| 3.8°C Dublin

Lundstram's grand entrance takes sharp Blades up to fifth

Sheffield United 2 Bournemouth 1


Sheffield United's John Lundstram. Photo: Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Sheffield United's John Lundstram. Photo: Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Offside via Getty Images

Sheffield United's John Lundstram. Photo: Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

After surviving Storm Ciara, Sheffield United's whirlwind season continued apace with a victory that put them fifth in the table. As the Bramall Lane stadium announcer told jubilant supporters, they are now two points off the Champions League places.

Bournemouth started strongly, with Callum Wilson giving them the lead, but United came out on top through goals by Billy Sharp before half-time and John Lundstram's winner.

The only storm here was in the dugout when Wilder and Andrew Surman were involved in a pushing match that needed separating.

"The Blades are staying up," was the ironic chant from supporters. Wilder now accepts the goal is not merely survival that their 39 points almost certainly guarantees.

It is no surprise that Wilder is opposed to the inaugural Premier League winter break. His team have real momentum and would rather be playing another game than heading to Dubai to engage in warm-weather training.

The United manager believes his players are getting pushed by their three major January transfer signings, none more so than Lundstram after going from first-team regular to substitute following the arrival of club-record signing Sander Berge.

"All those boys have seen players come in and had to go to the next level," Wilder said. "They've gone to the next level in terms of stepping into the Premier League and now they need to go to the next level to keep producing performances and stay in the team.

"I'm not a comfortable manager. We're not a comfortable team. We want more. We've enjoyed our first year back and we have played a part in it. We want days like this against difficult opponents."

Lundstram has now played a crucial role off the bench in consecutive victories, despite losing his place. The 25-year-old has made the transition from the Championship to the Premier League but talks over his wages reflecting his new status have stalled. He can talk to foreign clubs about a pre-contract next season but it is hard to see any player wanting to walk away from United's story.

"When you sign players you are looking to sign good people, ambitious people who can overcome disappointment and are selfless," Wilder said. "Of course they have to look after their own careers and there is always a time when they have to make those decisions. But you bring those players in for other players to grow and get better as well."

Berge, stepping in for Lundstram and making his home debut, is still coming to terms with the pace of the Premier League and was guilty of giving the ball away in dangerous territory for the early opener.

Bournemouth seized on the error, shifting the ball around their opponents before Harry Wilson's effort was blocked by John Egan, with Callum Wilson profiting from the rebound. It was his second Premier League goal in three games after going through a four-month drought.

United had won three corners in quick succession and from their final set-piece of the opening half Berge made amends for his earlier mistake when he hooked the ball back into play as it was heading for a goal-kick.

Enda Stevens fizzed the ball across goal, with Egan having his effort blocked on the line before Sharp fired home.

It was his first goal since equalising against Bournemouth on the first day of the season, a strike that Wilder says gave his team belief that they could compete in the top flight.

"It's easy when you are playing and scoring goals like he has for this club in the last three years," Wilder said. "This is a different type of test for Billy and he showed his reaction."

Wilder was involved in his ugly confrontation with Surman on the touchline after a tackle from Egan on Dan Gosling, with manager and player pushing each other. Fourth official Lee Mason, along with a security guard, separated the pair as the players joined the flashpoint. It resulted in Wilder and Surman being booked.

Callum Wilson teed up Ryan Fraser and his volley was heading into the top corner until Dean Henderson palmed the ball away. Josh King went on for his first appearance since his move to Manchester United collapsed on deadline day but it was United's substitutes who combined to grab the winner.

Stevens raided forward and this time found Lys Mousset, whose flick set up Lundstram to control and finish into the bottom corner in one movement.

Irish Independent