Blades result: Sheffield United 2 Notts County 1

Harry Maguire celebrates his goal
Harry Maguire celebrates his goal

David Weir built his reputation as a player by preventing rather than scoring goals.

But, having swapped football boots for a sharp suit, he seems intent on becoming an attack-minded, forward-thinking manager.

Sheffield United marked Weir’s first match at the helm by dispatching a Notts County side reduced to 10 men when Gary Liddle was sent-off during the early skirmishes of this eventful League One contest.

But it was the manner of United’s victory, rather than the scoreline itself, which will have pleased him the most.

Although the profligacy which proved so costly last term has not completely been eradicated - several gilt-edged opportunities were spurned before Harry Maguire restored their advantage following substitute Enock Showunmi’s equaliser - United were comfortable and creative in possession having earlier seen Kevin McDonald edge them in front.

The sight of captain Michael Doyle hobbling off with an injury during the closing stages will be a cause for concern ahead of next weekend’s visit to Brentford.

But United, who entertain Burton Albion in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, can be satisfied with their work.

However, there still remains plenty of room for improvement, with Mark Fotheringham only inches away from securing County a share of the spoils late on.

By then, United could, indeed should, have been out of sight.

Last night’s match was chosen to open the new season due to its historical significance and did not disappoint.

As the governing body’s 125th anniversary celebrations begin in earnest, the Football League’s oldest professional club embarked on its latest campaign at the competition’s mostmenduring stadium.

They combined to produce an enthralling evening’s worth of entertainment for the watching television audience, with Febian Brandy in particular catching the eye.

If Weir, the former Everton, Glasgow Rangers and Scotland defender, was in any doubt about the demands of the job after arriving South Yorkshire nearly two months ago, then the past seven days will have been a revelation.

Confessing beforehand that two particularly taxing selection dilemmas had caused “a few sleepless nights”, the 43-year-old also saw injury rob him of experienced defender TonyMcMahon’s services earlier in the week,

But with George Long rather than Mark Howard starting in goal and Chris Porter, not new signing Lyle Taylor, charged with spearheading United’s attack, Weir’s first big call paid off in encouraging fashion.

Debutants Stephen McGinn and Brandy both acquitted themselves well, with referee Keith Stroud ignoring the latter’s appeals for a fifth-minute penalty following Dean Leacock’s challenge.

Jamie Murphy was responsible for forcing Bartosz Bialkowski to make the evening’s first save with a third-minute free-kick.

McDonald hustled and harried in his new attacking role before breaking the deadlock. Having seen another attempt from Murphy fly just past the post, he delved deep into his box of tricks to send Brandy scampering through with a perfectly-judged long-range pass.

Bialkowski, though, was alert to the danger and came scampering off his line to clear.

County, having made some shrewd acquisitions, are being tipped by some to mount a strong claim for promotion themselves this season.

But after applying some pressure of their own, Long producing an instinctive save to deny Danny Haynes, Liddle’s dismissal for a clumsy challenge on McDonald swung the balance of power back in United’s favour.

The defender protested his innocence but Stroud had no hesitation in producing a red card.

It took United, bristling with creativity and invention, only 15 more minutes to break their resistance.

Brandy, again combining well with Porter, tried his luck from the edge of the box with a curling drive but McDonald made no mistake when he applied the finishing touches to a well-worked move involving Brandy and Westlake along the flank. Weir, who has placed attacking full-backs at the heart of United’s tactical blueprint, signalled his appreciation from the bench.

Joss Labadie spurned a glorious opportunity to equalise.

The half-time whistle came to County’s rescue, as did Showunmi when, only minutes after entering the fray as a substitute, he beat Long from distance with a low drive.

Brandy, who had earlier been cautioned for protesting when Stroud refused to award a penalty after Leacock’s bear-hug in the area, continued to torment his marker.

But it was Maguire who delivered County a crushing blow when he met McGinn’s set-piece at Bialkowski’s far post and headed back across goal.

McDonald saw a speculative effort blocked before Connor Coady, on loan from Liverpool, made his entrance when Doyle was deemed unfit to continue.

Only Bialkowski’s agility prevented Brandy from opening his account while Coady dragged wide after seizing upon Westlake’s pass.

GOALS: McDonald 15, Showunmi 59, Maguire 67

United: Long 7, Westlake 7, Williams 7, Maguire 7, Doyle 7 (Coady 80), Porter 7 (Taylor 68), McDonald 8, McGinn 8, Collins 7, Brandy 8, Murphy 7 (McFadzean 65). Not used: Howard, Hill, Flynn, McGinty.

County: Bialkowski 6, Dumbuya 6, Sheehan 7, Liddle 4, Leacock 5, Haynes 6 (Zoko 65), Arquin 6 (Showunmi 56, 7), Labadie 6 (Tempest 58, 6), Campbell-Ryce 7, Fotheringham 6, Boucaud 6. Not used: Smith, Coombes, Thompson, Spiess.

Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 5.

Cautions: Labadie (30), Brandy (50), Leacock (90).

Red card: Liddle (14).

attendance: 17,944