Sheffield United’s “ambitious” on-loan keeper Dean Henderson “wants to be England’s number one”, says Blades boss Chris Wilder after his three late saves secured a win over Norwich that boosts their Champions League hopes.
The hosts looked in control when Billy Sharp headed in his third goal in four matches after starting only his seventh league game of the season.
But with 13 minutes left Henderson had to dive bravely at the feet of Mario Vrancic to keep out a Ben Godfrey header and then blocked the rebound.
The Manchester United loanee, who is yet to make his senior debut for England, then kept out a Jamal Lewis volley as the Blades made it 10 points out of 12 to go sixth in the Premier League.
The 22-year-old was an unused substitute for England’s Euro 2020 qualifying defeat by the Czech Republic last October.
Gareth Southgate’s side has friendlies against Italy and Denmark on 27 and 31 March.
“He’s got enormous enthusiasm and ambition,” said Wilder. “He wants to be England’s number one and, if he keeps playing the way he is, it gives him a great opportunity.
“I should imagine he’ll be in the next England squad. He made some really important saves for us and we’re delighted to have him.”
While the Blades are now two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who play on Sunday, the defeat leaves Norwich still six points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table.
The Canaries claimed their first win in five league games against Leicester last Friday before knocking Tottenham out of the FA Cup in midweek, but they now have just nine games to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
Both clubs returned to the Premier League this season after Norwich edged the Yorkshire club to the Championship title.
While both sides have kept faith with the playing style and many of the players that got them promoted, they have had contrasting fortunes in the top flight.
The Blades have been this season’s surprise package in the Premier League, helped in no small part by the form of Henderson, who also spent the last term on loan at Bramall Lane.
The former England Under-21 keeper had no opportunity to show his England class against the Canaries until his late interventions.
It seemed Norwich were destined to equalise when substitute Vrancic slid in as Godfrey headed goalwards from a corner but Henderson saved the initial effort then showed quick reflexes to palm the ball away as the prone Bosnia midfielder nudged the rebound towards the net with his knee.
A combination of Henderson and David McGoldrick blocked Josip Drmic’s follow-up, then five minutes from the time the keeper was at his best again to block a firmly struck volley by Lewis.
The saves ensured United held on for a deserved win, with Oli McBurnie and John Lundstram going close to adding to Sharp’s goal, which came after Lundstram delivered a fine cross for the unmarked striker to head home.
Blades boss Wilder has joked the team’s end-of-season trip to Magaluf is the only continental trip he has on his mind but European football looks likely for his side next season – and before then Henderson could easily be off to the Euros with England.
With 15 games left and Norwich six points from safety, boss Daniel Farke has said it would take “maybe a miracle” to avoid relegation.
They picked up four points from their next five games thanks to last Friday’s win over Leicester and kept the feel-good factor going as 9,000 travelling fans watched them knock Spurs out of the FA Cup on penalties.
Farke reverted to the side that started the Leicester win and the Canaries had a good chance to open the scoring when Teemu Pukki volleyed against the outside of the post from close range following an early corner.
But it was the same old problem for Norwich as they continued to produce nice passing moves and enjoy the majority of possession without creating enough chances.
The introduction of Swiss striker Drmic for Todd Cantwell at half-time saw them go more direct in the second half and that led to the late chances.
It suggested the Norfolk side might be wise to continue that more robust approach in a bid to preserve their top-flight status with a late run of positive results.
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Source – BBC