Norwich City made it three games unbeaten in the Sky Bet Championship as Yanic Wildschut’s first-half strike was enough to beat Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
City took the lead on 23 minutes when Wildschut finished brilliantly from James Maddison’s through ball and it proved to be the difference in a tight game in south Yorkshire.
Daniel Farke made three changes to the side which drew 0-0 with Burton Albion on Tuesday. Wildschut came in on the right for Mario Vrancic and Maddison replaced Wes Hoolahan on the central attacking midfield position. Cameron Jerome made his first start since the defeat to Aston Villa for the injured Nelson Oliveira.
Both sides had chances in the opening few minutes. First, Ched Evans nodded straight into the arms of Angus Gunn from a corner before, at the other end, Josh Murphy got to the byline and his cutback was only cleared as far as Jerome who hit the side netting from a tight angle.
On 12 minutes, good play by Murphy allowed Maddison the chance to shoot in the area but instead he tried to square for Jerome - his pass was punted away by the Blades defence. However, the best chance of the opening 20 minutes came for the hosts as David Brooks’ close-range strike was beaten away well by Gunn.
However, midway through the first-half, City got the lead they merited. Jerome did brilliantly to hold the ball up under pressure and play it to Maddison who showed great awareness to slide in Wildschut. He let the ball roll across his path before firing a low strike into the bottom corner.
After the goal, City were happy to let their opponents have possession but the hosts rarely threatened Gunn in the City goal. Chances were few and far between for United, with captain Paul Coutts firing just wide on half an hour and Mark Duffy’s free-kick curling well wide a few minutes later.
City’s best chance to double their lead came from Marco Stiepermann who tried his luck from 30 yards but his powerful strike flew just wide of Jamal Blackman’s left hand post.
After the interval, City were again defending brilliantly and restricting their opponents to very little. John Fleck had a long range strike fly straight into the arms of Gunn on 48 minutes and that was as good as it got for United in the opening stages of the second half.
The hosts were beginning to get frustrated, with manager Chris Wilder given a talking to by the referee for kicking some water bottles on 63 minutes.
Farke brought on James Husband for Murphy minutes before and the left-back, turned left-winger for the final half an hour, jinked past two and went down in the box on 65 minutes. However, the referee waved City’s appeals for a penalty away.
City stemmed the tide of United pressure and looked comfortable going into the final ten minutes. However, Coutts headed wide from a corner on 80 minutes when he really should have done better.
The Canaries could have easily been awarded a penalty moments later when Maddison was clearly bundled over in the box by Blackman but the referee waved away the appeals.
City had struggled defensively in recent games but this performance was one of grit and determination. Farke’s men managed to see out the final few minutes and earn their third clean sheet in a row and their first league victory on the road this season.