Billy Sharp rescues late point for Sheffield United at Bournemouth

Tom Prentki
The Telegraph
Billy Sharp (R) celebrates his last-gasp leveller at the Vitality Stadium - REUTERS
Billy Sharp (R) celebrates his last-gasp leveller at the Vitality Stadium - REUTERS

Sheffield born Billy Sharp came off the bench to snatch a point for the Blades as they made their Premier League return after a 12 year absence.

Chris Mepham’s second half goal looked to have decided matters in Bournemouth’s favour but 33 year-old Sharp stabbed in from close range to send the travelling support wild.

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The statistics suggested Eddie Howe’s side deserved it but more possession and twice the number of shots suggests a difference between the sides that wasn’t there in general play.

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The last time the Steel City club played in the Premier League, they scored just eight times in 19 away games and improving on that statistic looks likely to be one of their main challenges.

They got off to a reasonably auspicious start on a blustery South Coast and might have led in the first minute through David McGoldrick as he attempted to convert John Lundstram’s long pass but Bournemouth debutant goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was equal to it.

There was some sign of the signature overlapping centre-backs from Chris Wilder’s side, with Jack O’Connell drifting to the left touchline on one occasion to set up a chance for Callum Robinson to shoot on his first appearance for the Sheffield Club.

Bournemouth had almost two thirds of the possession but their play lacked its normal fluidity in a 3-4-3 formation with Philip Billing making his debut in centre midfield.

<span>Chris Mepham fired Bournemouth in front soon after the hour mark</span> <span>Credit: PA </span>
Chris Mepham fired Bournemouth in front soon after the hour mark Credit: PA

Their best chance went the way of defender Chris Mepham after a corner, but he badly miscued his shot from close range to give the Premier League newcomers a reprieve.

Wilder’s side showed a little more attacking intent at the start of the second half with McGoldrick hitting a well-controlled half-volley narrowly wide and Lundstram cross low for Robinson who was unable to apply the crucial touch.

Eddie Howe cut a frustrated figure on the touchline, more edgy and demonstrative than he might have hoped to be on the opening day.

He had his head in his hands when Billing thundered in a shot from the area which was brilliantly tipped round the post by Dean Henderson, who rejoined Sheffield United on loan from Manchester United this summer.

The Cherries scored minutes later, the scrappiest of goals with Mepham atoning for his earlier miss by lashing the ball over the line after Henderson had made an excellent point-blank save from Callum Wilson beforehand.

Record signing Ollie McBurnie came off the bench for the final half hour for the visitors and, alongside Sharp provided more impetus.

With two minutes left of normal time, George Baldock raced down the right and crossed low for McBurnie before the rebound fell to Sharp who bundled it home via Mepham.

Reactions at the final whistle told the story. Whilst Bournemouth’s players trudged down the tunnel to await a dressing down, United celebrated with the jubilant supporters, who were elated to be back earning points in the top flight.

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