Sheffield United 2 -0 Ipswich Town: Blades almost over the line in promotion race
Photo: Getty Images - Jan Kruger

Sheffield United 2 -0 Ipswich Town: Blades almost over the line in promotion race

United completed a comfortable win as they all-but sealed promotion to the Premier League

Jack Groom

Sheffield United all-but secured promotion to the Premier League with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over already-relegated Ipswich Town at Bramall Lane.

Chris Wilder's men sit six points ahead of third-placed Leeds United with two games remaining for the Whites - who entertain Aston Villa tomorrow afternoon - and have a goal difference 12 goals superior to that of their Yorkshire rivals, meaning anything less than a win for the men from Elland Road tomorrow will see the Blades mathematically rubber-stamped to finish in the top two.

Goals from Scott Hogan and Jack O'Connell in either half were enough for United to seal the win, as the near 30,000 United fans in attendance sung loud and proud at  their soon-to-be-confirmed rise to the top flight.

Embed from Getty Images

Story of the match

United started the game electrically, pressing back the visitors immediately

The home side could - and perhaps should - have been out of side within the opening quarter of an hour, as they were presented with four openings that they failed to capitalise from.

Former Town man David McGoldrick should have opened the scoring within the first minute. He was inches away from connecting with a tantalising Chris Basham cross from the right, whilst a low, scuffed Mark Duffy ball into the box then somehow evaded the sea of legs from which it travelled through to trickle out for a goal kick.

Ipswich captain Luke Chambers was lucky to not see his laxity in possession punished not once but twice within a later two-minute spell, as his errant distribution was spared firstly through a poor Hogan finish and then latterly by a superb stretching clearance from teammate Toto Nsiala, nicking it off the toe of Hogan eight yards out just as the on-loan  Villa forward was about to slot home.

The Blades could not make their dominance count however, and after withstanding that initial opening onslaught the Tractor Boys began to tentatively  get a hold of proceedings.

They kept the ball neatly in-and-around the penalty area without creating a clear-cut chance; the nearest they came was a low show that Flynn Downes dragged harmlessly wide from 25-yards out.

Despite that slight respite, Ipswich soon found themselves again struggling to repel a tide of attacks: sure enough, the wave soon broke the defensive dam.

A trademark over-lapping run from left central defender O'Connell culminated in the 25-year-old reaching the byline and pulling the ball back to Hogan.

The striker clinically side-footed home into the far corner to put his side in the ascendancy, giving them the cushion they undeniably deserved for their ruthless performance thus far.

Town goalkeeper Dean Gerken prevented the score being doubled soon after as he smothered the ball at the feet of George Baldock with the wing-back through on goal, meaning the hosts headed into the break with the lead.

The second period started rather ponderously, with a rasping Oliver Norwood free-kick that struck the post the only chance of note.

United's lead was doubled in the 71st minute, however, as O'Connell found a yard of space to soar high and head in an in-swinging John Fleck corner and secure the win - and surely a place in the top flight - for his team.

Embed from Getty Images

Takeaways from the match

How will the United mould fare at the top?

There can be no doubting that Sheffield United's unique style of play has been a revolution in the second tier, so it will be fascinating to see how they are able to apply this if and when they achieve promotion.

In a multi-billion pound league the gulf will be extreme, with world-class players lining up against them all over the pitch every week, and so they must alter their expectations and thinking away from a possession-dominating method in order to cope with the relatively little of the football they will see against the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool. It promises to be fascinating to watch.

Embed from Getty Images

Ipswich must look forward

This season has been shocking from an Ipswich perspective. The quicker they can write it off and forget about it the better, and so they must set their sights on a promotion charge at the first time of asking.

They possess a core of good young players - Downes, Bishop, Andre Dozzell et al - who will likely flourish through playing week-in-week-out at a lower standard of football. With Lambert committed to staying, and alongside good senior pros, they will surely be fighting at the top of the third tier.

Blades a beacon for lower leagues

Most, if not all of Sheffield United's players have plyed their trades in the bottom two divisions - whether that be with the South Yorkshire club or elsewhere - before making the step up with the Blades. 

They serve as an example of what can be achieved with a squad of hungry, talented, but most of all united players and staff, with every individual pulling in the same direction in order to achieve their goals.

Player of the match - Jack O'Connell

O'Connell was a key component of this latest win for the Blades, notching a goal and an assist as well as being calm, composed and defensively solid.

He never looked threatened by an admittedly tepid Ipswich outfit, however, oozed class throughout his entire performance.