A combination of unavailability and injury meant that Kevin Blackwell was unable to name his strongest team to face Lincoln City at Sincil Bank – frustrating both scouts from Middlesbrough, their opening day opponents, and travelling fans hoping for an insight into the side Blackwell will name on August 7.
But the two will be dismayed and encouraged respectively by United’s latest comprehensive friendly victory, even with a below-par side, which meant their entire pre-season campaign had passed without defeat.
In no small part, that encouraging statistic is down to Leigh Bromby. The talents of the versatile defender, given the unenviable task of replacing Academy protégé Kyle Naughton after his lucrative move to Tottenham, were never in doubt, but his goalscoring prowess had previously gone unnoticed before notching his third goal of the summer on 31 minutes.
Bromby, having failed to convert an earlier chance from a Ryan France cross, made no mistake this time from an Andy Taylor centre, clinically finishing past Burch on the half volley.
Ched Evans, Blackwell’s most expensive signing at United, again missed out as he battles to regain his fitness after his £3m arrival at Bramall Lane but France and Keith Treacy, who both joined the Welsh striker in South Yorkshire on Friday, both impressed with Boro manager Gareth Southgate watching.
Treacy, in particular, showed glimpses of the potential which prompted Blackwell to acquire his services on a temporary basis, beating three men before unleashing a vicious low drive which went narrowly wide of Burch’s post.
Blackwell also proved that life exists after Naughton – and his new Spurs team-mate Kyle Walker – by introducing another Academy graduate, left-back Phil Roe, on 83 minutes.
With United firmly in the ascendancy, Lee Hendrie and Jamie Ward both went close before trialist Glen Little, who is expected to receive a permanent contract at Bramall Lane, dispatched a stunning 90th-minute free-kick into the top corner.
“We played some good stuff, despite still lacking Evans and [Darius] Henderson up top,” Blackwell said.
“I was pleased with the clean sheet and once again we looked very professional.
“Overall, I think we looked pretty sharp.”
Lincoln: Burch, Hughton (Hone 46), Kovacs, Swaibu, Heath, Butcher, S Clarke (Jerome 83), J Clarke, Brown, Connor (Clucas 83), Fagan. Not used: Oakes, Hutchinson, Miller, Coleman-Carr, Musselwhite.
Blades: Bennett (Haber 77), Bromby, Morgan, Taylor (Roe 83), Kilgallon, France (Little 63), Hendrie (Quinn 60), Treacy (Reid 56), Robertson (Cotterill 68), Ward, Montgomery (Howard 60). Not used: Brown.
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