Sheffield United 3-1 Wrexham: Player ratings as Blades strike late to avoid upset
By Tom Gott
Sheffield United earned a date with Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup fifth round with a nervy 3-1 victory over Wrexham on Tuesday evening.
Anel Ahmedhodzic fired home the opener early in the second half but Paul Mullin equalised from the penalty spot and missed the chance to put Wrexham ahead from 12 yards just a few moments later.
As we prepared for another 90-minute draw between these two, Billy Sharp struck in the dying embers to end Wrexham's Hollywood story, before Sander Berge sealed the victory soon after.
The early minutes were dominated completely by Sheffield United, whose biggest threat came from corners, although Wrexham created half-chances of their own through the lively Jacob Mendy out on the left.
The hosts should have taken the lead on the half-hour mark as James McAtee raced through on goal unopposed, but rather than set Iliman Ndiaye up for an easy tap-in, the youngster opted to try and shoot past Rob Lainton and instead sent his effort wide of the post. It would have been the easiest goal of Ndiaye's career.
Lainton was then called on to make an excellent save to deny Ahmedhodzic, whose thunderous close-range strike after some superb work from Ndiaye was well kept out.
Ben Tozer's strike from distance, which was solid but comfortably saved by Adam Davies, was as close as Wrexham came to scoring in a first half in which they will have been fairly satisfied with their work against superior opposition.
A barrage of Tozer throw-ins kicked off the second half, but Ahmedhodzic put Sheffield United ahead five minutes in, firing home after a smart pass from McAtee.
Sharp could have added a second soon after but his strike was again saved well by Lainton from close range, and Wrexham went straight down the other end and earned themselves a penalty as Mullin was dragged down by Ahmedhodzic, although replays showed the contact may have been outside the box. The striker made no mistake, lashing his effort into the back of the net.
With 20 minutes to go, Mullin won his side yet another penalty, beating Oliver Norwood to the ball. This time, however, his effort was well saved by Davis.
Sharp thought he'd bagged a late winner with just a few minutes remaining, but he had strayed offside and was correctly picked up by the official.
However, halfway through the six minutes of stoppage time, Sharp did get his winner. A mistake from Harry Cleworth saw the veteran striker gifted a run on goal, and his low effort struck the back of the net to break Wrexham hearts.
Sander Berge netted another soon after, leaving the result in no doubt.
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Sheffield United player ratings (3-5-2)
GK: Adam Davies - 7/10 - Not particularly busy but made an excellent save to deny Mullin's second penalty.
CB: Anel Ahmedhodzic - 7/10 - Had a good chance to open the scoring in the first half before finally doing so early in the second. Foolish decision to give away the penalty, however.
CB: John Egan - 7/10 - A massive aerial threat. Caused chaos when up from the back for corners.
CB: Jack Robinson - 7/10 - Involved a lot as United looked to assert their dominance down the left wing.
RM: Chris Basham - 5/10 - Felt a bit uncomfortable in this wing-back role and didn't enjoy his sporadic battles with Mendy.
CM: Sander Berge - 8/10 - Slow on the ball in the first half but significantly more impactful after the break. Took his goal very well to kill the game off.
CM: James McAtee - 6/10 - Generally alright but cannot get away with his decision to shoot rather than pass for an easy opener. Did his best to make up for it with an assist for the opener.
CM: Ismaila Cheick Coulibaly - 6/10 - Enjoyed some nice moments on the ball. Given plenty of freedom as he bombed forwards to try and overload Wrexham's back line.
LM: Ben Osborn - 7/10 - Superb delivery from corners and wide areas. Seemed to be putting the ball wherever he wanted it in the first half.
ST: Billy Sharp - 7/10 - A few nice moves but struggled to find space against Wrexham's compact defence. Profited from a mistake to finally make the difference.
ST: Iliman Ndiaye - 6/10 - Similarly, some nice moments but nothing to write home about. Perhaps strayed offside in his run with McAtee.
Oliver Norwood (68' for Coulibaly) - 4/10 - Gave away a penalty after just two minutes. Bailed out by his goalkeeper.
Max Lowe (77' for Ahmedhodzic) - 6/10 - Didn't do a whole lot.
Andre Brooks (98' for McAtee) - N/A
Paul Heckingbottom - 5/10 - Struggled to come up with the moves necessary to break this defence down. Can't be critical of his use of the bench, given the lack of options available.
Wrexham player ratings (3-5-2)
GK: Rob Lainton - 8/10 - Some superb saves to keep the score level in the first half. Didn't look like a goalkeeper who hadn't played much football.
CB: Max Cleworth - 5/10 - A few shaky moments on what was undeniably the weaker side of Wrexham's defence. Really unfortunate to make such a crucial error late on.
CB: Ben Tozer - 6/10 - Unfortunate to be caught out for the opening goal.
CB: Harry Lennon - 7/10 - Another who defied his limited minutes. Threw himself at everything that came his way.
RM: Anthony Forde - 5/10 - Offered very little cover for Cleworth. Couldn't keep up with Osborn at all. Poor awareness for a chance to play Mullin through on goal.
CM: James Jones - 5/10 - Similarly, ran ragged by United's left side. Looked a little off the pace.
CM: Luke Young - 7/10 - Really put himself about in the second half as Wrexham grew into the game.
CM: Andy Cannon - 6/10 - Kept things ticking well when he got the chance. Put himself about well to disrupt the home side's play.
LM: Jacob Mendy - 6/10 - Looked very lively when he was on the ball, although didn't get as many chances as he'd like to.
ST: Paul Mullin - 7/10 - Predictably isolated but put in an absolute monster shift. Held his own against United's defence and made the telling impact from the penalty spot. Tweaked his hamstring with a defensive challenge but refused to the substituted off... until he was taken off seconds later.
ST: Sam Dalby - 5/10 - Had the odd solid moment but was largely out of the game. A tough occasion to try and make an impact.
Liam McAlinden (60' for Mendy) - 6/10 - Not as impactful as Mendy but still caused a handful of issues.
Ollie Palmer (60' for Dalby) - 6/10 - Put himself about well at both ends of the field.
Tom O'Connor (74' for Lennon) - 6/10 - Limited time to make an impact.
Jake Bickerstaff (82' for Mullin) - N/A
Elliot Lee (82' for Cannon) - N/A
Phil Parkinson - 7/10 - Will be delighted with his team's shift. Good substitutions to turn the tide in Wrexham's favour.