Sheffield United secured their place in the FA Cup second round by beating Worcester City at Bramall Lane this afternoon.
Goals from Jose Baxter, Conor Sammon and Kieron Freeman ensured Nigel Adkins side survived this potential banana skin of a fixture against opponents who overcame Coventry City at the same stage of the competition last year.
Baxter broke the deadlock midway through the opening period with a well-taken penalty after Che Adams had been fouled.
Despite creating numerous other openings, United were forced to wait until the 82nd minute before finally making the contest safe when Conor Sammon pounced following some fine work by the excellent Jamal Campbell-Ryce.
City, of the National League North, should return home mighty proud of their efforts.
Determined, durable and resolute, they ensured the outcome remained in the balance until the moment Sammon finally doubled United’s lead.
Nathan Vaughan excelled between the posts for the visitors, making excellent saves to deny Campbell-Ryce and Freeman, but the visitors outfield players ensured those blocks counted until United’s late flurry.
He was, however, powerless to prevent Sammon lofting the ball home from point blank range and Freeman bundling into an empty net on the stroke of normal time.
If United started the match looking forward to escaping the pressures of the league, they were sorely mistaken. Neill Collins, anchoring the defence of a strong-looking team, provoked a smattering of boos when he passed the ball back towards George Long who, in the 8th minute, made a good save to deny Ashley Vincent. United, though, survived City’s predictable early bluster before seizing control in the 19th minute when Baxter converted from the spot. Sam Minihan, whose foul on Adams led to the penalty, was correctly cautioned. That was the signal for Adkins’ side to move through the gears with Adams causing City numerous problems before being substituted due to injury. Jamal Campbell-Ryce, however, was their real tormentor-in-chief. Only a superb save from Vaughan - palming the ball onto the crossbar - prevented the former Jamaica international from doubling United’s advantage. Campbell-Ryce also produced the cross, following a mazy run to the byline, which forced Alex Gudger to head clear as Conor Sammon waited to pounce. The winger produced an equally dangerous centre moments later which his colleague failed to turn home before sweeping a long-range attempt just past Vaughan’s left hand post. City, showing commendable courage, refused to crumble but it was United, three divisions above them on the footballing pyramid, who continued to create the game’s clear-cut openings. Sammon, leaning backwards, flashed a header wide after Paul Coutts had instigated a counter-attack.
City showed character at the beginning of the second period to repel two quick-fire corners following yet more excellent work by Campbell-Ryce. Deon Burton appeared to be wrong footed when a corner found its way towards him at United’s far post and failed to react but recovered his awareness to dart forward and draw a timely tackle from Freeman.
As the contest unfolded, so Worcester sensed they could take something from the game. Indeed, after an off-balance Baxter had sliced Stefan Scougall’s centre wide, Carl Beeley’s team should have levelled. Daniel Nti’s made good progress down the flank and the delivery of his centre made the ball almost impossible to clear but, inexplicably, neither Burton nor Vincent could get the vital touch.
At the other end, United came within a whisker of doubling their lead in the 73rd minute when Bob Harris saw a free-kick bounce back off the underside of the crossbar before being scrambled clear. Coutts should have scored soon after but could not generate enough power to toe-poke the ball past Vaughan from close-range.
Sammon had no such problems when Campbell-Ryce again left poor Alex Gudger in his slipstream before Freeman, despite looking suspiciously offside, scored United’s third in added time.
Sheffield United: Long, Freeman, Harris, Basham (McGahey 83), Coutts Reed 88), Baxter, Collins, Sammon, Campbell-Ryce, Adams (Scougall 32), Hammond. Not used: Howard, Sharp, Done, K Wallace.
Worcester City: Vaughan, Minihan (Weir 51), Gudger, Thomas, Sharpe, Gater (Dunkley 60), Nti, Deeney, Burton, Jackman, Vincent (Harrad 74). Not used: Ross, Smith, Waldron, Brown.
Referee: Simon Bennett