DANNY Wilson urged his players to embrace the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on the eve of last night’s first round tie at Burton Albion.
His plea did not fall on deaf ears as Sheffield United reached the next stage of the tournament with an industrious rather than inventive performance against Paul Peschisolido’s side.
Albion, who took a deserved lead when Justin Richards’ fired home from long distance, will feel aggrieved not to feature in the draw having dominated long periods of this match.
But United, despite looking laboured and leaden-footed at times, have developed a resilience which should serve them well in months to come under Wilson’s stewardship and summoned a devastating response when first David McAllister and then substitute Erik Tonne pounced.
Albion’s football might not have been as intoxicating as some of the town’s local beverages, but they attacked with pace and purpose.
Jacques Maghoma, the preciously-talented Congolese, tormented United’s rearguard throughout while Ryan Austin and Jimmy Phillips also went close before Richards’ produced a superb finish capable of gracing any game.
Tonne, though, went one better with a piercing 30-yard effort which left Ross Atkins’ grasping at thin air soon after McAllister’s equaliser.
Wilson, having been appointed less than four months ago, is continuing to forge relationships at a club where Peschsolido has already been bestowed cult-hero status.
A member of the squad which reached the semi-finals of both the FA and League cups in 2003, the Canadian secured a place in Bramall Lane history by scoring the goal which swung a memorable Championship play-off tie against Nottingham Forest in the visitors’ favour later that term. Eight years on and Peschisolido now finds himself preoccupied with more prosaic challenges.
Albion, where he chose to cut his coaching teeth 15 months ago, might not be one of League Two’s most glamorous names.
But, having been responsible for launching the managerial career of Nigel Clough, the diminutive Peschisolido has big boots to fill.
Albion’s display, if not the final outcome, will have done plenty to help his cause.
United, though, are a team bristling with confidence.
While he could have been forgiven for viewing the JP Trophy as an irritating distraction on already congested fixture calendar, Wilson made no attempt to disguise the fact that he wanted their debut in the tournament to be memorable for all the right reasons.
The sight of United struggling to overcome opponents 37 places below them in the pyramid will not have improved his mood ahead of today’s transfer deadline.
Albion, with captain John McGrath blazing over during the early skirmishes following a surging Maghoma run, showed no signs of being overawed by their opponents’ lofty reputation.
George Long, making only his second senior appearance in United’s starting 11, produced a fine save to claw Austin’s 25-yard free-kick to safety but the teenage goalkeeper was stranded when Maghoma, whose power and directness proved a constant menace along the flank, unleashed a vicious shot which thundered back off the woodwork.
Ruffled by Albion’s bright start, United had to wait until midway through the opening period before finding their rhythm, but Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s low shot was comfortably gathered by Ross Atkins.
The on-loan winger rose to prominence again moments later but his effort was blocked.
In Maghoma, however, Albion possess a player with the creativity, if not the consistency, to grace a higher stage and, as the interval beckoned, he had Long scampering across his line following another drive forward.
As the hosts again reasserted their grip on the contest, Phillips curled the ball just just wide.
But having spent the majority of the first-half firmly on the back foot, United should have taken the lead just before the interval when Danny Philliskirk inexplicably failed to hit the target from five yards following another Mendez-Laing cross.
Austin came within inches of punishing the youngster’s profligacy when he climbed highest to meet Jack Dyer’s free-kick but Philliskirk did pay a heavy price when he was withdrawn at the break.
Wilson’s expression as he stormed down the tunnel spoke a thousand words and United re-emerged with a momentum they had lacked.
Mendez-Laing nearly burrowed his way through the massed ranks of Albion’s defence before Michael Doyle blazed into the stand.
With the hosts’ forays forward becoming more sporadic, Atkins was forced to smother at McAllister’s feet following Ryan Flynn’s threaded pass
Richards’ effort appeared to have sent United spiralling out of the tournament, but Wilson’s men levelled when McAllister was sent scampering through by Harry Maguire before Tonne pounced.
BURTON: ,Atkins, McGrath, Moore, Corbett, Richards, Zola (Yussuf 66), Austin, Phillips, Maghoma, Blanchett, Dyer. Not used: Poole, Webster, James, Palmer.
UNITED: Long, Lowton, Mendez-Laing (Tonne 73), Doyle, Flynn, Slew, Collins, Maguire, McAllister, Porter (Harriott 88), Philliskirk’s (Parrino 46). Not used: Simonsen, Conneely.
Goals: Richards (73) for Burton; McAllister (76), Tonne (80) for United.
Referee: P Gibbs.
Bookings: Richards (21), McGrath (48)