David McGoldrick said Sheffield United’s players are fighting for their futures at the club after he scored a winner which earned the Blades a first victory since manager Chris Wilder’s departure last month.
McGoldrick’s seventh goal of the season gave caretaker head coach Paul Heckingbottom his first three points and kept wasteful visitors Brighton looking nervously over their shoulders.
The hosts, whose own relegation was confirmed by defeat at Wolves seven days earlier, handed a glimmer of hope to the other sides in the bottom three as McGoldrick punished poor Brighton defending.
“We are playing for Sheffield United, we can’t down tools. Every game we have to make it tough, we are playing for our shirt and playing for our future,” the Blades forward told BBC MOTD.
“We showed we are still in this as a team, even though we have been relegated.
“The pressure is on until the end of the season. We know there is a new manager watching somewhere, we are fighting for this club and we want to be at this club.
“There will be changes and, me personally, I don’t want to be one of them.”
Brighton, meanwhile, remain seven points clear of 18th-placed Fulham and 10 above West Bromwich Albion, in 19th, with five games remaining but missed the chance to virtually seal their safety at Bramall Lane.
Adam Webster’s heavy touch triggered a swift break from the hosts and Joel Veltman compounded the error with a poor clearance from Ben Osborn’s cross as a ricochet off Pascal Gross fell perfectly for McGoldrick to swivel and score.
The Seagulls’ best openings fell to Neal Maupay, who was twice brilliantly denied by Aaron Ramsdale and hooked over a great chance from close range, while a Jakub Moder strike was ruled out for offside by the video assistant referee.
VAR shows its value as Seagulls squander again
The officials missed that Poland midfielder Moder was coming back from an offside position as he turned home a loose ball from a corner but the movement was picked up in Stockley Park.
It would not have mattered had Brighton converted one of the many other chances they frittered away as they once again failed to turn pressure and domination into goals again.
Maupay was the chief culprit, denied one-on-one by Ramsdale in the first half and shooting over the bar from inside the six-yard box after the break, even if Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s cross was slightly behind him.
Adam Lallana, Danny Welbeck and Yves Bissouma also spurned presentable chances, while Jose Izquierdo, making a first appearance in almost two years after knee problems, was thwarted by Ramsdale late on.
The Seagulls should have enough points to survive but their failures against the sides below them – Brighton have failed to win any of their eight games against the bottom four – leave them with a nervy run-in against teams all in the top half.
McGoldrick strikes gold again for Blades
The performances of veteran Republic of Ireland striker McGoldrick have been one of few positives for the Blades this season and the 33-year-old continues to demonstrate improvement.
He took 26 games to open his top-flight account last term but has increased his 2019/20 tally of two to seven this season, including Saturday’s predatory strike.
McGoldrick’s perseverance will offer encouragement to £23.5m strike partner Rhian Brewster, who is yet to score for the Blades but played a part in the winner by harrying Gross into an error.
The victory owed chiefly, however, to a resilient rearguard display from the hosts, who recorded only a third league clean sheet of the campaign.
They stood firm in the face of unyielding Brighton pressure in the second half to claim just a fifth Premier League win of the season and a first on a weekend, the other four having all come in midweek.
The Blades still have plenty of pride to play for, hoping to avoid breaking the record of defeats in a Premier League season which stands at 29, with United on 26.
‘Justice for their attitude’ – what they said
Sheffield United interim boss Paul Heckingbottom: “The players deserve the utmost credit. We spoke before the game and for them it’s justice and the right result for their attitude because its been a tough, tough season.
“You get what you deserve in football and we got the three points. We’ve said all season we have been on top in lots of games but haven’t got the goal. To get the first goal was a big difference.
“We know we are a Championship club next season. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to enjoy these last few games. We might be planning for next season but we’re looking to pick up points along the way.”
Brighton boss Graham Potter, speaking to BBC Sport: “It’s a frustrating result. The performance wasn’t probably the level it has been recently.
“We didn’t have the quality we can have. When that happens in the Premier League it can be hard. We had some opportunities but it is up to us to do better. It was up to us to create more.
On his side’s seven-point safety cushion: “It’s not enough because there’s a lot of points to play for. We have to just focus on one game at a time. Every opponent is fighting for something.”
Seagulls struggle against strugglers – the stats
- Brighton have won just four of their 25 Premier League games against sides in the relegation zone (16%) – the lowest win rate of any club in the competition.
- Since beating Tottenham and Liverpool in back-to-back Premier League games in January and February, Brighton have only won two of their past 11 league matches (D4 L5).
- Sheffield United have only lost one of their past 12 league meetings with Brighton (W7 D4) and are unbeaten against them in the Premier League since they returned to the top flight in 2019 (W2 D2).
- David McGoldrick has scored 39% of Sheffield United’s goals in the Premier League this season (7/18); the highest percentage of any player for his team in the competition.
- Sheffield United’s opener was McGoldrick’s seventh goal in the Premier League this season – the most by a Blades player in a top-flight campaign since Rob Hulse in 2006-07 (8).
Sheffield United visit top-four hopefuls Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, 2 May (19:15 BST), while Brighton host Leeds United a day earlier on Saturday, 1 May (15:00 BST).
Brighton & Hove Albion
- 2BaldockBooked at 77mins
- 3StevensBooked at 88mins
- 23OsbornSubstituted forLundstramat 81′minutes
- 24BrewsterSubstituted forBurkeat 65′minutes
- 17McGoldrickBooked at 24mins
- 13GroßSubstituted forJahanbakhshat 67′minutes
- 15ModerSubstituted forConnollyat 67′minutes
- 11TrossardSubstituted forIzquierdoat 82′minutes
- 10Mac Allister
Match ends, Sheffield United 1, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.
Second Half ends, Sheffield United 1, Brighton and Hove Albion 0.
Corner, Brighton and Hove Albion. Conceded by Enda Stevens.
Attempt missed. Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from a difficult angle and long range on the right is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Joël Veltman following a set piece situation.
Enda Stevens (Sheffield United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Enda Stevens (Sheffield United).
Corner, Brighton and Hove Albion. Conceded by Aaron Ramsdale.
Attempt saved. José Izquierdo (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Yves Bissouma.
Attempt missed. Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Brighton and Hove Albion) left footed shot from the right side of the box is too high. Assisted by Danny Welbeck.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. José Izquierdo replaces Leandro Trossard.
Substitution, Sheffield United. John Lundstram replaces Ben Osborn.
Attempt blocked. Aaron Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Joël Veltman.
Neal Maupay (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by John Egan (Sheffield United).
George Baldock (Sheffield United) is shown the yellow card.
Joël Veltman (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Oliver Burke (Sheffield United).
Attempt saved. Jayden Bogle (Sheffield United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by George Baldock.
Corner, Brighton and Hove Albion. Conceded by Enda Stevens.