Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder says his side are “alive and kicking and fighting for their lives” after they fought back to claim a valuable victory over fellow Premier League strugglers West Brom.
Matt Phillips’ first-half goal had put the Baggies in charge of the contest between the Premier League’s bottom two teams.
However, changes in personnel, tactics and attitude saw a rejuvenated Blades side come from behind to claim their third Premier League win in the past five games.
“We needed a big second-half performance,” Wilder said. “We just had to let ourselves go a little bit which we did in the second half. We were more ambitious.
“It’s a big win but there is still a long way to go and we are not getting carried away at all, there is a huge challenge in front of us. Just because we have won a couple of games recently, it’s the Premier League and it hurts you.
“I have a group that are alive and kicking and fighting for their lives.”
Both Wilder and his opposite number Sam Allardyce had identified the importance of this fixture to their hopes of avoiding relegation.
Initially the Baggies’ more direct approach appeared to give them the upper hand at a rain-soaked Bramall Lane, with Phillips tapping in after home goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale had parried efforts from Callum Robinson and Mbaye Diagne.
However, the Blades levelled after the break when Jayden Bogle lashed a left-footed effort into the bottom right corner after being teed up by Chris Basham.
Ramsdale’s superb close-range save from Robinson then provided Sharp with the platform to secure the Blades’ third victory of the season with a prodded finish into the bottom left corner.
While Wilder’s side remain bottom of the table they are now just a point behind West Brom, in 19th, and are 10 points from safety.
Blades bounce back
For the first 45 minutes it had looked like being another typical hard-luck story for Sheffield United.
The Blades displayed plenty of endeavour but rarely showed enough spark to break down a stubborn West Brom defence.
However, the introduction of Oliver McBurnie at the break provided Wilder’s side with an extra body in attack and the impetus to recover.
A late first-half injury to George Baldock also inadvertently helped, with Bogle switching to the right and marauding forward at every opportunity.
His impressive understanding with Basham offered a useful outlet and provided the hosts with the goal that started their comeback.
After having just four attempts on goal in the first period, the hosts managed 10 in the second, which was a reflection of their dominance.
And with Wilder preparing to substitute Sharp, the forward atoned for a wayward first-half header with the winning contribution.
Baggies in need of instant improvement
Since their Black Country derby victory over Wolves at Molineux, West Brom have collected just one point from 12 available.
And with fixtures against Tottenham and Manchester United on the horizon, manager Sam Allardyce had suggested that this was a “must-not-lose” game.
With that in mind, the former England boss said his side would revert to a “simple” style of football after they were completely outplayed at times in their 2-2 draw at Fulham.
And he stuck to his word, with the Baggies shifting from a three-man defence to a conventional 4-4-2 formation and taking few chances by attempting to play out from the back.
While neither of his deadline-day loan signings – Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Okay Yokuslu – featured, Diagne was handed a first start.
And his robust presence, complemented by Robinson’s running and an energetic display from Phillips set the tone for an early spell of dominance.
However, that control faded and bar Robinson’s chance midway through the second period, they rarely looked capable of adding to their goal tally.
More disappointingly for Allardyce, they were undone by some lax defending with both Bogle and Sharp being surrounded by a posse of West Brom defenders, when they scored.
“You can’t not do your job correctly, particularly when you are defending,” said Allardyce.
“Overall, our defending today was very good. Those two moments could have been avoided and it’s cost us two goals.
“It leaves us with a great gap to fill. It’s simple maths. We know how many points it takes to stay in this league. What other people do and what other clubs do, we can’t affect. We have to focus on getting 38 points.”
Baggies’ defensive woes
- Sheffield United have now won three of their last five Premier League matches (L2) – as many as in their previous 27 in the competition (W3 D4 L20).
- West Bromwich Albion have conceded 26 goals in nine Premier League games under Sam Allardyce – as many as they conceded in 13 games under Slaven Bilic this season.
- Since January 9th, when Sheffield United ended a 21-game winless run in all competitions with a 3-2 win over Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup, the only Premier League side with more wins in all competitions than the Blades (5) is Manchester City (7).
- West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone has conceded 50 Premier League goals in his first 21 appearances – the joint-quickest a goalkeeper has ever shipped 50 goals in Premier League history, along with Barnsley goalkeeper David Watson in 1997/98 (also 21).
- In just 10 appearances in all competitions for Sheffield United, Jayden Bogle has scored as many goals as he managed in 90 games for Derby County (3).
- West Brom’s Matt Phillips scored his first league goal of the season – he has now found the net in each of the last 13 seasons in English league football, stretching back to the 2008/09 season.
- Since Chris Wilder first game in charge of Sheffield United in August 2016, Billy Sharp has scored 76 goals in all competitions – 44 more than any other Blades player in that time.
Sheffield United next play in the Premier League when they host Chelsea on Sunday, 7 February (19:15 GMT).
West Brom travel to Tottenham on the same day for their next top-flight match (12:00 GMT).
West Bromwich Albion
- 2BaldockSubstituted forLoweat 44′minutes
- 16NorwoodSubstituted forMcBurnieat 45′minutes
- 4FleckBooked at 83mins
- 17McGoldrickBooked at 84mins
- 10SharpSubstituted forBurkeat 86′minutes
- 10PhillipsSubstituted forGallagherat 74′minutes
- 7RobinsonSubstituted forGrantat 68′minutes
- 12Costa PereiraBooked at 90mins
- 17DiagneSubstituted forRobson-Kanuat 68′minutes
Match ends, Sheffield United 2, West Bromwich Albion 1.
Second Half ends, Sheffield United 2, West Bromwich Albion 1.
Matheus Pereira (West Bromwich Albion) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Chris Basham (Sheffield United).
Hal Robson-Kanu (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Jayden Bogle (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Karlan Grant (West Bromwich Albion).
Foul by Oliver Burke (Sheffield United).
Semi Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Sheffield United. Oliver Burke replaces Billy Sharp.
Attempt missed. Matheus Pereira (West Bromwich Albion) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses the top right corner. Assisted by Conor Townsend following a set piece situation.
David McGoldrick (Sheffield United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by David McGoldrick (Sheffield United).
Dara O’Shea (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
John Fleck (Sheffield United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by John Fleck (Sheffield United).
Conor Gallagher (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Jayden Bogle (Sheffield United) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Max Lowe with a cross.
David McGoldrick (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Karlan Grant (West Bromwich Albion).