CHED Evans served notice he does not intend to surrender his status as Sheffield United’s number one striker without a fight by scoring the only goal of the game against Chesterfield.
James Beattie’s return to Bramall Lane had dominated the headlines as Danny Wilson’s side prepared for their first competitive appearance at the b2net stadium.
But Evans, who has now scored nine goals in nine starts this term, ensured Beattie’s presence did not distract from his own resurgent form with a superb solo effort towards the end of the second half.
United midfielder Stephen Quinn said: “We paid a lot of money for Ched and he’s showing people why.
“I know a lot of people have questioned him in the past and he’s had his critics but I can tell you that none of the lads here ever doubted his class because we see what Ched’s capable of every day in training.
“He’s shown a lot of character, though, and we’re delighted to have him here.”
Quinn, who had earlier seen a goal controversially disallowed, set in motion the chain of events which ended with Evans pouncing in majestic fashion.
An incisive pass picked out the £3 million signing from Manchester City. He controlled and turned in one movement, and two defenders were left trailing in his wake, before a fierce drive was deposited in the bottom corner of Greg Fleming’s net.
It was a scintillating piece of skill which Chesterfield manager John Sheridan, whose own manipulation of a football entranced crowds during the 80s and 90s, will have privately admired despite expressing concerns about the fact Evans was allowed to progress unimpeded.
“We‘ve worked hard in recent weeks and it we‘ve given ourselves a platform,” Quinn said. “There’s a bit of momentum behind us now and we want to keep that going if possible.”
Evans’ moment of magic was a splash of colour across an otherwise bleak canvas.
Nevertheless, there was plenty to encourage the two rival camps.
Danny Wilson, who had warned his squad prior to kick-off that Chesterfield, whatever the League One form book might suggest, would provide obstinate opposition, credited United’s back four with providing the platform for the visitors’ third win and clean sheet in as many games while Sheridan praised the hosts’ tenacity and endeavour.
Even Leon Clarke, a player not usually renowned for his application, could be seen tracking back whenever United ventured forward.
Certainly, on Saturday afternoon’s evidence, Chesterfield are in a false position at the bottom of the League One table.
Had Chesterfield, and Tope Obadeyi in particular, demonstrated the same qualities then their industry may well have received some reward.
“Ched’s wasn’t a great goal from my point of view,” Sheridan said. “He was a long way out and was facing the wrong way when he got the ball. He should have been stopped.
Chris Porter, who required stitches in a nasty head wound, was inches away from connecting with Quinn’s cross before seeing another attempt smothered on the line.
Fleming also denied Evans at the near post before Steve Simonsen foiled Chesterfield’s Lee Johnson and Clarke, whose clever flick had created the opening, saw a looping shot bounce back off the crossbar.
“I’m gutted but pleased with the fight that we showed,” Sheridan said. “But when you are up against players like Evans and Porter you always know that type of thing can happen.”