SHEFFIELD, Jan 13 ― Sheffield United remain nine points below the Premier League safety zone and face Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Manchester City in their next three games but nothing could dampen the joy of a first win of the season today.
Billy Sharp's second-half penalty proved enough to secure a 1-0 triumph over 10-man Newcastle United and snap a 17-match winless streak in the league since the start of the campaign.
It was thoroughly deserved and their football was reminiscent of last season when Chris Wilder's side challenged for a European spot before finishing ninth.
Even during this campaign, in which they had lost 15 and drawn two of their first 17 games, the Blades have not suffered any real drubbings, but points have proved elusive.
Wilder summed up his feelings after the whistle.
“(186 days without a win...) I have been counting! Every minute of every hour of every day! It feels good, I'm delighted,” Wilder, who got the Sheffield club promoted back to the top flight in 2019, said.
“We should have got more results, we know that, but the performance was good. We played with the identity that has been the way we have played for the last few years.
“I imagine the sending off and the penalty will be talked about but in my opinion we were value for the victory tonight.”
Few would disagree. Even before Ryan Fraser was sent off for Newcastle just before the break, Sheffield United were totally on top, playing some eye-catchingly fluent football.
They nearly ruined it at the death though when Jayden Bogle almost chested the ball into his own goal.
“We've had a load of tight games and we'll take it. I was looking for my car keys and to take up another sport if we'd thrown it away in added time...
“I might have a glass in my own bubble tonight.”
While there was joy at last for Wilder, the pressure is mounting on Newcastle manager Steve Bruce whose team are now winless in six league games and down in 15th spot.
Bruce was left to bemoan the VAR involvement in the penalty ― awarded for a handball by Federico Fernandez.
“The penalty baffles me. The referee got it spot on in real time. It hit (Fernandez's) hand but it's not intentional. It could have been a foul on him as well,” Bruce said.
“VAR is supposed to be for clear and obvious decisions. How someone 300 miles away on a TV screen can overturn it is beyond me. You know when the referee goes to the screen it will be a penalty ― it's pathetic. It's beyond me.
“I'm struggling to cope with it. Week in week out, it's ruining the game.” ― Reuters