16/12/2014: Sheffield United 1-0 Saints

Saints were knocked out of the League Cup following a dismal showing at Sheffield United. The away side created precious little against the League One outfit, who fully deserved their win.

The first 15 minutes of the game were very scrappy. Sheffield United pressed well in midfield, allowing Saints precious little time on the ball. Ronald Koeman's side saw a lot of the ball without really doing anything with it. James Ward-Prowse had the first effort for the visitors, shooting low straight at the keeper from distance.

Saints had a couple of half chances from set pieces. Sheffield United really rattled their opponent with their tough tackling approach. Louis Reed shot over on the break for the Blades. Just before half-time Shane Long made a good run down the left, but Sadio Mane couldn't get on the end of his cross.

The game livened up slightly at the start of the 2nd half. Ryan Bertrand moved back to left-back, having started further up the pitch. Lloyd Isgrove came on for Matt Targett. On 47 Florin Gardos headed down into the ground from a free-kick. Sheffield United immediately went down the other end and came close.

Ward-Prowse had a couple of good efforts go close. At the other end Fraser Forster was forced into a brilliant save after the ball had been cut back for Michael Doyle. On 63 the home side were ahead. Bob Harris' free-kick was spilled by Forster, with Marc McNulty there to follow up as the ball trickled along the line.

On 69 Saints had what was probably their best chance of the game, when Mark Howard saved at the near post from Mane's low shot. The Senegalese attacker was then withdrawn and Saints ran out of ideas going forward. There was very little method to Saints' attacking play. The visitors resorted to playing long-ball football, which completely played into United's hands. Sheffield United looked the more likely in front of goal during the last 10 minutes of the game. Forster prevented a second goal in the 87th minute. To make matters worse for Saints, Gardos was sent off with stoppage time approaching as he hauled down McNulty.

The performance and the result wasn't a complete surprise given Saints' recent form, but even with all the injuries you would have expected more against a team two divisions lower. Sheffield United expended an incredible amount of energy and were also well organised. The side that Koeman put out still contained more than enough top level experience. There was no excuse for such a lack of creativity going forward. Without Graziano Pelle, Saints had no focal point in attack. The build-up was far too predictable for the most part. Sheffield United's keeper was rarely seriously tested. Things are bound to turn around at some point, but right now it's very difficult to see where the next win is coming from.

Player Ratings:

Forster: 6. Made several good saves, but didn't cover himself in glory for the goal he conceded

Clyne: 6. One bad tackle in an otherwise reasonable showing

Fonte: 6. Not at his best

Gardos: 5. Red card pretty much summed up his evening. Never looked entirely convincing. Distribution a bit wayward

Targett: 7. Good first-half performance. Made his way out of congested areas with some positive runs

Wanyama: 6. A few decent moments, but nowhere near his best. Picked up his 5th booking of the season

Schneiderlin: 7. Strong early on. Tactically astute as you would expect. Late booking means another costly suspension

Ward-Prowse: 7. Most of Saints' efforts on goal came through him. Some good delivery

Bertrand: 5. Didn't look at ease in his advanced role in the first half. A bit wasteful in possession

Mane: 5. Involved in a couple of chances, but mostly quiet

Long: 6. Worked hard and pressed well, but didn't really use the ball that well


Isgrove: 5. Started the 2nd half brightly, but pretty much anonymous during the last half-hour or so as Saints chased an equaliser

Mayuka: 5. Made very little impact

Alderweireld: 5. Briefly helped Saints to retain the ball a bit better

Match Details

Sheffield United - McNulty (63)

Attendance - Michael Oliver

Referee: 21,906


Sheffield United: Howard, Flynn, Basham, McEveley, Harris, Reed (Wallace 81), Doyle, Campbell-Ryce (Adams 46), Cuvelier (Baxter 73), Murphy, McNulty

Subs not used: Turner, McGahey, Higdon, Kennedy

Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Gardos, Targett (Isgrove 46), Wanyama (Alderweireld 74), Schneiderlin, Ward-Prowse, Mane (Mayuka 71), Bertrand, Pelle

Subs not used: K Davis, Yoshida, Reed

Previous Match Reports

13/12/2014: Burnley 1-0 Saints
09/12/2014: Saints U18s 2-1 West Ham
08/12/2014: Saints 1-2 Man United
03/12/2014: Arsenal 1-0 Saints
01/12/2014: Saints U21s 1-0 Man United U21s
30/11/2014: Saints 0-3 Man City
24/11/2014: Aston Villa 1-1 Saints
08/11/2014: Saints 2-0 Leicester
01/11/2014: Hull 0-1 Saints
29/10/2014: Stoke 2-3 Saints
25/10/2014: Saints 1-0 Stoke
18/10/2014: Saints 8-0 Sunderland
05/10/2014: Tottenham 1-0 Saints
29/09/2014: Saints U21s 2-0 Norwich U21s
27/09/2014: Saints 2-1 QPR
23/09/2014: Arsenal 1-2 Saints
20/09/2014: Swansea 0-1 Saints
13/09/2014: Saints 4-0 Newcastle
12/09/2014: Tottenham U21s 3-2 Saints U21s
30/08/2014: West Ham 1-3 Saints
26/08/2014: Millwall 0-2 Saints
23/08/2014: Saints 0-0 West Brom
22/08/2014: West Ham U21s 1-2 Saints U21s
17/08/2014: Liverpool 2-1 Saints
09/08/2014: Saints 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen
31/07/2014: Brighton 1-3 Saints
25/07/2014: Bournemouth 0-1 Saints
21/07/2014: Swindon 0-1 Saints