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Dublin: 12°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

One of the most underrated Irish players in the Championship is helping Sheffield United to thrive

Former Shamrock Rovers left-back Enda Stevens has started 13 games for the Blades this season.

Enda Stevens (file pic).
Enda Stevens (file pic).
Image: EMPICS Sport

Updated at 1.05

ENDA STEVENS IS still just 27, but he has already enjoyed plenty of highs and lows in his career.

After short stints at UCD and St Patrick’s Athletic, he excelled as part of Michael O’Neill’s Shamrock Rovers side, winning two league titles there and starring in their historic 2011-12 Europa League campaign.

After standing out for Rovers against sides of the calibre of Tottenham and Rubin Kazan, he linked up with then-Premier League outfit Aston Villa.

Yet Stevens rarely got a look in with the Villains, making just seven Premier League appearances in three years at the club.

After a series of loan moves, he joined then-League Two side Portsmouth and excelled in his two seasons there.

Last May, he linked up with current Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder, who previously managed Stevens during a loan stint at Northampton in 2014.

And since then, it could hardly have gone much better for player and club alike. Stevens has started 13 of the Blades’ 14 matches so far this season, and featured again tonight as they beat Leeds United 2-1 to go top of the Championship.

Substitute David Brooks scored the winner as his side went top of the second tier for the first time in 12 years.

The 20-year-old struck with his first senior goal 10 minutes from time of a pulsating Yorkshire derby to hush the vast majority of the 34,500 crowd at Elland Road.

Kalvin Phillips had levelled for the hosts with a sublime volley after journeyman striker Billy Sharp had opened the scoring against one of his former clubs in the second minute.

United’s win — their eighth in 10 matches — sends them one point clear of Wolves, who can regain the lead if they beat QPR away on Saturday.

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Leeds’ second successive home defeat means they stay fourth seven points adrift of the leaders.

Sharp took just two minutes to score as unmarked he headed home Mark Duffy’s cross for his sixth of the season.

Sharp went close to doubling his tally in the 26th minute with the 31-year-old’s flick from Leon Clarke’s cross being brilliantly saved by Andy Lonergan.

The hosts had barely made an impression going forward but that changed in the 34th minute as Phillips fired home a great volley to level the match.

Sharp should have given Sheffield United the lead shortly before half-time.

Again Lonergan came to his side’s rescue as the defence fell asleep and Sharp was all alone but the goalkeeper blocked his shot and then smothered the second effort from the striker.

Leeds’ Spanish playmaker Samuel Saiz had had a quiet evening out on the left flank until he switched into the centre and almost immediately had an impact, his rasping effort coming back off the post.

Brooks though struck with 10 minutes remaining getting the right side of Luke Ayling and stroking the ball past Lonergan.

Additional reporting by AFP

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Paul Fennessy

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