DANNY Wilson, the Sheffield United manager, declared his team’s opening pre-season friendly a worthwhile exercise after admitting it had exposed those areas where further improvement is required.
Despite admitting he wants to transform the way football is played at Bramall Lane, Wilson told his experimental side they had spent “too long” passing amongst themselves at the back against neighbours Sheffield FC.
“We didn’t put the ball in the box anywhere near enough to score goals,” he said. “We spent too long passing it around at the back but it’s a learning process for both them and me at the moment.
“The lads will get used to how we want them to go about things. That’s one of the main things that we want to get out of these games.”
Danny Philliskirk, one of the main beneficiaries of Wilson’s decision to plunder United’s academy and development squads rather than stick with tried and tested talent, opened the scoring with an opportunistic finish before Joel Purkiss drew Sheffield FC level after the break.
“It’s always good to give the young lads a good run out,” Wilson added. “They need minutes on the pitch and I thought they came through it well.”
Wilson, making his first appearance in the visitors’ dug-out since taking charge in May, had promised to give youth its chance against United’s neighbours.
And the former Northern Ireland international was true to his word with Neill Collins and Daniel Bogdanovic the only established names to start a match which attracted a record crowd to the BT Local Business Stadium.
Despite the changes, United seized the early initiative with Erik Tonne and captain David McAllister both forcing the issue before March Warren and Bogdanovic also went close.
Philliskirk, whose loan move from Chelsea was made permanent earlier this month, broke Sheffield’s resolve.
Harry Maguire thundered a long-range effort against the post and the goalkeeper was powerless to prevent the youngster from poking home.
A flurry of substitutions during the half time break inevitably saw United lose some of their rhythm.
But Mark Shaw’s men also demonstrated tenacity and character to frustrate their League One opponents before levelling with a little over quarter of an hour remaining.
Jordan Slew, whose contractual impasse United hope will finally be resolved before they depart for warm weather training in Malta on Thursday, enjoyed two opportunities to extend their lead after being introduced at the start of the second period.
Purkiss, though, was not in such profligate mood and pounced when United failed to deal with a 74th minute set-piece.