.
No side has waited longer for a win to start a season in the Premier League than Chris Wilder’s side, but three days after their first win of the season against Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup, they finally claimed three points in the league at the 18th attempt, when substitute Sharp scored from the spot to finally break the deadlock after over an hour of almost constant pressure.
Newcastle, who played half the game with 10 men after Ryan Fraser was sent off on the stroke of half-time, could have no complaints about a defeat, and a performance, which will only further intensify the pressure on Steve Bruce. The result itself does not necessarily drag Newcastle into increasing danger at the bottom of the table, but the manner of it was uninspiring, to say the least.
Starting with five at the back against the country’s lowest scorers had exactly the impact you felt it would: a toothless display in attack outside of one or two half-chances for Callum Wilson, who cut an isolated and disconsolate figure all evening. But the hosts at least deserve credit for playing on the front foot and taking advantage of Newcastle’s setup.
They could, and perhaps should, have been ahead long before Sharp scored the winner 17 minutes from time. David McGoldrick forced a smart save from Karl Darlow, before John Lundstram should have given the hosts the lead when McGoldrick’s ball found him unmarked at the back post, only for the midfielder to miss from close range.
Already soaking up intense pressure at the back, Fraser’s dismissal for a foul on McGoldrick just minutes after bringing down John Fleck only served to put the visitors further on the back foot. You were beginning to wonder if the Blades would take advantage, before Sharp sent Darlow the wrong way from the spot after a VAR referral exposed Federico Fernández’s handball in the area when challenging the veteran Sheffield United striker.
Rhian Brewster hit the post shortly after as the Blades continued to press for a second, and while Bruce introduced the likes of Andy Carroll and Jacob Murphy to press for an equaliser, damningly for the visitors the closest they came to one was when Jayden Bogle’s chested pass back to Ramsdale caught the goalkeeper off-guard deep into injury time. Ramsdale scrambled to keep the ball out, and in truth a point would have been more than the visitors deserved.