Sheffield United v Port Vale
Saturday 20th February 2016
At Bramall Lane
Attendance: 18,276 including 631 visiting supporters
Despite a positive performance at Bramall Lane in which Vale had more than their share of play, they returned home with nothing to show for their efforts after the home side scored the only goal of the game early in the second half.
Vale had looked good value for at least a point, if not more when they two sides went in level at the interval, but a superb volley five minutes into the second half by Billy Sharp denied Vale the reward their play had warranted.
A late Vale rally, when they had the home side pinned deep inside their own half produced nothing and it was Sheffield United supporters who were celebrating after the final whistle.
Vale made use of Chris Neal’s twenty-four how recall clause to bring the ‘keeper back from his loan spell with Doncaster Rovers following an injury to Jak Anlwick in training the previous day.
Alnwick had collided with teammate Remie Streete and was ruled out with a back problem, though Paul Bodin confirmed the injury wasn’t too serious, just a case of bad bruising to the lower back.
It gave the opportunity to Chris Neal to return to the starting line-up for the Vale, facing the Blades for the second time in eight days after playing in Doncaster’s 1-0 defeat the previous weekend.
Vale were otherwise unchanged, but Remie Street and Louis Dodds each returned to the bench, at the expense of Adam Yates and Chris Birchall.
Vale started on the front foot but were almost caught out in the 3rd minute whence Adams raced into the Vale half unmarked and ran at goal, only for Chris Neal to make the block.
In terms of possession in their opponents half, Vale were certainly on top, though the home side did look more dangerous when going forward.
Anthony Grant went close when he cut inside to his left foot to try a shot from twenty yards, but it took a slight deflection and Vale had to make do with a corner kick.
The game continued to floe in a similar way, with Vale having plenty of the ball inside the Sheffield half but doing very little in the final third to work the goalkeeper.
It was nice to watch, but rarely looked like a goal would come from it as the home side protected their area well and were always looking to his Vale quickly on the counter-attack.
A foul on Ryan McGivern by Dean Hammond inside the Vale 18 yard box earned the Blads’ man a ticking off, not only from the referee but also from Vale defender Richard Duffy, who wasn’t too impressed with the challenge.
The home side looked about to break the deadlock on the 40th minutes when Flynn’s free kick was met by the head of Hsmmond 12 yards from goal.
The ball looped over Chris Neal, but skipper Carl Dickinson threw himself at it and managed to head off the line to keep the scores level.
It didn’t take the home side too long after the interval to change the shape of the game, taking the lead in the 50th minute when Hammond played the ball into Billy Sharp, who hit an exquisite right foot volley into the top right hand corner of the net.
Eleven minutes into the second half Vale made their first substitution when Theo Robinson left the field to be replaced like for like by JJ Hooper.
Five minutes later Vale made a second change with the introduction of Sam Kelly, who came off the bench to replace Byron Moore.
Vale were still making incursions deep into their opponents half but again found it difficult in the final third, leaving Blades’ ‘keeper George Long with very little to do.
Ryan McGivern had a chance of an equaliser when Hooper played the ball into his path just outside the area but his snapshot failed to trouble the goalkeeper, the ball sailing high over his crossbar.
Kelly earned himself a yellow card for lunging challenge on Reed, who certainly made a meal of things, though in fairness it did warrant a booking for th Vale substitute.
Vale injected more fresh legs into the side on 75minutes when Ajay Leitch-Smith made way for Wednesday-ite Louis Dodds.
With Vale pushing forward looking to draw level they were almost caught out when Matt Done broke from the halfway line and ran at goal, but Anthony Grant came to the rescue with a perfectly-timed challenge to whip the ball off his toes.
SHEFFIELD UNITED:George Long, John Brayford, Chris Basham, Ryan Flynn,Billy Sharp, Martyn Woolford, Jay McEveley, Louis Reed, Che Adams, David Edgar, Dean Hammond. SUBS: Mark Howard, Paul Coutts, Matt Done, Jamal Campbell-Rice, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Harrison McGahey, Florent Cuvelier
PORT VALE:Chris Neal, Ben Purkiss, Carl Dickinson, Ryan McGivern, Richard Duffy, Matty Kennedy, Sam Foley, Byron Moore, Ajay Leitch-Smith, Theo Robinson, Anthony Grant. SUBS: Remie Streete, Michael O’Connor, Louis Dodds, JJ Hooper, Michael Brown, Sam Kelly, Ryan Boot.